New cellulose porous layers, with capacity to transport and retain boron from aqueous solution, were developed via interpenetrating polymer network (IPNs). These polymer systems were made to assemble mimetic systems of plant root tissue for the study of available boron transport. For that cellulose porous layers supported on polypropylene matrix were used as primary network for the formation of IPN. A vinyl monomer, (4-vinylbenzyl)-N-methyl-d-glucamine (VbNMDG), was synthesized at three concentration levels and cellulose ultrafiltration membranes were modified by in situ polymerization in the inside of the pores. Change of hydrophilicity, percent of secondary network, permeability and retention properties were studied. The formation of IPNs in the inside of the pores decreased the permeabilities of polymer layers. In addition, a decrease of hydrophilicity was seen. A linear increase of boron retention in function of VbNMDG concentrations was observed for the different boron concentrations and a negative effect on retention capability was evidenced for several charge and discharge cycles. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 40653.