Mandrake Root with Tiny Shoot
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Anne Van Arsdall
Posted on: December 30, 2004

Two mandrakes (Mandragora officinarum) came up from seed last spring and the plants grew all summer, but slowly. No fruit appeared. The leaves yellowed in the late summer and began to die. I then looked to see if there was a root, and each had produced one. So I took them in and put them on pieces of paper to dry. One was quite fleshy, and today I looked at it and it is sending up a tiny green shoot!!! Of course I am excited to see it, but am unsure what to do -- I’d like to plant it, but need advice on the best way to do it, the kind of soil to use, and the light requirements. It has been on a shelf away from the light and in a normally warm room.

European mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) produces a large, deep root that can reach upwards of 1 meter (3 feet) in length and up to 10 cm (4") in diameter. It seems that the plant invests most of its biomass below ground -- the stemless growth above ground belies the mass of roots below ground. As a native of the Mediterranean it prefers dryish conditions, and the soil must drain very well as any persistant excess moisture around the roots will cause rotting.

Because of the large root size we find that it does not do really well in pots. We succeed growing it in pots but we have to pay extra attention to watering, especially during the winter months.

We have noticed that mandrake will go dormant during the winter months even if it is in a greenhouse. The leaves will drop off and only a stump will show indicating where the root is. If during this dormant period we make to mistake of overwatering, or if the plants do not get excellent drainage, the roots will easily suffer. We have lost many plants this way.

I suggest that you plant the sprouting root in a deep pot with a soil mix that is at least a quarter sand. Make sure that the pot has plenty of drainage holes and that they are no obstructed. It helps to put a layer of gravel at the bottom over which is filled your soil mix.

Water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. You definitely do not want the soil to remain soggy for long. When you water you want to water enough to see water coming out of the drainage holes, and then you want to hold off on the water until the soil feels dry.

Provide as much direct sunlight as possible, and keep the temperature a little on the cool side during the winter months: around 15-18 degrees Celsius (60-65 degrees Fahrenheit).

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