Garden plants can be propagated in many ways, but one of the easiest methods is taking stem cuttings, placing them in water or a growing medium until they develop roots, and then planting the rooted cuttings in soil.
Growing plants from cuttings is a common way to create new houseplants, but it can also work for many garden plants. In cold-weather zones, some gardeners take clippings of tender annuals and root them indoors to prepare a supply of new plants for garden planting in the spring.
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When to Take Stem Cuttings
Stem cuttings can be taken and rooted at almost any time during the parent plant's active growth period.In cold climates, you can take cuttings in the fall before frost arrives, root them indoors, and then transfer them to pots. By springtime, you will have vigorous potted plants that can go back into the garden.
Before You Begin
The key to successful rooting of stem clippings is to find the moisture and temperature level appropriate for each type of plant. Do some research on the species you are trying to propagate to learn the conditions it likes best. It's best to take several clippings to maximize your chances of success.
Many herbaceous annuals and indoor houseplants will quickly grow to maturity. Cuttings from perennials and woody plants such as shrubs can be harder to root, and they may take longer to reach maturity.
Equipment / Tools
- Razor blade or scissors
- Pencil or stick
- Existing plant (parent plant)
- Plastic bag
- Soilless potting mix
- Rooting hormone
- Containers for planting
How to Grow Plants From Cuttings
Prepare a Container
Fill a clean 6-inch deep container with soilless potting mix to hold cuttings for rooting. A soilless mix drains well and provides suitably moist conditions that encourage the cutting to root.
Don't use ordinary garden soil, as it might contain pathogens that can kill the cutting before it ever takes root.
Choose a Parent Plant
Select a healthy parent plant from which to take cuttings. Avoid plants with diseases or lots of drooping or dying foliage. The best specimens for cuttings will have plenty of new growth and be large enough that taking cuttings will not harm it.
Find the Best Stems for Cutting
Choose green, soft (non-woody) stems for cuttings. Newer growth is easier to root than woody, older stems.
Look for a stem with a node—a bump along the stem where a leaf or flower bud attaches. This point is where new roots will emerge.
Take the Plant Cutting
Use a pair of 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 long, but it should contain at least two leaves and one node.
A cutting that is 4 to 6 inches long is usually sufficient. Longer cuttings sometimes dry out when placed in their growing medium.
Prepare the Cutting
Place the cutting on a flat, hard surface, and make a clean, parital slice through the middle of the node with a sterilized razor blade. Scarring the node will increase the chances of roots emerging from this spot.
Then, remove all but one or two leaves on the cutting. The cutting needs some leaf growth to continue photosynthesis, but too many leaves will consume energy that would otherwise go to root creation.
If the leaves are very large in proportion to the stem, cut off the top halves of the leaves.
Apply a Rooting Hormone (Optional)
- Some plants root easily, but a rooting hormone can help others by stimulating the cutting into sending out new roots.
- Fill a container with water, and place some rooting hormone into another container.
- Dip the node end of the cutting into the water and then into the rooting hormone.
- Tap off any excess hormone; too much actually hinders chances for success.
Bore a Planting Hole
Use a pencil or similar pointed object to poke a planting hole into the soilless potting mix. Making the hole slightly larger than the stem diameter will prevent the rooting hormone from being wiped away when you embed the stem in the pot.
Plant the Cutting
Carefully place the cutting into the hole you made in the potting mix, and gently tamp the soil around it. You can fit several cuttings into one container, but space them so the leaves do not touch one another.
Cover the Pot With Plastic
Place the container with the cutting into a plastic bag. The bag will keep the humidity high and hold in heat. But don’t seal the bag completely because some airflow is necessary to prevent fungal rot.
Keep the container in a warm spot in the house, ideally in an area that experiences filtered light. Don’t put the cutting in full sunlight until new leaves begin appearing along the stem.
Monitor the Cutting
Until roots form, keep the soil slightly moist but not so wet that condensation forms on the inside of the plastic bag. Check regularly for signs of rot, and remove any suspect cuttings as soon as you spot trouble.
After two to three weeks, begin checking for roots by tugging gently on the cutting. When you begin to feel resistance, it means roots have developed. At this point, you can transplant the cutting into its own pot or the ground.