Plants reproduce in a number of ways. Many plants produce seeds that mature and fall to the ground, growing new plants the following spring. Others reproduce through tubers, suckers and runners. You can propagate many types of plants by taking vegetative cuttings. Also known as asexual reproduction, cuttings can produce new growth that closely resembles the original plant or tree. Knowing which section of the plant to cut, as well as the correct timing, can provide you with numerous, new plants from a single specimen.
Although only a few plants propagate well from leaf cuttings, this method can quickly produce new plants from certain varieties. Take leaf cuttings from African violets, begonias, jade plants and sedum plants. Cutting these leaves from their parent plant and inserting them into a sterile, rooting medium will encourage roots to form and new plants to emerge. Simply trim off one-quarter of the leaf and dip into a rooting hormone, before placing about one-third of the leaf below the surface of your rooting medium.
The most common method for propagating new houseplants, stem cuttings provide new plants from individual stems. Stem cuttings should include about 2 to 4 inches of healthy stems, each containing at least 2 or 3 leaves. Removing the lower leaves and dipping the bottom portion into a rooting hormone will encourage new roots to form on the severed bottoms of the cuttings. These cuttings require damp conditions for adequate moisture during root formation.
Young, flexible branches on vines and flowering shrubs provide material for softwood cuttings. Water your shrubs the night before harvesting your softwood cuttings. These cuttings require about 2 to 10 inch segments of new growth, grown during the current year. A cut made slightly below a leaf node on a healthy branch, dipped in rooting hormone and placed about one-third its length in soil, will produce new roots.
Some needled evergreen trees and shrubs, as well as some deciduous shrubs, grow from hardwood cuttings. Unlike softwood cuttings, these segments of branches come from dormant trees and contain firmer growth. These cuttings require a period of cool storage in moist sand or vermiculite before planting in the spring.
Some plants grow new stems and leaves from segments of roots. The best time to take root cuttings is during the dormant period, when the roots contain plenty of stored energy. This works well for some types of perennial herbs, such as comfrey. Root segments than contain at least 2 to 3 inches of healthy growth provide adequate vegetation to form new plants in moist soil.