How to Grow a Plant From Cuttings


Growing your own plants from cuttings rather than buying new ones is a real money saver. It's also fairly simple, requiring only a few basic supplies. Although some plants can be propagated from leaf or root cuttings, the majority are grown from stem cuttings. Common plants that root easily from stem cuttings include hydrangeas, geraniums, impatiens, lilac and magnolia.

Step 1

Line the bowl with a damp paper towel so that the cuttings will be kept cool and moist until planted. Cuttings from woody plants should be taken from softwood stems. Softwood makes a distinctive popping sound when it snaps whereas new green shoots will simply bend without breaking. Practice this with a few stems to get comfortable identifying the softwood growth.

Step 2

Working back from the tip of the stem, count the leaf nodes and cut the stem cleanly about an inch below the second set of leaves. The typical length of a good stem cutting is about 4 inches. Place the cutting in the bowl and keep it shaded. You will need six cuttings for your planting tray.

Step 3

Make your potting mix by blending equal parts of sand and either peat moss or perlite. Fill the cells of the planting tray and add a little water to moisten the mix.

Step 4

Remove the lower set of leaves on the cutting with the knife so that the stem is exposed at the leaf node. Put on your rubber gloves and dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting compound. The compound must cover the stem at the exposed leaf node. Gently remove excess compound and place the cutting into the potting mix. Snip off half of the upper leaves with the scissors and repeat the steps until all the cuttings are planted.

Step 5

Insert the Popsicle sticks into the outer corners of the planting tray. Add some water to the bottom of the tray and place it inside the plastic bag. The Popsicle sticks keep the top of the bag off the cuttings. Seal the the bag and place it in your garden out of direct sunlight. Check the tray every few days to make sure the soil is moist and add a little water when needed.

Step 6

Transplant the cuttings to larger pots when they have grown root hairs. This usually takes three or four weeks. The root hairs may be seen growing out of the bottom of the tray. You can also gently tug on the cuttings to check for resistance, which indicates roots have formed.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Large bowl
  • Paper towel
  • Six-cell planting tray
  • Sand
  • Perlite or peat moss
  • Rooting compound
  • Scissors
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Large sealable plastic bag
  • Rubber gloves


  • Pacific Northwest Extension Publications: Propagating Herbaceous Plants from Cuttings
  • Fine Gardening: Propagate Your Shrubs from Softwood Cuttings
  • North Carolina State University: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings
Keywords: grow plant cuttings, growing plant cuttings, plant cuttings

About this Author

Based in Surrey, British Columbia, Stephen Oakley is a freelance writer focusing on environmental issues, travel and all things outdoors. His background includes many years spent working in the Canadian wilderness and traveling worldwide.