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What is a Stolon?

Strawberries have stolens, which are new roots that sprout beneath the surface of the ground.
Potatoes begin sprouting in less than 10 days after being planted in the soil.
Many types of grasses have stolons.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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A stolon is a specialized type of plant stem that the plant uses to propagate itself. These stems are capable of budding to produce clones of the parent plant, thereby allowing it to colonize an area of ground with its young. One of the most classic examples can be found on the strawberry, a plant that uses this method of propagation very effectively. Many grasses also colonize regions in this way, as do some aquatic plants.

Stolons look slightly different than regular stems, and they typically have distinctive nodes at which new growth can develop. They usually run horizontally, and they may be located above or below ground, depending on the species of plant involved. In some cases, these stems grow upright and later bend over or droop down to allow the nodes to come into contact with the ground so that the plant can bud and produce an offspring.

Initially, the developing clone relies on the parent plant for nutrition. Over time, the plant will root itself and become independent, so that it no longer requires nutrition. It may also put out stolons of its own, thereby increasing the size of the plant colony. The network of specialized stems can quickly cover the ground, creating a dense mat of young plants and eliminating the competition.

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These unique stems are sometimes referred to as “runners,” because they run along the ground. In some cases, their development is desirable, and gardeners may be pleased to see them appear. In other instances, however, these growths may be a problem, especially in the case of invasive plants, because they make it very difficult to totally eradicate a plant from the garden. Leaving even a single specimen in place will allow the plant to propagate, covering the ground all over again.

One disadvantage of relying on stolons for plant propagation is that because the plants are clones of the original plant, they are all susceptible to the same problems. If the parent plant is susceptible to a particular disease or infection, for example, all of the plants it produces in this way will be as well, which means that the plant can be quickly wiped out. For this reason, it's a good idea for gardeners to grow several different parent plants and to periodically introduce new ones to keep genetic diversity high and prevent the loss of a desired crop or ornamental.

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giddion
Post 7

I'm always happy when my strawberry plants make new stolons. Last year, I started out with two plants, and by the end of the season, I had several more that were offshoots of the first two.

You have to plan for this when designing your garden. I knew that my strawberry patch would expand over time, so I put it in a spot where it wouldn't interfere with other plants or spill over into the driveway.

Fruit from the new sections is just as delicious as fruit from the original plants. I look forward to watching my patch grow in the coming years.

cloudel
Post 6

I hate it when grass produces stolons. My yard is covered in bermuda grass, and because of all the little stolons, I can just yank a piece of it out of my garden easily.

Once I start yanking one section, I find that it is attached to the ground at several other spots. So, yanking up one piece of bermuda grass is like pulling up several pieces at once. It's like string that has been buried in the ground, and getting it out makes a rut in the earth.

It can be detrimental to plants, if you have young plants planted on top of this grass. I once yanked up some of this grass without knowing that the stolons had traveled all the way to the seedling several inches over, so I uprooted it.

OeKc05
Post 5

@healthy4life – Yes, they do. I didn't know this until last year when I tried to transplant a couple of bushes and ran into some difficulty.

I am renting a place that is surrounded by cow pasture, and there is a big mesh wire fence that is covered in blackberry bushes. They are placing strain on the fence, so my landlord told me he was going to kill them. I hated to lose the berries, so I tried to transplant a couple into my garden.

When I drove the shovel into the ground, I hit something hard. After a bit of digging, I could see that it was a thick root. It went all the way to the parent plant.

All of the bushes were connected like this. I managed to cut through the stolon and move the bushes, but they died within two weeks, even though I watered them daily and gave them good soil. I guess not all stolon plants can be removed from their shared root system and survive.

healthy4life
Post 4

Do blackberry bushes produce stolons? I started out with just one years ago, but now, they have spread. I don't know whether this happened because seed fell around the plant or if it has an underground network of roots.

wizup
Post 3

The spider plant is another type of stolon plant. It's sometimes referred to as the airplane plant but it's scientific name is Chlorophytum comosum.

The spider plant originated from Africa and has been accepted all around the world as an ideal house plant or potted plant because it's so easy to grow and maintain.

You've probably seen them in your local nursery or even at friends or neighbors homes. They're usually a light green and white striped grassy looking plant with long stems hanging down from them. At the bottom of the stems are tiny flowers that form into babies identical to the parent plant.

They're part of the stolon family because the little babies break off at the nodes when they are mature enough and begin a life of their own, hence, creating another plant for your enjoyment at no extra cost.

ladyjane
Post 2

We purchased a home on the Gulf Coast with the most beautiful plush green lawn. Our realtor told me it's St. Augustine grass that does very well in this climate.

There is however one problem that I've found with this grass cover. It takes over your flower bed. Once you begin pulling it up, the stem seems to go on forever. There has to be a way to keep this grass under control and out of unwanted areas.

MsClean
Post 1

The best example I can give of a stolon plant is the St. Augustine grass. St. Augustine grows vertically above ground or sometimes just barely below the soils surface.

It grows rapidly in warmer climates such as the southeast part of the United States. I've worked with several landscapers who actually cut the stolons at the nodes where the babies have grown.

Cutting away the nodes creates a new parent that develops it's own nodes and redirects the plant to cover a wider surface. St. Augustine grass does not produce a seed so it has to be laid down as a sod.

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