Every gardener, whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been at it for many seasons wants the same end result, a beautiful yard full of your favorite plants. In order to achieve this however, it can get a little on the expensive side. One inexpensive way to increase your plant population is by vegetative propagation.
Vegetative propagation is using a plant’s parts to produce a “clone” of the parent plant. There are a few different techniques, and the one you will choose is dependent upon the plant.

  • Division propagation is to physically divide one plant into two or more separate plants leaving each new plant with its own set of roots.
  • Layering is when a stem or a vine, while still attached to the parent plant is laid on the ground and partially buried. The buried section will produce roots and can be removed from the parent plant and transplanted to another location.
  • Propagation from cuttings is the type of propagation we will be discussing today. This is when cuttings are taken from the current year’s growth and placed into a growing medium to take root.

Now, I am by no means an expert on plant propagation, but over the years I have learned one thing, “KEEP IT SIMPLE” so that being said, here is the tried and true method to propagation from cuttings.

Gathering Cuttings

There are a few items you will need while gathering your cuttings, a sharp pair of pruners, a collection container (i.e. zipper type bag, bucket, plastic cup, etc.), and a sharpie pen.

Let’s get started! Spring or early summer is the best time to collect cuttings because plants are actively growing. In the morning is ideal so that the plants are less likely to dehydrate during the gathering process. I’ve done collecting at all hours, and if you do fewer cuttings the chance of dehydration is reduced.

Take all cuttings from new growth about 4” long, one cutting per stem. Always take more than you need. Chances for success increase with quantity. Place cutting in a container. If using a zipper-type bag, wet a paper towel and place it inside the bag to maintain moisture. If using a bucket, fill with a few inches of water and place the cutting, cut-side down. Remember to separate and mark any different varieties or colors as you go, you might think you’ll remember, but you won’t. Now you are ready for the next step. (Leave cuttings in the containers while you prepare your soil and containers for planting.)

Planting Cuttings

There are a few items you will need for this step they include; rooting hormone, soil mixture, containers (i.e. six pack cells, 4” container, or empty flats), a pencil or screwdriver, labels and a spray bottle filled with water.

The soil mixture that I like and have had the most success with is a 50/50 mix of perlite and peat moss. Others use sharp sand, or a mix of sand and peat, or just perlite. Fill your containers with soil and set aside.

Rooting hormone usually comes in powder or a liquid concentrate, if using the latter be sure to follow mixing instructions carefully. When using the powder, remove a small amount from the container and put it in a small dish or something similar.

To prepare your cuttings, remove all of the lower leaves from the stem, leave 2-4 leaves at the top. If the leaves are large cut them in half. Cuttings will root better if there are at least 2 leaf nodes on the lower portion of the cutting. If you would like, on some of the harder stems, scrape the bark gently with a sharp knife. Now place the cut-end into the rooting powder and tap off any excess. If using liquid, follow package directions.

Using your pencil or screwdriver, poke a hole down into the soil, being careful not to hit the bottom of the container. This is your pilot hole for your cutting to insure the rooting hormone doesn’t get knocked off, and so that your cutting slides in without damage.

Firmly press the soil around your cutting and continue until you have finished all of your cuttings. Again, be sure to mark the different plants along with the date they were planted, type of hormone, and soil mix used. This makes it easier to keep track of which methods are most successful for you.

Now the most important part, keep the cuttings moist. Spray newly planted cuttings with water until thoroughly moist. Cover them with a clear plastic dome or if using small containers, slide them into zipper-type bags. Open the bags for about ten minutes every day so the plants can breathe. Keep checking the soil for moisture, don’t let them dry out. Give them a spray if they need it.

After about a week, check for progress by giving them a gentle tug. If there is some resistance then roots are starting to form. You may apply a weak fertilizer solution at this point. Allow them to continue to grow for a couple more weeks then they should be ready to transplant into larger pots or into your landscape.

Increasing your plants by cutting propagation is fun, but it can be challenging too, just don’t give up. Some plants take longer than others to set roots, be patient. I like to do a lot of cuttings at a time and if some don’t take the first time I’ll try again a couple weeks later. Sometimes different plants need to be propagated at different times, another reason it is good to keep track of what you are doing.

If you follow this basic method of propagation you’re sure to be successful and should have more than what you will need. Plants make wonderful gifts and if your friends are anything like mine they will love to receive a gift that has been “hand picked” and “home grown”.

Plants Easily Propagated From Cuttings

  • Boxwood
  • Jasmine
  • Buddleia
  • Honeysuckle
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Privet
  • Forsythia
  • Pyracantha
  • Hydrangea
  • Rosemary
  • Ivy
  • Salvia
  • Penstemon
  • Spirea
  • Photinia
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Vinca
  • Willow

These are just a few of the different plants I have successfully propagated from cuttings. Your options are endless. Don’t be afraid to try anything. There are a few that I have yet to succeed with, but I’m still trying. So have fun and KEEP IT SIMPLE!