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How to Take Stem Cuttings

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017
Clipping plant stems

Woody and ornamental plants are easily propagated by taking softwood, semi-hardwood or hardwood stem cuttings during the growing season. Softwood cuttings are taken in late spring from green growth that is flexible. These cuttings root the quickest and work well for herbaceous perennials. Semi-hardwood cuttings are taken mid-summer through early fall from sections of growth on broadleaf evergreen plants that is beginning to mature. Hardwood cuttings are stiff mature stem sections taken in late fall once the plant has gone dormant and work well for propagating deciduous woody plants.

Disinfect cutting tools and equipment with a solution that is nine parts water and one part bleach. This will prevent plant contamination through the open wounds. Let the tools dry prior to using.

Cut 6-inch stem or branch sections from new plant growth with a sharp knife. New growth is found on the top of the plant or ends of branches. Put the cuttings in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag to prevent drying while making collections.

Fill a rooting tray with a well-draining rooting medium that is moistened with water. Rooting medium is available for purchase from garden supply stores.

Remove leaves from the bottom half of the stem and cut the remaining large leaves in half vertically to prevent moisture loss and create more space in the rooting tray.

Pour powdered rooting hormone into a cup and dip the bottom end of the stem into it. Tap the stem to remove excess hormone. Discard hormone remaining in the cup to prevent contamination.

Stick the cut end of the stem into the rooting medium at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Firm the medium around the stem to hold in place. Lightly water the medium with water and place a plastic bag over the tray to increase the humidity in the container during rooting.

Set the tray in a warm location with indirect sunlight. Open the tray 2 to 3 times a week to provide fresh air. Mist the medium with water if needed to prevent drying, as this will inhibit root production. Roots will form in four weeks or more depending on the variety of plant.


Things You Will Need

  • Water
  • Bleach
  • Sharp knife
  • Paper towel
  • Plastic bags
  • Water
  • Rooting tray
  • Rooting medium
  • Powdered rooting hormone
  • Small container
  • Water mister

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.