How to Take Plant Cuttings: The Complete Guide

How to Take Plant Cuttings: The Complete Guide

Taking plant cuttings is an easy and affordable way to propagate indoor and outdoor plants. You can clone your favorite plants and expand your home garden with just a few simple steps on how to take plant cuttings and basic supplies. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about taking successful plant cuttings.

What is a Plant Cutting?

A plant cutting is a piece of a plant that is removed and rooted to form a new plant. The cutting retains the unique genetic makeup of the parent plant. By taking cuttings, you can quickly multiply your collection without purchasing more plants.

Cuttings allow you to clone your favorite plants or pass them to friends and family. They also serve as plant “insurance” – if your main plant gets damaged, you have replacements ready. Taking cuttings is a fundamental skill every gardener should learn.

What Types of Plants Can Be Propagated from Cuttings?

Many common houseplants and garden plants can be propagated from cuttings. Some examples include:

  • Succulents like echeveria, jade plants, and donkey’s tail
  • Vining plants like pothos, philodendrons, and monstera
  • Herbs like mint, rosemary, basil, and oregano
  • Shrubs and trees like hydrangea, azalea, hibiscus, and figs
  • Fruits like blackberries and currants
  • Annual flowers like geraniums, impatiens, and petunias

Plants like orchids, palms, and dracaena are more difficult to propagate from cuttings. However, most plants with not too woody stems can be cloned. Research to see if your specific plants can form roots from cuttings.

6 Steps for Taking Plant Cuttings

6 Steps for Taking Plant Cuttings

Taking cuttings follows a straightforward process. With the right supplies and proper care, you can root cuttings successfully in water or soil. Here are the key steps:

1. Choose a healthy “mother” plant

Select a vigorous, established plant free of pests and disease. Take cuttings from younger stems that are still pliable but mature enough to snap cleanly when bent. Avoid weak, thin stems or flowering shoots.

2. Prepare the cutting

Use sterile, sharp pruners or knives to detach a 3-6 inch stem below a leaf node. Remove any flowers, fruit, or lower leaves. Angle the base of the cutting for a more rooting surface.

3. Dip cutting in rooting hormone (optional)

Dipping the cut end can improve your results. However, many plants will root without it. Use a powder or gel formula for the best coating.

4. Plant the cutting

Insert the cut end into a potting mix or glass of water. Keep 1-3 sets of upper leaves above the medium. Press the soil lightly to secure it.

5. Maintain warm, humid conditions

Place cuttings in bright, indirect light. Cover plastic pots with plastic bags to retain humidity. Mist regularly and keep the soil moist but not soggy.

6. Monitor water and wait

Change the water in glass vases regularly. Watch for new growth and roots to form after several weeks. Transplant rooted cuttings to regular pots.

Supplies Needed for Plant Cuttings

Taking cuttings does not require fancy tools or particular substrates. You can root many plants in a glass of water or an essential seed starting mix. Here are the supplies you will need:

  • A healthy plant for your cuttings
  • Sharp, clean pruners or knife
  • Rooting hormone (optional)
  • Containers like pots, trays, or glass jars
  • Seed starting mix, perlite, vermiculite, or coconut coir
  • Clear plastic bags, plastic dome lids, or cloches for humidity
  • Labels and plant markers

To prevent disease, use sterile pruning tools and new potting media for best results. Sanitize tools with rubbing alcohol between plants. While not mandatory, rooting hormones contain compounds that promote rapid root formation.

Rooting Cuttings in Water

Rooting cuttings in water is an easy propagation method. All you need is a glass jar, vase, or bottle filled with clean water. Here are some tips for success:

  • Choose glass or plastic containers that let light through. Avoid metal or opaque materials.
  • Fill containers with room temperature, non-chlorinated water. Change the water every few days.
  • Cut stems at an angle and remove lower leaves before placing them in water.
  • Keep the cuttings in bright, indirect light. Direct hot sun can burn the leaves.
  • Top off the water as needed to keep cut ends submerged. Add fresh water weekly.
  • Look for new roots in 1-6 weeks. After an extensive root system forms, transplant into the soil.

