Taking cuttings from a plant to produce more plants of the same kind is an easy and successful plant propagation method used by growers and by home gardeners. Cutting-produced plants provide the nursery industry with a quantity of premium plants in a short amount of time, gives the homeowner a low-cost alternative to purchasing plants for an area, ensures exact clones of a favored garden plant and provides tremendous satisfaction for even the most seasoned of gardeners.
Selecting Parent Plants
Perennials, woody and semi-woody shrubs, succulents, ground covers and vines grow easily from cuttings. Cuttings are taken from healthy stems or roots, where sections of the original plant are placed in soil until they develop their own roots. Not all types of plants can be easily propagated by cuttings. Trees propagated from cuttings may take months to grow roots and all growing conditions (heat, light, moisture, temperature) must be regulated and favorable during the extended rooting periods. Annuals, plants that grow, flower and die within one year, are more easily and quickly propagated from seed.
Preparing a Cutting
Preparation of the cuttings differs from plant type to plant type. For example, succulent cuttings are more successful at sprouting roots if they are allowed to air dry for a day or two before placing in soil. Vegetative plants, such as geraniums, need to have cuttings remain moist and placed in the soil as soon as possible.
Cutting Cultivation Requirements
Cuttings need a light weight, well-draining soil. Bagged, sterile soils with perlite or vermiculite provide the required media. Soils taken directly from the garden are too heavy, slow draining, and rich in nutrients to allow the formation of tiny roots. Keep the soil moist during the rooting process, but not soggy, which can lead to rotting of the cutting. Using a hose-end nozzle with a light mist setting keeps the cutting and soil moist, but maintains air spaces for roots to develop.
Taking a Cutting
The parent plant must be healthy, actively growing and free of pests. Make the cut just above a node (sometimes called a joint) on the stem. New roots will grow out of the node. Cuttings should be no more than 4 inches in length and include two or more nodes. Make another cut on the cutting just below the node and pull off all leaves on the portion that will go into the soil. A powdered rooting hormone can be used, with the cutting end dipped into the powder before insertion. Insert the cutting into moistened soil so that the node is buried and the cutting stands on its own.
Aftercare of Cuttings
Place the cutting in partial shade or in a bright window in the house. Do not place in direct sun. Spray the cutting and soil each day, twice daily if the weather is warm or windy. After a few weeks, give a gentle tug on the cutting. If there is resistance, small roots are forming. Leave the cutting in the soil until it sends out new leaves. Transplant the new plant into a 4-inch pot, using fresh potting soil.