Can You Grow Rutabaga From Cuttings? Debunking a Common Myth

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No matter the term used, whether rutabaga, swede, or Swedish turnip, one thing remains certain: rutabaga is distinct from a white turnip.

The rutabaga is a hybrid between turnip and cabbage, but it’s still a root vegetable, and like many other cultivars, propagating the veggie can be a little tricky. 

Can you grow rutabaga from cuttings? You cannot grow a rutabaga from a leaf cutting. However, if you plant a cutting from the root portion with several feeder roots attached, you can grow a rutabaga plant for the greens and seeds, but no root vegetable will develop. To grow rutabagas, you should plant seeds in the early fall.

While it’s best by far to grow rutabaga from seeds, you can also experiment with rutabaga scraps that you were going to throw away.

Read more to find out more about this intriguing root veggie and how to grow it at home.

Rutabaga From Cuttings – What To Know

When we say growing rutabaga from cuttings, we don’t mean just any part of the root veggie. You can’t start a new rutabaga plant from the leaves or any root scraps that you have no use for.

For the rutabaga plant to develop, you’ll need the part of the tuber that has tiny roots attached to it. That’s usually the tapering end of the rutabaga root. Just know that this method should only be used for growing edible rutabaga greens.

Rutabaga Life Cycle

Rutabaga is a biennial veggie that takes two full years before it can produce seeds. If you allow the root veggie to take the frost of the winter and go through the spring of the second year, it will start to flower and develop seeds.

If you grow rutabaga as an annual and harvest it before the winter frost, you won’t have seeds to plant the next season.

Rutabagas Only Grow From Seed

While you can grow rutabaga greens from a root cutting, if you want to harvest actual rutabagas, you need to grow the plants from seeds. Any other method will not produce the root vegetable portion.

Can You Regrow a Sprouted Rutabaga?

If you plant a sprouted rutabaga, chances are it will go through the second phase of its life cycle where it will develop greens, a stalk, and flowers that turn into seeds, but the root you planted will not be good for consumption nor will you have a new root to eat.

What you’ll be doing is taking the rutabaga to the natural conclusion of its life. However, once you have harvested the seeds, you can use them to grow more rutabagas the next year.

Steps for Growing Rutabaga Greens (and Seeds) From Root Cuttings

Growing rutabaga from root cuttings is not complicated. However, you’ll need to make sure that the rutabaga root has thin feeder roots attached to it; otherwise, the process will not be successful.

Here’s how to go about growing rutabaga from cuttings:

  1. Examine the rutabaga you want to make a cutting from carefully. Make sure it’s not sprouting and has roots at the tapering end.
  2. Use a knife to cut the bottom one-third of the rutabaga root.
  3. Place the cutting in a jar full of water, making sure the tapering end along with the thin roots is fully submerged in the water.
  4. Change the water every few days to prevent mold growth.
  5. In about 2 to 3 weeks, the tiny roots will start to grow in the water.
  6. When the roots are 3 inches long, it’s time to plant the cutting in the garden or in a pot.
  7. If planting in a container, fill the pot with a loose general-purpose potting mix. 
  8. Dig a hole in the middle, plant the cutting, and then backfill with soil. 
  9. Water the soil to keep it moist until greens grow out of the seedling. 

The following video shows exactly what you can expect when trying to regrow a rutabaga. Although it features a turnip, the lesson learned is identical.

When To Plant Rutabaga

As with other biennials and annuals, timing is everything — more so with rutabaga since the veggie needs chill hours that add lots of flavors to its flesh.

Generally speaking, rutabaga needs to mature in cool weather where the temperature doesn’t go above 60℉.

Since it needs 3 months to reach maturity, you’ll need to time it about 3 months before the first frost. Late summer or early fall are usually ideal planting times for rutabaga in mild areas.

How To Plant Rutabaga Seeds

Growing rutabaga from seeds is the best way to grow delicious rutabagas. Make sure you purchase seeds from a reputable supplier, and check the package date to ensure freshness.

Here’s how to start rutabaga from seeds:

  1. Use fresh rutabaga seeds for higher germination success rates. Make sure the seeds are healthy and not contaminated.
  2. If you have a hot summer, start the seeds indoors and move them out when the weather has cooled. Otherwise, start the seeds directly in the garden (recommended).
  3. Make sure the soil temperature is between 40 and 60℉.
  4. Build a raised bed, and divide it into rows about 18 inches apart.
  5. Sow the rutabaga seeds a half inch deep into the soil 2 inches apart.
  6. Water the soil to get it evenly moist until the seeds germinate 4 to 7 days later.
  7. Apply a balanced fertilizer using only half the recommended amount.
  8. When the seeds are about 2 inches tall, thin them out to keep 6-10 inches between each rutabaga seedling.
  9. Apply the second half of the balanced fertilizer 4 weeks after planting the seeds.

Caring for Rutabaga Plants

Like many other veggies, caring for rutabaga can be the difference between a successful crop and a mediocre one.

One of the first things to pay attention to is watering. Your goal is to keep the soil moist with even watering. Neither dry nor wet soil will help the roots of the veggie. The recommended water quota is 1 1/2 inches a week including rainfall.

Don’t over-fertilize the plant since too much nitrogen will trigger bushy greens and small roots.

Also, watch out for consistent temperatures above 80℉ that could trigger bolting. 

Manually take out weeds regularly, and keep the beds clean from debris. Doing so will limit the pests such as aphids, cabbage root maggots, and flea beetles that attack rutabaga.

You might also use row covers for the first few weeks to make it harder for flying pests to access the young plants.

Watch out for root rot, root-knot nematodes, and clubroot. Pull out any infected plants, and dispose of them safely to prevent the spread of the disease.

When To Harvest Rutabaga

The best time to harvest rutabaga is totally subjective. Some gardeners prefer a tender and succulent rutabaga root. In that case, you can start harvesting the veggie when the root is 2 to 3 inches thick.

If you prefer it to have a sweeter taste, allow the roots to grow to 3 or 4 inches before pulling them out. For the best flavors, keep the rutabagas in the soil until frost, but harvest them before the soil freezes.

Related Questions:

How Long Does It Take Rutabaga To Grow?

Rutabaga takes about 90 days from the time you plant it until harvest time. Some growing conditions such as the temperature, watering, and fertilizer might impact the size and taste of the rutabaga.

Chill hours enrich the taste and flavors of the root, so allowing it to grow a few weeks past the first frost will do wonders for its taste.

What Do Rutabaga Greens Taste Like?

Rutabaga greens are often compared to turnip or collard greens in terms of taste, but some people find that a distinctive cabbage taste comes through occasionally. Many feel that all in all, rutabaga roots taste a lot better than the greens.

Conclusion

If you enjoy experimenting with new or unusual propagation methods, by all means, try your hand at growing a rutabaga plant from a root cutting.

Just remember that you won’t be harvesting any tasty tubers. However, this method will work for growing greens and even for harvesting seeds to save for next year’s planting. Good luck!