How to Start Plants from Clippings

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Many plants can be started by clipping a piece off of a parent plant and placing it into the right environment. This procedure works because "...each cell in the plant has all the genetic information necessary to produce a complete plant," said Robert Berghage, assistant professor of horticulture at Penn State University's College of Agricultural Science. With this method it is easy to share or trade plants or to expand your garden. The process is easy and can be done by any gardener.

For Softwood Plants, Vines and Many Houseplants

Step 1

Cut a 6-inch or longer piece of stem off of the parent plant using sharp scissors. Make the cut just below a joint where leaves meet the stem. Plants that work well for this method include geraniums, coleus, Swedish ivy, many tropical plants and some vegetables.

Step 2

Remove the leaves that are within the bottom 2 inches of the plant by snipping them cleanly off of the stem.

Step 3

Place the stem in a glass or vase of water, being sure to cover at least one of the leaf joints with water and leaving the remainder sticking out of the water.

Step 4

Drain every couple of days and replace with fresh water.

Step 5

Inspect for root shoots from the bottom of the plant. When they have reached a few inches long, plant them in a rich potting soil mix.

Step 6

Water the new plant frequently as you would with a houseplant, checking the soil and watering when moisture is almost gone. Keep the plant potted for several weeks to allow it to adjust to its new roots before transplanting outside.

Root Hormone Method - For Soft to Medium Wood Plants

Step 1

Cut a 6-inch or longer piece of stem off of the parent plant using sharp knife or scissors. Make the cut just below a joint where leaves meet the stem. Depending on the size of the parent plant, this clipping can be from 6 inches to 2 feet long. Choose a shoot that is young and tender, but one that is as healthy as possible. For shrubs or soft-wood trees, the best time to do this is during the growth season when new shoots are forming. For hardwood trees, such as evergreens, do this after the first frost, when the tree is dormant.

Step 2

Cut off leaves that are at the bottom few inches of the plant by snipping them off close to the stem with a sharp scissor.

Step 3

Dip the end of the stem into rooting hormone to replenish the plants' hormones. It can no longer receive hormones from the roots. This will aid in propagation.

Step 4

Plant the cutting into vermiculite, perlite or planting foam. These substances hold water well and allow for oxygen to circulate around the roots.

Step 5

Keep the cutting watered, never allowing it to dry out, but be sure it doesn't soak in the water. Adequate drainage should be given to each plant. Check daily for moisture level; water as necessary. If desired, a clear plastic dome or bag can be placed over the cuttings to help retain humidity. For a small number of short cuttings, the use of a plastic soda bottle with the bottom cut off can work well as a dome.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not let your cuttings dry out

Things You'll Need

  • Desired parent plant
  • Scissors
  • Cup of water
  • Vermiculite, Perlite or floral foam
  • Root hormone (optional)
  • Potting mix
  • Small planter pots


  • Starting Plants from Cuttings: Penn State University
  • How to Propagate from Cuttings
  • Starting New Plants: Cass County Horticulture

Who Can Help

  • How to Start Tomato Plants from Cuttings
  • Flowers from Cuttings: Savvy Gardener
Keywords: plants from clippings, starting plants, Propagation from cuttings

About this Author

Robin Lewis is a freelance artist, designer and writer. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, national magazines and on several self-help areas of the Web. Lewis specializes in gardening articles, publishing frequently on a variety of websites.

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