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Cuttings: The Magical Way to Grow Plants

by | Oct 25, 2018

Fall is here!

The sweaters are warm! The pumpkins are spiced! And leaves are falling from their trees!

While many regular gardening activities are winding down, it is the perfect time to begin starting new plants from cuttings. 

Many of the plants you see every day are able to grow from cuttings. Because of that, bits of stem, leaf, or root clipped from a tree in your yard or the begonia on your windowsill can become new plants themselves.

The ability to grow from cuttings is an adaptation that plants have developed to reproduce asexually. In nature, this helps them to increase their populations by creeping across a field or washing downstream in a flood.

Not all plants are best suited to reproduce through cuttings, though. Check and see how the plants you’d like to propagate grow best before cutting off anything.



Growing Plants from Cuttings: A Step-by-Step Guide

If cuttings are an option, here are a few simple steps to get your plants growing fast.


1. Start from a healthy plant.

This will give you strong material to grow new plants from and won’t set the mother plant back too far.


2. Taking cuttings in the right season.

Depending on the type of cutting you plan to take, the time of year is incredibly important.

  • Softwood cuttings are taken from a plant’s new growth in spring. The new tissue hasn’t hardened yet and the cells are still active and growing.
  • Semi-softwood cuttings are taken in the summer when the new stems have had some time to mature but aren’t yet fully woody stems.
  • Hardwood cuttings are fully mature, woody material and are best taken in the fall and winter.


3. Encourage your cuttings to take root.

While species most suitable for cuttings – like willows, dogwood, and cottonwood – won’t need any help rooting out in the ground, many other plants may need some encouragement.

This can be done in a few ways:

  • Powdered rooting hormone is a product you can buy at any garden store applying it to the bit of stem you will bury tells the plant to push roots.
  • Many organically-minded gardeners will dip their cuttings in raw honey. The hormones naturally occurring in honey are similar to the powdered rooting hormone.
  • Willows create a massive amount of rooting hormone on their own – and it can be used to other plants take root! Just leave a freshly cut willow branch in a tub of water and use it to dip your other cuttings.



4. Pick the right planting material.

The material you plant into is another important aspect of growing cuttings

Softwood and semi-softwood cuttings do well in a loose and well-draining medium like perlite, vermiculite, or peat moss.

Hardwood cuttings will usually take to being potted in soil or even planted directly in the ground!


5. Encourage proper rooting.

For softwood and semi-softwood cuttings, bury the moistened stem 1 to 1 ½ inch into a container filled with your chosen medium.

Place the cutting in an indirectly lit area that stays about 55 to 75 degrees F (13 to 24 C).

Cover the container with a plastic bag to retain moisture, but open it once daily to get adequate air circulation.

Begin checking for roots after two weeks, though some plants will take longer.


When the root system is established, re-pot into a soil mixture and let your new plant grow!

Growing plants from cuttings is a fascinating and cheap way for you to stay engaged with the life cycles of the plants in your house and garden. There is nothing quite so magical as taking a small stem or leaf and watching turn into a new plant. And since it is always a good time to take cuttings from some species, cuttings are great for keeping your garden working all year round!



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