Botany is much more interesting than most of you think; the amount of diversity in plant life is truly amazing. Take a look at rhizome plants; they are so unique and have such interesting characteristics that they get you thinking more about how they function.
A lot of you may not have a clear idea about what rhizome plants are since there is a lot of confusion around rhizomes. With examples of rhizome plants and taking a close look at the characteristics of rhizome plants, we aim to make you learn more about this type of plant.
What are Rhizome Plants?
So, what are rhizome plants? The answer is simple, plants that grow rhizomes. Well, we all know that, but what are rhizomes? Rhizome, often known as creeping rootstalk, is an underground plant stem that can grow both horizontally and vertically. They can produce roots and shoots for a completely new plant through their nodes.
Rhizomes can be thought of as a modification of plant stems that are below the ground. This stem-like structure has nodes through which they grow roots and shoots. The lower section of each node produces the shoot, while the top section produces the shoot.
Besides being able to give birth to root and shoot systems for new plants, another function rhizomes have is that they act as plant storage. A large amount of protein and starch can be stored in them, along with many more nutrients. By having this large storage of nutrients rhizome plants can survive through difficult environmental conditions.
It must be kept in mind that not all plants have rhizomes, and there are specific plants that fall into the category of rhizome plants. We will be taking a look at some of the common examples of this type of plant further in our article.
You will find that there are two types of rhizomes; one is dense, and the other is running. Rhizomes that grow in the vertical direction are called dense rhizomes. This kind of rhizome has short internodes, and as you can tell from their name, they grow in a compact space.
On the other hand, running rhizomes grow through a large area. We must also highlight that running rhizomes grow horizontally, and they have longer internodes when compared with those of dense rhizomes.
How do Rhizomes Help these Plants Survive?
As we have mentioned before, rhizomes store a large number of nutrients, including starch and protein. Plants that have rhizomes are hard to kill because they have a big store of energy underground when they can’t photosynthesize enough to provide energy to survive.
A lot of plants that grow in the winter or that can survive the water have rhizomes. The reason for this is clear, during winter, the plants do not get nearly enough sunlight, and the temperatures are not ideal for photosynthesis. So, they use energy stored in their rhizomes to carry out their regular plant functions. You will see that some rhizome plants can even survive freezing temperatures because they have so much energy stored. During droughts, the storage of energy in rhizomes also comes of great help for plants that have them since the lack of water lowers the rate of photosynthesis significantly.
New plants can grow by using the rhizomes of a plant, and that is why rhizomes are often seen growing a lot. A lot of the time, the growth will be so stealthy that you won’t even notice it. This expansion of the rhizome increases the intake of water and nutrients from the soil to the plant, which makes this type of plant even harder to kill.
Examples of Rhizome Plants
Several plants have rhizome, and there is a lot of variation in these plants. Starting from flower plants to something like ginger, there are many different types of rhizome plants.
Scientific Name: Canna indica
Family: Cannaceae Juss.
Genus: Canna L.
Canna lily is a flowering plant, and they have rhizomes. Canna lilies grow large and beautiful flowers, and because they are rhizomatous perennials, they are quite easy to grow. The rhizome of this plant is called the Canna bulb, and it is often cured and stored, so it can be grown for several years.
This plant can survive the winter very well. It grows particularly well in the winter thanks to its extra store of energy. Moreover, Canna Lily pairs well with other plants like Begonias, and Caladiums.
Scientific Name: Zingiber officinale
Species: Z. officinale
Ginger plants are the most common example of rhizome plants. Actually, the ingredient that we know as ginger is the rhizome of the plant. The ginger plant has a dense rhizome, and you can see that if you look at some ginger.
The benefits of ginger are immeasurable. It is widely used in cooking, as we know, especially in Indian cuisine, and it can also be used to make countless home remedies for sore throats, cough, etc. If you were wondering, from one ginger plant you don’t get a single piece of ginger, they have multiple rhizomes.
Subfamily: Bambusoideae Luerss.
You may be surprised to know that even bamboos have rhizomes. What’s more surprising is that there are different types of rhizomes in different bamboos. Bamboos that have thin running rhizomes that grow horizontally are called monopodial or running bamboos.
There are also sympodial bamboos, better known as clumping bamboos. This plant has more dense rhizomes with axillary buds. Growth occurs from these buds every year to produce new bamboo stems, but you should know that since the rhizome for this bamboo is dense, it doesn’t spread much. Also, the bamboo trees grow without any branches.
Scientific Name: Iris sibirica
Genus: Iris L.
Bearded Iris is another elegant-looking flower plant that has rhizomes. The main growth of this plant happens from its rhizomes, as the roots grow from there. However, unlike Canna lilies, bearded lilies aren’t very sturdy plants. The rhizomes of this flowering plant can rot quite easily if ideal conditions are not met.
Rhizomes of bearded lilies are great for reproducing this plant. The stem-like structure should be placed about half an inch below moist soil so that the plant grows.
