A cutting is part of a stem, leaf or root that is removed from a plant and forms a new plant that looks like its parent. Cuttings can be taken from a variety of herbaceous and woody plants, but the easiest are softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings. Propagating plants from cuttings is easy and works with many types of plants. The most common types of cuttings are stem and root cuttings.
Take stem cuttings from soft, young growth. Mature growth will have flower buds, whereas young growth will not. Plants have hormones that program them for upward growth, so take cuttings from the lower branches, which carry less of the upward-growing hormones.
Cut the stem neatly just below the third or fourth leaf (about 4 to 6 inches). Never break off a stem by hand or peel back bark on woody cuttings to try to promote rooting. Ragged tips will die back and leave plants open to disease.
Make individual holes or trenches in the growing medium and position cuttings so that the planting end is touching the medium and it is firmly packed against the base.
Dispose of any cuttings that show evidence of disease and start fresh if you have to. Place the bottom of the stems in flats or small pots and keep cuttings out of direct sun until their new roots develop.
Dip the stems in a rooting compound or soak them in willow water (water that has had willow pieces soaked in it for 24 hours) overnight before planting to promote rooting. Willow water can also be used to water the new cuttings to promote root growth.
Use a well-drained growing medium. Although most cuttings will root in sand alone, a growing medium of half sand and half peat or sphagnum moss, perlite or vermiculite will work best.
Give the stems a light tug when new top growth appears to determine if they have established new roots. Once new roots have been established, transplant to larger pots or to the garden.
Keep the growing medium moist until new growth appears and roots are well established. Cuttings do better in a humid atmosphere.
Enclose the whole pot in a plastic bag or cut the tops from 2-liter soda bottles and place the potting medium and cuttings in the bottom of one and place the bottom of the other over the top to create a greenhouse effect.
Mist frequently to increase humidity. Cuttings take about 2 to 6 weeks to establish roots.
Take root cuttings from plants that produce sprouts from their roots. Cut 2- to 4-inch pieces about as thick as a pencil or a finger from the mother plant and place them in soil in flats or pots.
Place root cuttings sideways or upright in a flat and cover with growing medium, so the tops are just below that surface.
Keep root cuttings barely moist, cover them with plastic and place them in the shade.
Things You Will Need
- Small, sharp knife
- Pots or flats
- Rooting compound or willow stems
- Sand or other growing medium
- Plastic bag or two 2-liter bottles
- Bradley, Fern Marshall, ed. “The Experts Book of Garden Hints”. Emmaus: Rodale Press, 1993.
- Dietz, Marjorie J., ed. “10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts”. Garden City: Doubleday Book & Music Clubs, Inc., 1982.
- Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine, eds. “Sunset Western Garden Book”. Menlo Park: Sunset Publishing Corporation, 1998.
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