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Propagation through cuttings

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Mulch and restoration factsheet

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Plant Propagation Through Cuttings – It’s Easier Than you Think

Have you ever dreamed of propagating your own plants? It’s not as hard as some people think, and can be a very rewarding experience. With a little time and effort, you can grow many plants. There are numerous forms of propagation that you can experiment with.

One popular form of propagation is cuttings. This technique involves removing vegetative pieces of a plant, inducing them to form roots, and creating new plants. Many species can be propagated through cuttings. The proper timing and plant tissues will vary with species. All cuttings should be taken with a sharp, sterile knife or pruning shears to reduce infections. Stem cuttings should be taken just above or below a node. This will allow new growth to form from this node, either producing a new plant or replacing the piece you removed from the parent plant for propagation.

There are several types of cuttings which can be taken. To briefly summarize, they include:

Stem cuttings: These cuttings are taken from a piece of the stem. They can be tip cuts, which include the terminal bud and 2-6” of stem; medial cuts, taken from the middle of a branch or stem; or cane cuts, which are 2-3” sections of cane forming plants (e.g. blackberries). Unlike most cuttings, cane cuts should be placed horizontally on the propagation medium, which will allow new canes to grow. All stem cuttings should include at least one or two nodes for new roots or shoots to grow from.

Leaf cuttings : These are a rarely used technique that primarily works for a few indoor plants such as African violets and snake plants. The propagation involves using anything from a small section of leaf (with a vein for the new plant to develop from) to an entire leaf, with or without its petiole.

Root cuttings : These cuttings are used primarily to propagate perennials and woody species. They are typically taken during the dormant season from a piece of root on a 2-3 year old plant. Root cuttings can be used to propagate many species, including raspberry, lilac, and sumac.

Cuttings can also be classified according to the time of year they are taken. This classification applies better to woody species than herbaceous ones. The categories include:

Softwood cuttings : These cuttings are taken from the current season’s growth before it hardens (in spring or early summer). Since they have not hardened, they must be kept well watered.

Semi-hardwood cuttings : These cuttings are taken after it has begun hardening, but before growth has ceased for the season. They are typically taken in the summer and must be misted.

Hardwood cuttings : These cuttings are taken from the current season’s growth after it has hardened and stopped growing. They are typically taken in fall or winter.

When taking a cutting, it is important to understand the concept of polarity. This is a phenomenon that ensures that cuttings form roots at the end closest to the stem or roots and shoots at the end closest to the terminal bud or end of the branch. Be sure to plant your cutting right side up, or you will end up with roots in the air and shoots in the soil! One easy way to distinguish the ends of the cutting is to use a straight cut on one side and a slanted cut on the other.

Regardless of the type of cutting you take, make sure you provide a good rooting medium (such as a soilless planting mix) and adequate water to prevent wilting and keep the new plant growing. A rooting hormone, such as IBA ( indole-3-butyric acid) or NAA ( napthalene acetic acid), which is similar to natural plant hormones, may also help new roots to grow, though success varies.

Cuttings – and other forms – of plant propagation, are fun and rewarding. I encourage you to experiment and see what you can grow. You’ll be surprised at how easy and enjoyable the experience is, and you’ll have new plants to share with friends and neighbors or plant in your own garden. Enjoy your experiments!


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