Why do Plant Stems Split? (Causes and Solutions)


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Stems may be soft or woody in nature and their main function is to provide support for the plant. Stem splits occur as the outer layer breaks as a result of excessive force placed on it by the inner cells.

Plant stems can split during periods of rapid growth and fertility as the plant absorbs large amounts of water and nutrients. Splits also occur after periods of drought when the plant takes in a lot of water through the xylem causing the tubular structure to swell and burst through the bark. 

Additionally, a sudden drop in temperature or increase in moisture coupled with high winds and top-heaviness can produce the force required for the inner tubular structure of the stem to burst through and cause cracks. 

Understanding why plant stems split, what to do when it does happen, and how to prevent them from happening is a good way to grow strong, healthy plants. 
We will further explain all the causes and the best solutions for splitting plant stems.

What Causes Plant Stems to Split or Crack?

Why do plant stems split

The most common cause of stem splitting is rapid growth during the growing period which extends between the beginning of spring to the end of fall. 

During the winter most plants go dormant and will not grow and as a result stem splitting during this period is not likely.

Close attention should be paid to the growth of plants during the growing season as the impact of rapid growth rate coupled with other environmental conditions can affect the safe growth of plants.

There are six natural things that will cause your stems to split.

  1. Windy conditions
  2. Low temperatures
  3. Rapid plant Growth
  4. Low Light Conditions
  5. High Water Absorption after prolonged Drought
  6. Top Heavy Plants

The above-mentioned conditions may cause damage when the weather changes and spring begins.

This is known as the growing season.

Split stems can open up the way for pests and rot to get into your plants, literally killing them from the inside. 

This is why you need to be aware of the causes of split stems and how you can prevent them from becoming a major problem. 

Many people have found ways to combat each of these, but just using some basic plant growing logic will go a long way in helping your plants from never getting split stems. 

One solution I have used when my tomato to prevent splitting is to provide adequate support. This is done by using simple and cost-effective ties. You can find them by clicking here!

LE TAUCI Plant Ties

1. Windy Conditions

Some plant stalks may be brittle and can easily bend during windy conditions. 

The force of the wind can put a strain on the tough protective layer which shields the inner layers which hold the xylem and phloem together.

When the force of the wind gets strong enough, the stem of the plant will begin splitting vertically along the bark. 

This opens up the other layer exposing the inner parts to fungus and bacteria. Furthermore, the plant stem will become weakened and begin to lean.

2. Low Temperatures

As the temperature outside drops, a plant might not do the same, furthermost plants can become slightly frozen owing to the high-water content they have inside.

This temperature difference between the outside and inside of the plant, or just the freezing of the outside, causes the plant to be brittle.

Splitting as soon as the plant is moved or the wind brushes against it. 

3. Rapid Plant Growth

When a plant experiences rapid growth, not everything grows at the same time, with many plants experiencing faster growth inside than on the harder outside. 

As it continues to grow it will cause the outer shell of the plant to be heavily damaged and may easily cause the stems to split, you can also see this happening after a period of drought. 

This is mainly because the xylem and the phloem which transports fluids to the different parts of the plant become swollen to such an extent that it breaks through the protective layer of the stem causing cracks or splits.

4. Low Light Conditions

When a plant does not have enough light it will become leggy and droopy.

This is a result of the plant’s natural nature in moving towards the area of strongest light to produce food through photosynthesis.

This legginess can cause plant stems to split because the plant will lean towards the light, and in doing so cause strain on the stems.

The force from the leaning plant on the steam will cause it to split at its weakest point. 

Eventually, the plant may fall over if it is not supported properly and moved to a proper light source.

5. High Water Absorption after Prolonged Drought 

Whenever a plant is not watered for some time, the plant goes into survival mode. 

The stomata close and the plant adapts features to save moisture such as roots venturing to the surface of the soil.

When the plant is eventually watered, the uptake of water is so great that the pressure exerted by the xylem and the phloem exceeds the pressure holding it together by the outer bark. 

As a result, the stem splits exposing the inner layers and providing some degree of relief for the plant.

To test the moisture and pH of the soil you can use the cost-effective Trazon Soil 3-in-1 Meter. It not only tests for pH but also moisture content and light intensity. You can find it by clicking here!

Trazon Soil pH Meter 3-in-1 Soil Tester Moisture

6. Top Heavy Plants

Top-heavy plants will put a strain on the steams which provide support for the plant. 

A plant may become top-heavy during its bearing season when the weight of the fruit makes the top portion of the plant top heavy causing the steam to strain and eventually break under pressure.

Whenever this happens the plant should be supported to prevent the stem from splitting because this can cause a disruption in the transfer of nutrients to the fruit and would prevent further fruit growth.

