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How to Root Plant Cuttings in Water

Stem cuttings of many plants can be easily rooted in water to produce new plants that are identical to parent plants. This method of propagation provides a good way to increase plants while saving money at the same time.

It is best to take cuttings from softwood plants (like houseplants, annuals, or some perennials) for rooting in water. Cuttings should be taken from soft, new growth from the lower stems of the plant or from suckers. Do not take cuttings from mature stems that have buds on them or from growth further up, as these contain hormones geared toward promoting upward growth. Cuttings taken lower on the plant contain more hormones that will encourage root growth. Cut 4- to 6-inch pieces, just below leaf junctions. Make clean, diagonal cuts. Place the cuttings in a vase or other container filled with water and place in a spot where they can sit undisturbed for four to six weeks, until roots become visible.

To promote faster rooting, cut small pieces of willow stems and place them in the water. Willows have a natural plant hormone (IBA). This is the same hormone that is synthesized in many rooting compounds, so soaking the stems in willow water causes rooting to occur more quickly. Willow water can also be used to water the new cuttings to promote root growth.

Once roots have been established, the cuttings can be removed from the water and planted directly in the soil. Make a small hole in the soil deep enough for all roots to be covered and wide enough to spread the roots out and not crowd them. Insert a cutting into the hole, allowing roots to spread naturally. While holding the cutting upright, fill in with soil so that the roots are completely covered and pat down lightly. Moisten soil so that it settles (you may need to continue to hold the cutting upright until soil is compacted enough to support the cutting). Then repeat the filling and patting process so that soil is just slightly compacted around the cutting and the cutting remains upright.

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