One of the wonderful things about plants is their adaptability. Plants can propagate themselves in a number of ways, depending upon the species. Some reproduce simply by seed but others can propagate vegetatively, through rhizomes, bulbs, corms or even root fragments.
Still others can grow roots from cuttings, either by inserting the cutting into sterile medium, soaking in water or occasionally dipping the end into a rooting hormone to enhance production of roots.
The time to take plant cuttings will vary by species but, generally, a softwood cutting, taken from the current season's growth, will root most quickly. Other types of cuttings are semi-softwood and hardwood.
What is a plant cutting?
A plant cutting is simply a piece taken from the selected plant that is used to vegetatively or asexually reproduce. It develops into a clone of the parent plant, ensuring an exact copy of that specimen.
- Softwood cuttings are taken in spring to early summer.
- Semi-softwood cuttings are taken midsummer to fall and have mature leaves.
- Hardwood cuttings seem to root best when taken during the dormant season.
Most important things to do
Whichever cutting is necessary, the first thing to note is the method of cutting and implement. Always use a sharp, clean implement to avoid introducing disease to the parent plant and ensure a cut edge that is straight and unblemished. Use cuttings only from healthy plant specimens and cut stems below a bud.
The choice of medium will vary. Some plants can root in water, soil or soilless media, while others are more specific. If you have doubts of your plant's needs, start a few different cuttings in each form of rooting mediums to ensure success with at least one. To start a cutting, take terminal growth of 3 to 6 inches. Remove the bottom leaves.
Which houseplants can be started from cuttings?
Many common houseplants can be started from the cutting simply by placing the cut end in water. Some good plants to try are:
- African violet
Change the water frequently as you wait for roots to form.
Softwood cuttings, or greenwood cuttings, from plant growth that is just starting to mature but is still in its first year, can be rooted in a soilless medium like vermiculite, perlite, sand or a combination of the three.
Hardwood cuttings benefit from rooting hormone, as the plant material is more mature and needs encouragement to produce roots. If you are dispensing with rooting hormone, simply moisten the medium and insert the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the cut stem into it. To use a rooting hormone, insert the bare stem into the hormone and gently tap off any excess.
Then put the cut end into the medium. Place the container under a cloche or plastic to increase humidity, heat and enhance rooting. Remove the cover once per day briefly to allow some air onto the cutting.
Rooting times vary greatly by species. Some will show roots in just a week and others can take months. Once rooting is established, you may remove the cover and grow the plant on just as you do the parent plant.
Repot when new growth crowds the container or harden off the plant and put into a prepared bed in the garden.
Propagation by cuttings
Propagation by cuttings is one of the easiest of the methods available and take less time and effort than air-layering or other practices. In very little time, you will have expanded your collection of some of your favorite species.