Regrowing carrots from carrot scraps could save money and reduce waste. Other edible vegetable parts like lettuce leaves and celery stalks can regrow from their parts, so what about carrots?
You cannot directly grow carrots from carrot tops alone. Once you sever the orange part, it does not regrow. You can, however, regrow carrot tops from other harvested carrot tops, which produce foliage, flowers, and seeds.
While new carrot taproots won’t sprout from carrot tops, you can get from carrot top to carrot in a roundabout way. In this article, we will see what you can do with carrot tops, how to get seeds from carrot tops to grow more carrots, and some edible plants you can regrow from scraps.
Using Carrot Tops Correctly to Grow Carrots
If you chop off the top inch (2.5 cm) or so of a carrot that still has a bit of foliage, you now have the base for growing carrot plant stems, from which carrot leaves and flowers proliferate.
If you want to continue the carrot-growing cycle, you can harvest the seeds from the flowers and plant them in the soil. If not, you can keep the carrot flowers as decorative plants.
At this point, you can drop the carrot top into some water, stimulating the foliage bits to grow new roots. The large orange carrot part is the taproot, which cannot regrow. These new, smaller roots are the lateral roots, which absorb water and nutrients and stabilize the carrot plant in soil.
Once the roots sprout in the water, you can transplant the carrot top to an indoor pot with plant-specific potting soil.
Learn more about how to start carrots indoors in my article here: Can Carrots Be Started Indoors? What You Should Know
Using the Seeds
Giving carrot tops enough time, water, and sunlight will give you seeds to grow more carrots.
To grow carrot taproots, you have to start with the seeds. That’s where the carrot tops come in.
Once you grow foliage from the carrot top, it will produce flowers. Carrots store seeds in their flowers, meaning seeds become available only after the flowers bloom.
Seeds from hybrid carrots won’t work as well as seeds from heirloom varieties. Hybrids grow from two kinds of carrots, whereas heirloom carrots come from an established lineage of one species.
Heirloom seeds will preserve the best characteristics throughout the life cycle, but hybrids may take multiple growing seasons to achieve the desired results.
Watering Your Carrots
For carrot tops to grow well, they need the right water source. Distilled water works best in this case because it does not contain chemicals added to local tap water to make it potable for humans.
A shallow dish works best for housing the carrot top in water until it is ready for transplant. Keep the water level at or slightly above the rim of the carrot top dome. The lateral roots will sprout from the bottom of the carrot top, soaking up water to stimulate vegetative growth.
Carrots need 6-plus hours of full sun per day, so placing your carrot top in a south-facing window maximizes the amount of light it receives. Take caution, as too much sunlight and heat can dry the shallow water faster. Each day you will need to keep an eye on the water level.
Steps for Planting the Tops
Planting carrot tops is easy as long as you follow a few simple steps:
- Once the lateral roots sprout across the bottom of the carrot top, transfer the top to well-draining soil. Whether in your garden or a pot, you shouldn’t pack the soil too tight because that would impede root growth pathways and drain efficiency.
- When planting the top in soil, the circumference and depth should not exceed those of the carrot dome and roots. Enough soil to cover the dome to the base of the leaves will suffice.
- Water the soil immediately, making adjustments to coverage and stability as needed. Specific watering needs depend on carrot variety, soil type, drainage, zone, season, temperature, and humidity.
Saving Heirloom or Hybrid Seeds
Carrot varieties come to us as cultivars/heirlooms or hybrids. Growers throughout the centuries have passed down cultivar carrots by selecting a wild variety and cultivating it as a domestic plant. Cultivars exist as a single variety of carrots, unsown with other types.
Heirlooms comprise known cultivars before hybrid carrots appeared in 1951 and other varieties passed down in smaller social circles. You make hybrids by crossing two cultivars or hybrids together to produce a new carrot variety.
Growers keep a cultivar or create a hybrid for the same reason: to produce the most desirable traits.
Taking seeds from hybrid carrot plant flowers won’t produce the results you want in the next growing season. You’ll need to wait to save seeds from more than one season, selecting seeds from the more robust carrots to try to get that result every time.
If you take seeds from an heirloom carrot plant’s flowers, you can depend on the same results every subsequent season. Gardeners of the past have done the hard work of sorting through the crops to pick the most desirable ones.
Other Plants That Regrow From Cuttings
While it might be discouraging to discover we cannot regrow new carrots from magical carrot scraps, we don’t have to accept total defeat. Several other vegetables can regrow from scraps.
Let’s take a look at a few:
Herb varieties differ in the time it takes to develop roots, but each will form new roots using water and sunlight. By filling a small cup halfway with distilled water and placing it in a south-facing or otherwise sunny window, you have all you need to regrow fresh herbs.
To do this follow these two simple steps:
- Trim the bottom of the stem at an angle as in preparing flowers for a vase. With flowers, the angled cut maximizes water and nutrient uptake, so the flowers stay fresh longer. For herbs, the angled cut increases the surface area to allow for as many new roots to sprout as possible.
- Remove most of the leaves from the stalk because they will rot in the water. Keep at least two leaves at the top. Leaves serve root development by taking in as much sunlight and carbon dioxide as their surface areas allow, which helps the plant grow strong and healthy.
Romaine regrows with sun and distilled water in a shallow cup or dish. Water amount and, therefore, the container depth depends on how much of the romaine base you have left.
Lettuce thrives in ample water, but the top needs access to air. The container should support the lettuce if the base leans to one side.
Use these steps to regrow romaine lettuce:
- Place and hold the romaine bottom in the container with one hand.
- On the other hand, pour distilled water into the container until it stops below the top of the lettuce.
- Place the container in a sunny window and wait a few days for leaves to sprout.
Like romaine lettuce, most of the celery bottom can sit below water, but the top must have access to fresh air. Again, the amount of distilled water used and container depth depend on the amount of celery base kept after preparing.
Unlike romaine, celery doesn’t fan out from the bottom to support itself with its sides against the container. To keep your celery (or lettuce) centered, insert four toothpicks into opposite sides of the celery base, about one-third the length of the toothpick.
The exposed length of the toothpick will rest on the container rim, suspending the celery base in the water. Top off the water level to bring it near the top of the base.
Change the water in your containers twice per week or if the water appears dirty.
It’s important to note that no veggie can regrow indefinitely. Each plant has its limit for how long it will produce edible parts, but each will give you several small harvests.
Once your plant has stopped regrowing (or if it didn’t grow), toss it into the compost to fortify the soil for the next batch.
You cannot regrow carrots from carrot tops because the main root of the carrot cannot regenerate. The lateral roots of a carrot can regrow because they grow for the life of the plant itself. As a result, they will regenerate as long as the plant leaves can take in sunlight.
The lateral roots intake nutrients and water for the carrot plant’s leaves and flowers, which provide seeds. By harvesting seeds from carrot plants grown from carrot tops, you can—in a roundabout way—regrow carrots from carrot tops.