Can Plants Grow Without Roots? What You Need To Know 

Understanding the growing process of plants can be challenging and sometimes confusing. Many plant components can be difficult to understand, especially when it comes to their survival. In fact, many wonder whether or not plants can grow and survive without roots. 

Plants cannot grow without roots unless they are bryophytes that do not require roots for survival. If your plant already has roots, it needs those to survive, as they bring vital nutrients to the plant. 

Let’s talk more about rootless plants and why roots are so vital for survival. 

Can Rootless Plants Survive?

Plants that rely on roots for growth and nutrients can’t survive without them, but some plants don’t have roots at all. 

Bryophytes are similar to moss because have no roots or leaves. They can survive without roots because they grow and develop without them. Instead, they develop rhizoids which are growths that act similarly to roots. 

Bryophytes are very dry plants because they don’t have roots and stems to absorb water. This is why it is so common to see these types of plants in wetlands or areas with a consistent nearby water supply. These are the only plants that survive without roots. 


Tracheophytes account for the remaining plants, and examples include flowers, trees, or grass. All tracheophytes require roots to survive because they are vascular plants. Vascular plants have a system of tubes that connects every part of the plant. This allows water and other nutrients to travel through the plant, feeding or hydrating whatever component needs it most. 

Tracheophytes can’t survive without their roots. Without roots, the entire system falls apart. A plant’s roots have many responsibilities, which are vital for the growth and development of the plant. 

In the next section, I’ll discuss more about the importance of roots and why plants that have them can’t live without them. 

Why Roots Are So Important

There are many reasons roots are vital in the growth of plants. While these do not apply to bryophytes, they apply to every other plant. 

I will break down the responsibilities of roots below: 

Roots Search for Nutrients

Once a plant’s roots begin to form, they immediately begin their hunt for water and other nutrients in the soil. This process begins right away. In fact, this will happen before you even see a stem or bud begin to form because the water and nutrients from the soil are what help the plant be able to grow. 

When you see a stem start poking up from the soil, the roots have already been working hard to find water and minerals to feed the plant and allow it to thrive. Plants cannot feed themselves without roots, especially in the early stages. 

Roots are gravitropic, meaning they grow toward the pull of gravity. This helps plants ensure that their roots grow into the soil while the stems grow toward the sun. This sense of gravity also allows plant roots to maximize their usefulness by going further and further down into the soil in search of water and other helpful nutrients. 

Roots Store Food

Not only do roots find most of the nutrients that plants need to survive, but they also store them. This is especially common for plants that last through the colder months. Storing food in the roots allows plants to keep themselves healthy even when their growth is stagnant due to cold weather. 

Plants will use this stored food to begin growing in the spring. As the temperature improves enough for plants to begin growing, they use stored nutrients from the roots to begin the process until they can continue pulling from the soil around them. The roots will, therefore, gather food for the plant and store some extra for the months in which they won’t be able to draw resources from the soil. 

Roots Compete With Weeds and Other Plants

Another reason why roots are so important to plants is that they are commonly in competition with other plants, especially weeds. Weeds can be a significant problem for your garden or lawn because they take nutrients from the soil that your other plants need to survive. 

One example of weeds that seem to come in and quickly take over is dandelions. These beautiful, yellow flowers can seem like they cause no harm, but they grow fast and steal important nutrients from the soil. This can leave your grass and other plants without enough nutrients to survive or fight off the spread of dandelions.

If your plants are close to other plants or weeds, they will compete for the soil’s nutrients. Without roots, they will not be able to compete for these resources, losing the battle to other nearby plants. The strongest roots will survive, and healthy, established roots can stop other plants or weeds from taking over. 

Roots Provide Plant Stability

One thing that roots don’t get enough recognition for is their ability to keep plant stems upright. Plant roots often grow deep into the soil before the plant sprouts a stem. This is because the roots build a solid base to hold the stem upright. Without this base, many plants could not stand by themselves. 

Plant stability may not seem like the most important part of plant growth until you experience heavy winds. This can be a major test for your plant’s stability and overall health. Thankfully, roots hold the plant steady, even while the stem is still growing and forming. 

Plant stability is what helps plants feed themselves through photosynthesis. Plants require photosynthesis to feed themselves and produce oxygen. They harness the energy from the sun to create oxygen and glucose to feed themselves. The plant stem has to grow toward the sun for this process to work. 

Without stable roots, the stem would not be able to grow up tall. This may not seem like a big deal if the plant is isolated, but plants often compete with each other. If there are taller plants around or even tall grass, the plant will struggle to get sunlight without growing a stem taller than its nearby competitors. 

So this means that the strength of the root is vital for the process of photosynthesis when there are other plants nearby that can block the sunlight from reaching the plant. 

How Much Root Damage a Plant Can Take

Now that we know that plants require roots to survive, you may still have questions about root health and plant survival. Roots can take some damage without harming the plant, but there are limits to this general rule. Unfortunately, a lot can happen to your plant roots. 

Damaged Roots

There are many possible ways that roots can get damaged. Sometimes, this can happen by our own fault if we’re digging in the area and clipping a root. The same can be said of landscapers hired to maintain our lawn or yard. 

Damage may also happen if the plant gets too dry, the soil doesn’t provide nutrients, or something harmful makes its way into the soil. 

No matter what causes root damage, it can be a major problem for the plant’s survival. Roots can fall off completely when they begin to die or if removed by force. If this happens, the plant can regrow roots as long as enough nutrients are available for regrowth. 