Pothos, philodendrons, basil, mint, coleus, polka-dot plants, and dracaena are some plants that root well in water. Avoid letting delicate perennials sit in water too long.

Rooting Cuttings in Soil

Rooting Cuttings in Soil

Rooting cuttings directly in a light soil mix is another effective option. Follow these tips for the best soil rooting results:

  • Use a sterile, well-draining mix like peat/perlite, coconut coir, or clean potting soil.
  • Moisten the mix before inserting cuttings. It should be damp but not saturated.
  • Plant cuttings are a bit deeper in soil than water, up to 2/3 of their length.
  • Water sparingly to keep the soil barely moist. Mist for humidity.
  • Cover pots with plastic bags or domes to retain moisture and warmth.
  • Check for rooting after 2-8 weeks. Harden off and report once established.
  • Avoid disturbing or tugging cuttings as you check for progress. New roots are tender.

Soil rooting works well for woody stems and plants that dislike “wet feet, ” such as lavender, rosemary, pseudolithos, and echeveria. Provide the brightest light conditions.

Tips for Rooting Plant Cuttings Fast

Root formation takes patience. But you can speed up the process and increase your chances of success. Here are some expert rooting tips:

  • Use warm soil and water. Rooting hormones break down faster in cold conditions. Maintain 70-80°F soil or water temperature.
  • Provide high humidity. Enclose cuttings to keep the air moist. Mist 2-3 times per day or use a humidifier.
  • Give bright, indirect light. Rooting requires energy. Place pots near sunny windows but not touching them.
  • Avoid disturbing cuttings. Check for rooting gently. Handle new plants carefully when repotting.
  • Use heating mats. Placing pots on propagation mats keeps the soil evenly warm.
  • Pinch off blooms or fruits. Remove buds and flowers which compete for the plant’s energy.
  • Trim extra large leaves. Leaves lose moisture. Removing some reduces stress on the plant.
  • Propagate in spring and summer. Plants root fastest when actively growing on long days.

Troubleshooting Issues with Plant Cuttings

Taking cuttings does not always go smoothly, even for experienced gardeners. Here are some common propagation problems and their solutions:

Cuttings collapse or wilt: Increase humidity and avoid direct sun. Stick with hardy plants like pothos until you gain experience. Remove any flowers or fruits.

Leaves turn yellow and fall off: Lower light intensity. Avoid overwatering. Use a sterilized pot and a new mix. Pinch off buds to direct energy to roots.

Small roots but no new top growth: Gradually expose cutting to more sun over 2-3 weeks for hardening off. Repot in soil once a robust root ball forms.

Roots are black and mushy. Cuttings were kept too wet. Use a faster-draining soil mix. Allow media to dry out slightly between waterings. Sterilize tools and pots to prevent rot diseases.

If no roots form, Increase heat and humidity. Take new cuttings from faster-growing plants like coleus. Remove lower leaves and dip the cuttings in rooting hormones.

Be patient! Some plants take many weeks to show roots. Follow best practices and continue tweaking conditions for success.

5 Key Tips for Rooting Cuttings

To summarize, follow these core tips for the best results when rooting plant cuttings:

  • Select healthy, vigorous mother plants. Take 5-6 inch cuttings from stems with new growth.
  • Use sharp, sterile pruners and potting mix. Wound the stem and apply rooting hormone powder or gel.
  • Place in warm, bright conditions. Enclose in a plastic bag or dome to boost humidity.
  • Mist cuttings daily; keep them moderately moist. Change the water every few days.
  • Be patient! Check for new leaves and roots after 2-6 weeks. Transplant once firmly rooted.

Getting Creative with Containers for Cuttings

Getting Creative with Containers for Cuttings

Repurpose household items: Yogurt cups, mason jars, and food containers make great propagation vessels. Punch holes in the bottom for drainage. Label with the plant name using a marker.

Use decorative vases: Crystal, ceramic, or colored glass vases look beautiful while rooting cuttings. Top off water level as needed.

