What is a Rhizome? – Definition & Examples

We all know or have a notion of the basic parts that make up a plant: root, stem, and leaves. However, when it comes to identifying the different types and structures that exist, we certainly do not have such clear ideas. It is very common to visualize or imagine a stem as that part of the plant that grows vertically and from which branches and new leaves arise, but did you know that they can also grow horizontally? Learn all about What is a rhizome in this article.

What is a Rhizome?

A rhizome is a stem that grows below the ground and horizontally, so it is considered a subway stem-like bulbs and tubers, being able to store nutrients, so they function as reserve organs for the plant when it faces extreme conditions or nutrient shortages. Also, by growing horizontally, they can also support the plant.

Plants that have this type of stem are usually perennial, so while they lose their leaves and surface parts during the colder months, they continue to conserve the rhizomes and store the nutrients the plant needs to survive. This capacity makes the rhizomes very interesting stems for human use and consumption, such as ginger, valued for its properties and used both for consumption and for the treatment of certain ailments.

what is a rhizome ginger

Rhizome: Growth and Reproduction

Rhizomes can grow and cover large areas of land since their growth is indefinite. With the passage of time and the increase in length of the rhizome, the oldest parts may die. In these cases, if the shoots of what was originally the same plant are separated by a dead zone, they will be considered two different plants.

This means that rhizome reproduction is asexual. From a fragment (as long as it has a bud) of the rhizome, shoots, roots, and new plants can arise. Therefore, in gardening, the technique of repotting is applied to promote their reproduction and growth. Once the rhizome has been repotted, it will use the nutrients stored for the development of the new individual. Therefore, its division and planting usually take place during the months with the most favorable conditions, such as the beginning of spring, summer, and even during autumn.

calla lily
Calla lily.

Types of Rhizomes

Depending on the type of branching and growth, rhizomes can be divided into two different types:

 Defined or sympodial rhizomes: their growth is defined, which implies that the original plant may die when others arise too close to it. Symploidal rhizomes usually have short, thick nodes and are capable of storing a large number of nutrients.

Indefinite or monopodial rhizome: it is considered that its growth is indefinite, since the original plant never dies, giving rise to a large number of new plants. It is characterized because its nodes are more elongated than those of the defined rhizomes and new nodes and rhizomes are continuously generated.

lillium yellow
Lillium yellow.

Plants with Rhizomes: Examples

As we have said before, plants that propagate by rhizomes are perennial, here are some examples:

Ginger: is one of the most popular plants with rhizomes, belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, due to its multiple uses and properties.

Grama: or white grass. It has a thin and elongated rhizome.

Mint: it is one of the most valued plants with rhizomes, as well as ginger, for its properties, smell, and peculiar flavor.

Lily: it is one of the plants with rhizomes that have thick and leafy stems, which allows them to survive extreme temperatures and harsh winters.

Solomon’s Seal: it is characterized by the presence of white tubular flowers. For its growth and development, it requires a large supply of nutrients, so the presence of rhizomes favors the absorption, storage, and disposal of these nutrients.

Bamboo: all bamboo species propagate by rhizomes, being of great interest especially in gardening, to create barriers that provide separation, protection, or greater privacy in our homes.

About Henry Morgan

We are the Morgan family, Henry, and Morgan, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for TheGardenStyle.com as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website.