How to grow plants using cuttings

Plants have an amazing ability to reproduce themselves from only a bit of stem, leaf or root. It's a really cheap way to make more plants from your established ones, and can be a much faster way to get a mature plant than growing from seed.

Cutting the plant

Not all cuttings will successfully develop roots so make sure you plant more cuttings than you need to succeed. It's best to reckon that about a third of your cuttings may eventually survive to become mature plants. If you have a higher than expected success rate, friends and charity shops will be glad to have your spares. 

Plant species vary in terms of the best way to take cuttings. Succulents and African violets can be grown from a single leaf; mint will grow from a bit of root. As a general rule of thumb, cuttings should always be taken from a strong healthy section of fairly recent growth. The stem should be soft and green, ideally the current year's growth. Don't take a stem that has a bloom, seed head or fruit on it. If you can't find any suitable stems without them, remove whatever ones are growing on your cutting.

Cut at least three to five inches from a stem at a 45 degree angle, using a clean, sharp blade. The cutting will dry out quickly so try to plant it up fast or keep in water for a short period if you are forced to delay planting it. 

Remove most of the lower leaves so around half to two thirds of the stem is bare. Also remove any damaged or large leaves.

If you have a rooting hormone liquid, gel or powder, it will help the chances each cutting will root successfully but it isn't essential to use one. Dip the cut end of stem into the rotting ingredient following the instructions on the container.

 

Plant the cuttings

It's important that the cuttings are planted into well-drained soil. A good way to ensure this is to use a 50:50 mix of vermiculite and potting compost. Insert the cuttings to about 1/3 of their depth into the soil and water gently. 

Place into a shady spot - remember direct sun will cause them to wither away and die. Keep them away from frost and sheltered from strong drying winds. Keep the soil watered and some of the cuttings should root within a few months. Giving the cuttings a gentle tug will be able to indicate whether they have rooted or not. Once roots are established, the plants can be planted out where they are to grow.

 

Rooting hormone

Rooting powder will undoubtedly help your cuttings take root and you'll have a higher success rate if you use it. It isn't essential however. Some gardeners swear by using honey, cinnamon powder or even apple cider vinegar as a rooting dip. If you choose to use a rooting dip, you just need to plunge about an inch of the cut length of your cutting into whatever material you are using before planting it.