Try unconventional materials: Float cuttings in a pond, birdbath basin, or water trough. The water stays fresh.

Go industrial: Old buckets, galvanized tins, and metal pails add a rustic vibe—drill holes for drainage.

Get crafty with decor: Paint terra cotta pots or attach pretty fabric using a decoupage medium onto pots before planting.

Use found objects: Old colanders, strainers, tea cups, or wooden bowls can serve as charming propagation stations.

Repurpose plastic containers: Clear clamshells, berry cartons, and nursery six-packs provide humidity while allowing light to reach cuttings.

With the correct container, you can root cuttings nearly anywhere. Let your creativity run wild! Match your style or showcase rare containers from travels.

Common Plants for Beginners to Start with Cuttings

For novice gardeners learning to propagate plants from cuttings, start with easy-to-root species. Here are some common plants that produce reliable results:

Pothos: A vining houseplant with variegated leaves. Trails nicely in hanging baskets.

Philodendron: Tropical, heart-shaped leaves. Tolerates low light and irregular watering.

Coleus: Grown for colorful, stunning foliage. Needs bright light.

Jade plant: An easy succulent with thick, oval-shaped leaves. Requires little watering.

Pepperomia: Diverse species with textured leaves. Thrives in terrariums or containers.

African violet: Rosette-shaped perennial grown for its flowers. Prefers indirect light.

Spider plant: Produces arching shoots with spiderettes or “baby” plantlets. Hardy and easy to divide.

Basil: Fast-growing annual herb. Snip off stems right above a node.

Geranium: Available in many flower colors. Drought tolerant once established.

All of these plants root rapidly in water or soil. Once you gain some experience, try taking cuttings from woody shrubs, trees, and unusual ornamentals.

Enjoying the Benefits and Rewards of Plant Cuttings

Learning to take cuttings allows you to make more plants for free. You can propagate rare varieties or replace beloved specimens if they perish. Cloning your plants ensures you always have “backups” if you accidentally damage or kill the parent plant.

Other benefits include:

  • Sharing plants with others – give clones to family, friends, neighbors
  • Trading cuttings with fellow gardeners
  • Entering propagation contests
  • Creatively displaying rooted cuttings around your home
  • Preserving heirloom and hard-to-find plant varieties
  • Controlling invasive plants by removing shoots
  • Multiplying your plants quickly for landscaping projects

The joy of propagation is seeing tiny root nubs emerge and then potting up your new baby plant. Get hands-on experience with cuttings to see just how rewarding it can be!


How to Take Plant Cuttings

Taking stem cuttings from tropical houseplants to outdoor shrubs is an easy way to multiply your favorite plants for free. Follow basic propagation steps like using sterile supplies, rooting in water or soil, and providing warm, humid conditions. With some practice, you can root cuttings from herbs, flowers, fruits, and ornamental plants.

Learning this timeless gardening skill allows you to clone unique plants, share with fellow gardeners, and create beautiful displays. Understand how to troubleshoot issues and start with easy varieties. Provide patience and care as your cuttings transform into full-fledged plants!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often can cuttings be taken from the same plant?

Most plants can remove 1/3 of the stems every 6-8 weeks during the growing season. Avoid overharvesting the mother plant.

What time of year is best for taking cuttings?

Early spring through summer is ideal when plants are actively growing. Roots form slower once cool weather sets in.

How long does it take plant cuttings to root?

It depends on the plant, but 1-6 weeks is average. Be patient! Some plants grow roots faster than others.

How do I treat cuttings after they root?

Once a cutting has several sets of leaves and good root formation, transplant it into a regular potting mix. Over two weeks, gradually expose it to more sun.

What causes cuttings to wilt or die?

Excess heat/sun, insufficient water, disease, using flowering stems, or choosing weak plants can cause cuttings to fail.

Can I root plant cuttings in the soil?

Yes! Many plants root well directly in potting soil. Keep it evenly moist and provide warmth and high humidity.

Is rooting hormone required to propagate cuttings?

No, but it speeds up the process. Use it for plants that are slower to root, like shrubs, trees, and woody herbs.

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