How to Start Plant Cuttings


When you propagate a woody plant by taking a cutting of its stem, you are essentially cloning it. Cloning feels like a word too scientific to describe a simple snip with a pair of pruning shears. But taking a stem cutting is the easy part. Getting the cutting to take root is the most difficult part of the process. While some plants root easily with minimal care and attention, others take a long time before they stubbornly put down roots and some never do at all. To save yourself some headache, research the best way to propagate your plant before you attempt to root its cuttings.

Step 1

Clean the plastic milk jug, replace its lid and use a sharp knife to cut the bottom off it.

Step 2

Fill the pot to within 1/2 inch of its lip with a mixture that is half perlite and half peat moss.

Step 3

Water the planting medium until water runs out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.

Step 4

Clean the cutting if you have not done so already. Use a pair of sharp, bypass pruning shears or a sharp knife to remove any flowers or flower buds. Then remove the leaves from the lower half of the cutting. If the cutting has large leaves, cut the remaining leaves horizontally in half.

Step 5

Fill the bottom inch of a small container with rooting hormone powder. Then dip the bottom inch of your stem cutting in the hormone. Shake off any excess by tapping the end of the stem cutting on the side of the container. Throw away the rooting hormone left in the container.

Step 6

Plant the cutting right side up into the pot so that the bottom third of the cutting is buried in the medium. You can place up to four cuttings in the pot but they should not touch one another.

Step 7

Water the planting medium again until water drains from the pot.

Step 8

Place the pot in a warm place (between 70 and 90 degrees F) and place the milk jug on top of it.

Step 9

Lift the milk jug and mist the cuttings with water once daily.

Step 10

Water the medium whenever it dries out (check it at least once daily).

Step 11

Check the plant to see if it has rooted in two to three weeks. Lift the milk jug and very gently pull up on the cutting. If it resists, then it has rooted.

Things You'll Need

  • Rooting hormone
  • 4-inch pot with drainage
  • Small container
  • Perlite
  • Peat moss
  • Knife
  • Milk jug
  • Spray bottle


  • North Carolina State University: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings
  • Ohio State University: Vegetative Propagation of Alfalfa by Stem Cuttings
  • Vancouver Island University: Rooting Rhododendrons and Azaleas from Stem Cuttings
Keywords: root cutting, stem cutting, plant cutting

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.