The Best Way to Root Cuttings


Cuttings from your existing plants provide a low-cost option to grow new plants for your garden. A cutting-grown plant is a clone of the parent plant, so take cuttings from specific plants that exhibit desirable bloom quality, hardiness and health. The best way to get your cuttings off to a healthy start is to take them correctly and pot them up properly.

Make the Cut

  • Stem cuttings typically come from the tender new spring shoots on woody or herbaceous plants. Some plants like roses (Rosa spp.), which are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 11 depending on the variety, root more readily from hardwood cuttings taken later in the year. Succulent plants like aloe (Aloe spp.), hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11, may root from a fleshy leaf taken from a healthy plant at any time during the growing season. For stem cuttings, cut a 4- to 6-inch stem that contains two or three leaves or buds. Sterilize the cutting tool in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water before taking the cutting.

Prep the Pot

  • Cuttings root best in a well-drained but moist potting medium. Use pots with bottom drainage holes so excess moisture can escape. A mixture of equal parts peat, coarse sand and perlite drains well without drying quickly. If you reuse pots, sterilize them before you plant the cuttings using the same bleach solution you used on the cutting tool. Water the potting mix at least 30 minutes before planting so it has time to absorb the moisture and drain the excess.

The Root of the Matter

  • Rooting hormone, which come in powdered and liquid forms, speeds root formation. Coat the cut end of the stem or leaf section with a thin layer of the powder or liquid and then insert it into the potting mix deep enough so the stem stands on its own. If the stem has lower leaves, strip these off before planting. Covering the newly potted cuttings with a clear plastic bag raises humidity and retains moisture until the cuttings can root.

Keep it Growing

  • A warm location, at or slightly above average room temperature, and bright but indirect light encourages a cutting to root quickly. Water the potting mix only if it begins to feel dry. The clear plastic bag retains most of the moisture so the mix dries slowly. Rooting can take four weeks to two months, depending on the type of plant. A cutting has rooted successfully when it begins putting on new growth or producing new leaves, although the old leaves may dry and fall off before this occurs. Once the cutting has rooted, remove the bag. Water the mix when the top 1 inch feels dry.

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