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How to propagate plants from cuttings

How to propagate plants from cuttings. One of the easiest ways to share the joys of gardening is by sharing one of your favorite plants. Luckily, this can be done without having to part with the original!

Plant propagation is the process of replicating plants. Just like all living things, plants must reproduce for the continuation of the species. Gardeners use this process to replicate the plants they like. (Or maybe the plants are using the gardeners.)

We all know that plants can be grown from seeds. However this is not the only way to get new plants. Growing new plants from cuttings is a great way to replicate your plants. How to propagate plants from cuttings 

Propagating plants from stem cuttings has a few key advantages over growing from seed.

  1. You will have a mature plant sooner. Since you start with a central stem and fully grown leaves, your cutting already has a huge head start on seedlings.
  2. The new plant is a genetically identical clone of the parent. In some plants like mint and apples, new seedlings are often poor quality. An apple seed is likely to produce unpalatable crab apples. A mint seed can produce plants that are not strongly fragrant. Cuttings, on the other hand, are nearly identical to their parent plant.
  3. You can take a cutting without getting the parent to flower. It can be difficult to get some plants to flower. When they do flower, there is no guarantee you will get viable seeds. Some plants never reproduce sexually, only spreading through cuttings. Therefore, cuttings are an easier way to propagate a plant. This can be done multiple times in a season without waiting for flowers.

These are just a few of the reasons you might want to propagate your plant from a cutting. Now let’s find out how to do it!

What You Will Need:

    • A healthy, well established parent plant with plenty of branches. It should have plenty of actively growing green stems over 6-inches long. Different plants will have different needs. Some plants are easier than others to root. Some good starter plants to learn to take cuttings from are:
      • Mint (Mentha): Any type or mint or closely related plants like lemon balm and catnip. These are very hardy, fast-growing plants that readily take root.
      • Lavender (Lavandula): Another great smelling herb that can easily be propagated! Lavender produces fragrant flowers that have a calming scent.
      • Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia): This semi-woody plant has beautiful trumpet shaped flowers. It is a common landscaping plant in Southern California. However, care should be taken when working with this plant as it is quite toxic.
  • Very sharp, clean shears or a knife.
  • Rooting hormone (recommended)
    • Young willow leaves and sprigs contain the natural rooting hormone salicylic acid and can be used as a rooting hormone.
  • Small pots (dixie cups or reclaimed plastic containers can be used.)
  • Cups filled with water
  • Perlite (highly recommended)
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic bags large enough to fit your pots with room for a 6-inch stem

Taking Cuttings

  1. Before cutting your plant, make sure you have all your needed supplies easily available. Fill enough cups with water to fit all the stems you plan to cut. Only plan to cut as many stems as you can process with 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare pots with potting soil. You may want to add extra perlite to the soil mix to improve drainage.
  3. Locate a healthy stem on your parent plant. The stem should be large and actively growing. The leaves should look green, turgid and generally healthy. The distance between the leaves on the stem should be short.
  4. Identify the nodes of the stem, where the leaves are attached to the stem. Find a node that is green but established, the stem should be slightly flexible at the cut. Finding the best location on the stem takes practice. You should try to get a cutting that is about 4-6 inches long. Practicing on the recommended plants will be easier as these species are very forgiving. 
  5. You will want to cut very close to the selected node (for most plants, including those listed above.) Make a clean, straight cut through the stem with a SHARP knife or shears. Avoid crushing the stem.
  6. Remove the sets of leaves closest to the base of the cutting. You should have 1-2 inches of stem without leaves. Quickly move your cutting to the cup of water.
  7. After taking the number of cuttings you want, roll them in rooting hormone, tapping off any excess. Avoid doing this directly inside the bottle of hormone as this may decrease its potency. Skip this step if you are not using rooting hormone.
  8. With a finger or butter knife, make a small hole in the potting soil. You can add extra perlite to this hole to give the young roots room to breathe. Stick the cutting into the soil, burying the node covered in hormone. Do not place the plant too deep in the soil.
  9. Water the cutting in the pot, completely drenching the soil. Your cutting will need a lot of water and humidity at the beginning.
  10. Place a plastic bag over the cutting and pot. This acts as a kind of mini greenhouse called a humidity tent. It helps keep the plant wet since it will have trouble soaking up water without roots. You want to keep the humidity tent on for at least a week or until new growth begins to be apparent.
  11. Provide the plant with indirect sunlight. Too much sun may be too stressful for the cutting! However, too little light will prevent it from getting the energy needed to grow new roots.

If you follow these steps, you should have an abundance of plants in no time. There are many other ways to take cuttings and root plants as well. Do some reading about the plant you want to take a cutting from to learn about its needs.

Some plants can be rooted in water with no soil. Others can be rooted from a piece of a leaf. Cacti and succulents can be propagated in a similar but slightly different way. Comment below with your favorite ways to propagate plants and your favorite plants to propagate!

By Casey Hofford, Contributing Writer

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