As the stem splits from all the aforementioned points, you will notice that the support the plant once had will become weakened and the plant will start to lean to the side.

This is a tell-tale sign that a split stem has occurred and further investigation and corrective action will be required to prevent the plant from completely falling over.

Plants that are Commonly Susceptible to Stem Splits

  • Tomatoes
  • Melons
  • Cherries 
  • Grapes
  • Chilli pepper plants
  • Squash 
  • Soya Beans
  • Cucumbers
plant stem Splitting

How to Prevent Plant Stems from Splitting?

The best way to prevent a plant stem from splitting is by giving it a proper support structure while ensuring that even in the worst droughts that it is regularly watered. 

If you have an indoor plant, keeping to a regular schedule is important, while you must ensure that the plants receive the right amount of sun every day to stop legginess from happening. 

Even the best-kept plants around the world can experience split stems, with most plant owners having the issue at least once in their lives. 

A common problem that plants experience is rapid growth, which can be caused by an annually wet season, more sun than normal, or even soil changes owing to other plants being removed. 

You should always observe the environment of your plant and ensure that everything that it is experiencing does not cause more damage over time. 

You may not be able to stop the heavens from opening up and storming, but you can ensure that when it does happen the tree is not in survivor mode. 

How to Strengthen the Stem?

Depending on the type of plant you have there are several ways to strengthen the stem of your plant, each one involving some type of rope. 

For plants that grow upwards, you can strengthen the step by closely tying it to the support structure, while other plants that grow closer to the ground or are spreaders will need rope, cords, or wire tied around them. 

Some meshes are also used around weak stems. These are usually organic systems that help stems that can grow strong enough to support themselves. 

This is why you may see some bushes or plants around the world that have what look like brown sacks tied around their stems. 

However, all the support that we can give to plant stems is only there to help the stem grow stronger, removing the pressure that would slow its growth. 

This practice has been popular since the very first humans started growing plants and needed their trees, bushes, or grapes to last more than just until the first strong winds destroy them. 

I have used a cost-effective Liquid Fertilizer called Purived to help strengthen my plant leaves, stems, and their overall health. You can find it by clicking here!

purvied for stronger leaves

How to Support the Plant?

To support a stem you will need to either install a long piece of wood or pipe next to the stem, tying the stem with either a rope or wire, or you will have to install a latticework of support. 

Usually, a latticework support system looks like a fence installed next to the plant, with parts of the plant connected to both support weight and promote growth.

These support systems help to control how the plant grows and helps to remove a lot of the pressure that would be on the stem. 

By having a support structure most if not all the pressure that the stem would usually face will be removed, allowing the plant to spend all of its energy on growing instead of repairing.

It is important to note that different plants have different stems, with cucumbers having long soft stems, while something like grapes has rather strong hard stems. 

These variations in stems require many different support structures that have to be built in just the right way to ensure everything goes well. 

How to Fix or Heal a Plant with a Split Stem?

When your plant stem has split there is no use in making mistakes and panicking, the easiest thing to do is find something to tie the stem up with. 

Using rope, tape, zip ties, or wire close the stem using pressure, just be sure that you are not applying too much pressure. This will close the stem and will cause it to develop new skin over time.

However, once a stem has been split, in either soft or hard stemmed plants, it will not be as strong as it once was. 

With some plants, it can be allowed to continue unsupported, and the stem will grow over the tape or rope used to close it, however, most of the time the stem will just continue to work as normal. 

This is why you may never be able to remove the patch you made to fix a split stem, instead of relying on that patch for as long as the plant will be used. 

Another common practice in vined plants is after the stems split, they are buries into the soil which also produces healthy roots which help in the further development of the plant.

Will a Split Stem Cause the Plant to Die?

No, a split stem will not cause a plant to die, however, it can cause the plant to look a bit droopy for a few days once properly fixed. 

If a split stem is not treated at all the part of the plant beyond the stem will die and eventually rot off. 

The most dangerous part of a split stem is that it can cause pests and mold to start growing inside the plant, this kills the plant from the inside out. 

A lot of plants that could have been saved eventually die because the split was allowed to stay open and eventually led to bugs eating the plant.

Pro Tip – 

If you have a vined plant and have determined that the stem split or crack has not been infected by bacteria or pests, you can bury it into the soil. 

This promotes root growth and can actually help the further growth and development of the plant.

Conclusion

Split stems are not the worst things that can happen to your plant, and they are easy to avoid once you know the causes.

Fixing a split stem is easy and can be done within a few minutes if you have all the right tools on hand. An important part of fixing a split stem is that it needs to be closed, but not squeezed until juices come out.

Whatever you do with your split stem, please never just leave it and hope that the plant will fix it!

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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