Growing plants from cuttings is an excellent way to fill your garden with lush flowers, herbs, and other plants without spending any money. Start with cuttings from your plants, or ask friends for their cuttings. Plant cuttings are grouped into four basic categories: softwood, greenwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood. Read on to learn the 19 best plants to grow from cuttings. The plants are sectioned into the four categories, followed by tips on how to grow them.
Softwood cuttings come from fresh, new growth, usually in spring or early summer. Plants such as dogwoods root well from these types of cuttings.
- Aster: This beautiful flowering plant includes nearly 600 species in North America.
- Butterfly Bush: This plant roots especially well from cuttings.
- Chrysanthemum: These plants—also called mums—come in a variety of floral colors, including gold, white, off-white, yellow, bronze (rust), red, burgundy, pink, lavender, and purple.
- Hydrangea: These colorful flowers bloom on what is called "old wood," or branches that are at least a year old.
- Rose: The rose is the beautiful, classic plant for propagating from cuttings. It can also fall under the hardwood category (see below).
- Salvia: These annuals and perennials—think of a sea of scarlet blooms—also come in white, salmon, pink, purple, lavender, burgundy, and orange.
Greenwood—also called herbaceous—cuttings are from plants that have non-woody stems. All annual plants, for example, are herbaceous because they are non-woody plants.
- Boxwood: These are the ubiquitous shrubs known for their light-green leaves and rounded compact growth
- Dahlia: There are some 30 species of dahlias and over 20,000 cultivars.
- Gardenia: These are beautiful, white flowers.
Semi Ripe/Semi-Hardwood Cuttings
Semi-ripe cuttings are tougher and more mature. They're usually taken from midsummer to fall. Plants such as camellia and honeysuckle often root well from semi-ripe cuttings.
- Azalea: These are among the most popular flowering plants.
- Camellia: This plant is known for its large and bright flowers.
- Honeysuckle: This is a popular ornamental shrub.
Hardwood Cuttings and Other Plants
Hardwood cuttings include deciduous shrubs, climbers (like vines), fruits (such as gooseberries), and trees.
- Angel's Trumpet: These are the white, trumpet-shaped flowers that grow on vines.
Other plants fall into one or more of the four categories that produce well from cuttings. They include dianthus plants, also called "pinks," that belong to the carnation family, as well as geraniums, jade plants, lavenders, penstemon, rosemary, and veronica.
Tips and Hints
The plant that gives you the cuttings is called the mother plant. Look for a healthy house or garden plant. Plants with non-woody stems are easiest to propagate. The mother plant should be large enough that removing one or more cutting will not harm or kill it.
Select green, non-woody stems for taking tip cuttings. Newer growth is easier to root than woody stems. Locate a stem that has a node, the spot on the stem where a leaf is or was attached. It looks like a joint on the stem and it is the area that will generate new roots. Use scissors or a razor blade that has been sterilized in alcohol to make a clean cut, just below a node. The cutting doesn’t need to be very long, a single node with a couple of leaves will be fine.
After cutting off a piece of the stem, place the cutting on a flat, hard surface and make a clean slice through the middle of the node. Plant stems send out their new roots from the stem nodes. Making the cutting at the node increase your chance of successfully rooting the cutting.
Remove all but one or two leaves. The cutting needs some leaf growth to continue photosynthesis since it can’t take in any food from roots it doesn’t yet have. But too many leaves will sap energy from its efforts to create new roots. If the leaves are very large in proportion to the stem, cut them in half.
Fill a clean plant pot or container with soilless potting mix to hold the cutting. A soilless mix drains better than garden soil and achieves a moist but not wet quality. Additionally, garden soil contains spores and other pathogens that could kill the cutting before it takes root. You don't need a large container or a lot of potting mix. Once the cuttings take root, you will transfer them to another pot anyway.
With a pencil or similar pointed object, poke holes into the potting mix. Making holes in the rooting medium will ensure that the rooting hormone remains on the plant stem cutting, not on the soil surface. This will improve the chances that the cuttings will root. Be prepared for a few to die off before rooting. Carefully place the cuttings into the holes you made in your potting mix and gently firm the soil around them. You can fit several cuttings into one container, but space them so that the leaves do not touch one another.