Cuttings are a way of taking plant flesh from a parent plant and cloning that flesh into a new, full-grown plant. This creates a plant with all the same genetic qualities as the parent. Propagating by cutting is a cheap way to create a garden without buying new plants from a gardening center.
Growers make cuttings from any part of the plant, but the most common cuttings, reports Purdue University's Cooperative Extension, are from the stem, leaf and root. Stem cuttings are made from both herbaceous and softwood plants, notes North Carolina State University. Leaf cuttings remove a single leaf from a plant, which will generate new roots. Root cuttings remove a root from a parent plant. Each root produces two to three new stems.
Dip cuttings into a rooting medium that seals the cutting wound and promotes the growth of roots from the wounded area. The cutting requires dipping the medium immediately to prevent the chance of disease. Stem cuttings require removal of most of the leaves on the stem to reduce stress on the cutting. The cutting is placed in a rooting medium such as perlite or vermiculite, then covered with a bag to give it high humidity.
Cuttings require careful handling to prevent disease. All cuttings should be taken from a plant that is free from disease and insects to prevent disease or pests from spreading to the new plant. Clean tools should be used. Clean any cutting utensils with rubbing alcohol before cutting and between cuts. Never reuse soil.
The rooting medium requires adequate moisture to root the cutting. Potting soil should be moist to the touch. A mixture of 50 percent perlite and 50 percent vermiculite works well and holds water. If cuttings rot before they root, add more perlite or vermiculite to increase the air in the pot. Keep the pot out of direct sunlight, opting instead for an area of the home that receives indirect sunlight.
Transplant the plant once it is actively growing and has a good set of roots. Slide the plant out of its pot and shake away the perlite and vermiculite mixture. Plant at the same depth that it was originally planted. Cuttings grown indoors should be hardened off by placing them outside for slightly longer periods each day to adjust it to the weather.