If plant roots die due to a lack of nutrients, it’s extremely difficult for them to regrow. Plants that lack nutrients won’t have enough energy to regrow roots. Even if they did, there would not be enough nutrients to sustain new growth. Unfortunately, this is how many plants that have damaged roots die. 

Roots that die or are in the process of dying may still remain connected to the plant root system. This is not good for the plant, as it will put energy and nutrients into the damaged or dying roots. Your plant will attempt to keep reviving the dead roots, even to its own detriment. 

Plants can live with trimmed roots. Even if you need to cut some off to help it out, a plant can grow them back eventually. However, there is a limit to this. The limit in this situation depends on the plant. If you’re cutting the majority of the root system off, your plant may not be able to grow all the roots back within a reasonable amount of time. 

If you need to cut off some of the roots, make sure you remove some leaves from the stem to counteract the root removal. Fewer roots mean fewer nutrients for the plant. So, keeping the same amount of leaves with significantly fewer roots will cause the plant to die because it can’t sustain the same amount of energy and nutrients as it previously could. 

Root Rot

Another way in which roots can take damage is through root rot. This can happen for many reasons, but the most common one is a lack of oxygen in the root system. Root rot can happen to any plant, but it is much more likely if you overwater your plant and don’t provide a good drainage system for the extra water to run off. 

Because the plant is sitting in water, the roots do not have access to oxygen. This causes the roots to become a breeding ground for anaerobic fungi. Unfortunately, this can cause the plant roots to rot and deteriorate very quickly. Since this is all happening under the soil, it can be difficult to catch the problem until it has already affected the stem and leaves of the plant. 

The only true way to return from root rot is to remove the parts of the root that have been affected. You may have to eliminate the plant if the rot spreads too far. However, catching it quickly means there’s still a chance of recovery. 

You will need to cut off the infected roots and repot your plant in soil for the best possible chance of recovery, but there is no guarantee. Removing too much of the root system can kill the plant, but not removing enough can allow the rot to return.

The Root Growth Process

Now that you understand the importance of roots and how difficult it is for plants to live without them, let’s talk about their growth process. Whether the plant is growing from seed or regrowing some of its lost roots, it takes about 3 to 4 weeks for root growth to take place

This means that in about a month, the root system can bounce back. 

From a Seedling

Once you plant a seed into the ground, the process of growing will begin. Soon, the seed will begin to form the root system. Though they may start small, root systems can grow quite large over time. The growth of the root system will depend on the plant itself, as there are two main types of roots. 

Some plants will grow a taproot system. This root system will grow straight down and only slightly branch out from there. These are generally the deepest roots as they only spread out a little horizontally. These roots’ main strength and power come from the strong core that will continue growing downward in search of nutrients and water. 

Alternatively, some plants have a fibrous root system. Rather than one large, leading root, the fibrous root system features many thin branching roots that allow it to reach down and horizontally to reach nutrients. 

Each root system has its advantages, but they will both grow in an attempt to reach as much water and nutrients as possible. Generally speaking, taproots are thicker and, therefore, better at supporting stems as they begin to grow and develop. 

Both systems will continue to grow and search for more nutrients in the soil. In fact, the root growth process will continue until the weather no longer allows it. Even then, some root systems continue to grow during the colder months, just slower than they otherwise would. 

Regrowth After Root Removal

Once you have removed a root from your plant, whether accidentally or on purpose, there’s no way for the root to reattach itself. So, the plant will need to regrow said root instead. Therefore, it’s important to understand that plants need enough energy and nutrients for root regrowth. 

The process will take about a month assuming the plant has enough resources to put toward root regrowth. During this time, the plant will use a lot of energy and nutrients to complete the regrowth process. It’s common to notice some wilting or yellowing of leaves when this happens because the plant redirects its energy into the roots. 

Root regrowth comes from any already established roots. So, a plant cannot regrow all of its roots if you remove the entire root system. If this happens, the root will need to grow from seed and start over. 

The regrowth process is not easy for the plant, especially if many roots are gone. However, with enough energy and resources, it is possible. 

During the root regrowth period, you must ensure that the plant gets plenty of sun and water. The plant will need sufficient sunlight for energy to complete the regrowth cycle. It will also need plenty of water to keep itself alive and healthy while fighting to grow new and healthy roots. 

Helping Regrowth by Trimming Leaves

As mentioned above, it’s important to trim the leaves of a plant when you trim the roots. This isn’t as important when you’re only slightly trimming your plant’s roots. However, if a significant portion of the root system is gone, it will not be able to keep up with the same amount of leaves. 

As you already know, roots search for nutrients for the plant and can also store them. So, the roots of a plant know how much growth they can handle based on the resources they can provide. Removing a good portion of the roots means the plant can no longer find and store the same amount of nutrients as it once could. 

This means the plant leaves will suffer as there may not be enough resources in the roots to care for them. To combat this, make sure you trim the plant’s leaves to help it better use its resources to regrow roots. If the roots regrow properly, the plant can once again sustain the same number of leaves as it once could. Until then, it needs to focus on the roots. 


Most plants can’t grow without roots, which are essential to finding water and nutrients. Plants can survive without some of their roots if they need to. However, the plant will suffer once a significant portion of its root system is gone. So, keep this in mind when trimming your plant’s roots.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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