Many common garden plants root easily from cuttings, giving you full-grown plants in half the time it takes to start from seed.
Types of Cuttings
There are several types of cuttings you can use to propagate your plants. These cuttings use different kinds of stems. Happily, you can treat them pretty much the same way.
Softwood cuttings are from fresh, new growth, usually in spring or early summer. Plants such as butterfly bush and dogwoods root well from softwood cuttings.
Greenwood cuttings are from young stems that are starting to mature, but still in the first year. They're usually taken in early to midsummer. Plants such as gardenia and boxwood tend to root well from greenwood 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.
Hardwood cuttings are taken from woody stems that have gone dormant in late fall or winter. Trees and shrubs such as mock orange and viburnum often root well from hardwood cuttings.
Supplies for Cuttings
- Sharp knife or pruning shears
- Containers for potting up the cuttings
- Potting mix, perlite, vermiculite, or sand
- Rooting hormone
Step 1: Cut Off a Section of Stem
To make your cuttings, select healthy growth that's 3 to 6 inches long. Try to make a sharp cut; mashing the stems may make it more difficult for the shoots to develop new roots.
Step 2: Remove the Lower Leaves
Clip off the leaves on the lower half of the shoot so you have a bare stem to insert into your potting mix. Then, if you want, dip the end of your stem in rooting hormone. This helps many cuttings root more quickly.
Step 3: Pot Up Your Cutting
Immediately pot up your cutting in moist potting mix, sand, perlite, or vermiculite. Keep your cutting humid by loosely wrapping it in clear plastic or keeping it under a cloche.
Some plants root more quickly than others, so be patient. On average, it takes a month or two for your cuttings to root and become established enough that you can plant them.
Tips for Cuttings
- Early morning is usually the best time to take cuttings because the plant usually has the most moisture at this time.
- Keep cuttings cool and moist until you've potted them up. Avoid exposing the cuttings to direct sun if you can.
- Many cuttings root faster if they're kept warm and humid, so misting the cuttings frequently can help them grow.
Some plants root so easily that you can start them in a glass or jar of water. Examples include:
- African violet (Saintpaulia)
- Coleus (Solenostemon)
- Geranium (Pelargonium)