Scientific Name: Toxicodendron diversilobum
Species: T. diversilobum
Poison oak is a shrub plant that is not really big, and it has rhizomes. With appealing leaves of three, this plant may look nice, but it produces urushiol that can cause severe adverse reactions to human skin.
The rhizome system of this plant falls under the running rhizome category, and it doesn’t dig deep into the ground and can be thought of as very surface level. The poison oak can sometimes grow extensively like vines over tall and thick trees in the woods.
How Can Gardeners Use Rhizomes to their Advantage?
Gardeners absolutely love plants with rhizomes because they come with numerous benefits. Most importantly, rhizomes are excellent for vegetation, and they can give growth to new plants very easily. For rhizome plants, gardeners usually use their own rhizomes to produce new plants.
This is because, as we have said before, rhizomes can give rise to new shoot and root systems for new plants. They can result in quicker growth of plants than seeds. Oftentimes, gardeners store rhizomes of plants under certain conditions so they can keep growing the plant for years ahead.
A good example of this is the bearded lily plant. By planting new plants in this way, gardeners will easily be able to get larger vegetation, and they can get a much fuller garden.
Depending on the rhizome plant, gardeners can get many more advantages. A lot of rhizome plants such as ginger, rhubarb, mint, and turmeric prove to be excellent ingredients when cooking and are often used to make natural medicine.
Are there any Drawbacks to Growing Rhizome Plants?
The main large drawback of growing rhizome plants is that it is very likely that you will be dealing with a lot of weeds in your garden. There are several types of weeds that grow with rhizome plants.
Some of these weeds are extremely invasive and can even grow from a compact rhizome to become a large plant. They are a nuisance, and getting rid of them is not a cakewalk. In some cases, you may not be able to remove the weeds completely unless your take out the rhizomes that they are growing from.
This is rare, but we should still point out that sometimes poison ivy can grow like weeds which is a very dangerous plant, so you should be careful.
Some rhizome plants are also prone to overgrow a lot, so you should be aware of that to prevent it from happening. Overgrowth is more often seen in plants with running rhizomes.
Which Pests and Disease Affect Rhizome Plants?
One of the most common diseases that affect Rhizome plants is Rhizome rot. It happens mostly in ginger and turmeric plants. The collar part of the plant gets affected first, and then it spreads throughout the plant. When a plant is affected by this disease the leaves turn yellow, and the roots start to rot eventually. You may also see that the rhizome of the plant will discolor to a dark brown color.
Pests aren’t usually the biggest issue with rhizome plants; you just need to be aware of basic pests that affect all other plants, such as shoot borer, white grubs, leaf roller, root-knot, etc.
What is the Difference between a Rhizome and Roots?
Since both rhizomes and roots are parts of the plant that grow underground, it is easy for people to confuse these two. However, we are here to tell you that these two things are actually not the same, and they do have differences.
In easy words, a rhizome is more of a modified stem structure that grows underground and produces shoots and roots from its internodes. Meanwhile, roots are thin fibrous structures that go into the ground to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
The structure of these two things is also quite different. Roots have something called root caps that prevent delicate root tips from getting damaged, while rhizomes don’t have that.
In terms of functions, they both help in anchoring the plant to the ground. However, there are differences there as well; rhizomes can reproduce very well, whereas roots do a great job at absorbing water. Although roots can store nutrients, rhizomes have a much larger store of energy.
Can All Plants Produce Rhizomes?
No, all plants cannot produce rhizomes, and a lot of them do not need to have rhizomes. However, many plants do have rhizomes, and we have used many of them as examples in our article.
Where do Rhizomes Grow Best?
As you already know, rhizomes only grow underground, and for them to grow in the best way possible, they must be planted in moist soil. The environment in which rhizomes will grow best will also vary depending on their plant. For example, some rhizome plants require more fertilizer than others.
Exposure to sunlight can also cause faster growth of rhizomes generally, but the temperature is generally not an issue unless it is at extremes.
How do you Prevent the Overgrowth of Rhizomes?
Overgrowth of rhizomes is a genuine concern with a lot of rhizome plants. Hence, we are going to give you some tips on how you could control this overgrowth. If you are a gardener, then you could place your rhizome plant in a pot underground, so the rhizomes don’t spread too much.
The way you have to do this is that at first, you will take a large pot and then cut out the bottom part of it. Removing the bottom portion will allow more nutrients to be transferred. Dig a hole of about 10 inches, then place the pot inside, and put some soil inside the pot.
Put the rhizome of your plant at the depth at which it will grow best, and then cover it with soil, and make sure to water the area routinely for proper growth. This is a prevention method, so if you are just about to plant your rhizome plant, this could save you a lot of trouble!
Rhizome plants can be a great addition to your garden if you want to make your garden look more interesting. By taking a look at all the examples of rhizome plants that we have mentioned, and by reading our discussion about its characteristics, we hope you were able to gain more clarity about this type of plant. If you have found this article interesting, we would suggest you dig deeper into rhizome plants; you may be even more amazed by what you read!