Background Narciclasine (NCS) is an Amaryllidaceae alkaloid isolated from Narcissus tazetta bulbs. NCS has inhibitory effects on a broad range of biological activities and thus has various potential practical applications. Here we examine how NCS represses plant root growth. Results Results showed that the inhibition of NCS on cell division in Arabidopsis root tips and its effects on cell differentiation are concentration-dependent; at low concentrations (0.5 and 1.0 μM) NCS preferentially targets mitotic cell cycle specific/cyclin complexes, whereas at high concentration (5.0 μM) the NCS-stimulated accumulation of Kip-related proteins (KRP1 and RP2) affects the CDK complexes with a role at both G1/S and G2/M phases. Conclusions Our findings suggest that NCS modulates the coordination between cell division and differentiation in Arabidopsis root tips and hence affects the postembryonic development of Arabidopsis seedlings.