Making New Plants From Cuttings

Sep 28, 2016
Making New Plants

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One of my favorite aspects of gardening is plant propagation. Whether it is from seed or a cutting, I love seeing a new plant emerge and grow.

Early fall is the time to take some cuttings of plants you want to keep over the winter. Tender container plants are at their peak right now but when the weather turns colder they will be lost unless you bring them inside.

Even with a greenhouse, we don’t have enough room for everything we want to save and it is even more difficult if you are trying to fit them all on a sunny windowsill. Instead of lugging in large containers and digging up entire plants you can easily take cuttings of your favorites and start some new plants.

Supplies for Cutting

Before you start cutting, take time to gather all the materials you’ll need. If you are organized, you’ll be able to prepare a lot of cuttings in a short time. You’ll need:

  • clean plastic pots or boxes
  • a bag of sterile potting soil and perlite or vermiculite
  • powdered rooting hormone
  • a sharp knife, clippers, or razor blade
  • alcohol to sterilize your cutting tool.

For a rooting medium you can use a mix of potting soil (soilless mixes are best) and perlite or vermiculite to make it drain faster. I have had success using straight vermiculite.

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Instructions to Take Cuttings

Cuttings can be taken as long as the parent plant is still healthy and growing. This method works best on any plant with a soft stem, not a hard woody stem. (More on best plants for cuttings below.)

  1. Fill your containers with your potting mix and water well.
  2. Look for new vigorous side shoots or tip growth and slice off a 3 to 4 inch long piece.
  3. Remove the lower leaves and any flowers or buds, moisten the stem in water and dip it into a little pile of rooting hormone (not directly into the jar because you could contaminate the whole container.)
  4. Make a hole in the soil with a pencil, stick in your cutting, firm the soil around it, and gently water it.
  5. Take more cuttings. Twelve plants fit nicely in a rectangular box. Always take more cuttings than you need because some are likely to fail.
  6. Be sure to include a tag with any pertinent info on it.

Creating a Mini-Greenhouse

Many people use a sunny windowsill, but if you wish to create lots of pots with cuttings, here’s any easy way to create a mini-greenhouse … 

  1. Place the box or pot of cuttings in a large plastic bag, blow in it to inflate it, and seal the end. Big zip-lock bags work great.
  2. Place this in a warm spot out of direct sun: 65 to 75°F is optimum. Bottom heat helps cuttings root faster but is not necessary.
  3. Open the bag every few days to check for mold or wilted cuttings and to add fresh air. This helps to prevent mildew from forming in this humid atmosphere.
  4. After a week or two, if the plants look lively you can peel back the bag and move them into indirect light. Check for rooting by giving them a gentle tug. If they resist being pulled out, roots have begun to form.
  5. Soon you’ll be able to move your new plants into their own pots filled with fresh potting soil. After a few weeks you can fertilize them and move them to their new indoor locations.

Easy Plants to Propagate by Cuttings

Good candidates for propagation from stem cuttings include: begonias, fuchsia, pineapple sage, rosemary, hibiscus, hydrangea, and geraniums.

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Many plants root so easily, they will even root willingly in a glass of water, including coleus, African violet, some ivies, iresine, mints, and impatiens don’t need any kind of pampering and will even root willingly in a glass of water! (If you try this, keep the water clean and put the glass out of direct sunlight. Once roots form, transfer to a pot.)propagation_005.jpg

Image: Coleus are easy to propagate.

One word of caution, just make sure that the plants you are propagating from are not patent protected.

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Even if you don’t plan to sell the new plants it is still illegal to propagate them without permission from the patent holder. Many perennials and shrubs—and even some annuals—are patented so check first. We don’t want the Plant Police knocking on your door!

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Just so there is no doubt here is the warning in 3 languages!

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

Reader Comments

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coneflowers

Can coneflowers be propagated with cuttings? In soil? In water?

Coneflower Cuttings

Coneflowers cannot be propagated through stem cuttings, unfortunately. However, they can be propagated through “root cuttings,” which just involves taking part of a root clump from an existing coneflower plant. This is also called “division” and should be done every 3–5 years anyway, as it improves the health of plant and cuts down on overcrowding. These root cuttings can be planted directly in soil. Learn more about coneflowers.

Anything to do with the plants and growing

I try and grow anything and I have a problem my green thumb is black I have a problem obviously don't know what to do I have read books I have done exactly what things have said and still my plants die I'm trying so hard to grow something just keep sending me instructions and hopefully I can grow something anything that would be easy to grow I would appreciate I have made Roots with water and then plant them instructions and hopefully I can grow something anything that would be easy to grow I would appreciate I have made roots with water and then plant them and they die I don't know what it is that I'm doing wrong. Please help

How frustrating for you Cindi

How frustrating for you Cindi! Other than reading a lot of gardening books and trial and error which it seems like you have already done, maybe you could look for a class on gardening at your local extension office or community education program. Garden clubs are great too. The members are very willing to help novice gardeners and they would have experience in growing that is specific to your area. Good luck!

I have a black thumb too!

I personally believe that there is something in my skin that destroys plants. I can keep them alive as long as I don't actually touch them with my hands. Try using gloves. Its a simple inexpensive way to give it another shot. Good luck!

Wild beach roses

Is it legal and how do you propagate wild beach roses? From cuttings off the woody stems or from the rose hips? Is there a problem when you are trying to grow them in rich garden loam when you have removed them from sandy beach soil? When is the best time of year to accomplish this?

Everything belongs to someone

Everything belongs to someone so get permission from the landowner before taking cuttings from their plants. The best time to propagate rugosa roses is right after they blossom. Cut  6-8 inch long tips, strip off all but the top few leaves, dip stems in rooting powder and proceed as directed above. They should root in a couple of weeks. My mother-in-law used to place her rose cuttings right into garden soil in a shady spot under a tree and cover them with a glass jar. They rooted in no time and she was able to transplant them to a sunny spot in the garden where they grew and blossomed like crazy but she had an incredibly green thumb. Your cuttings should grow well in any well-drained soil.

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