Introduction: Rooting Plant Cuttings

Picture of Rooting Plant Cuttings

Now that it's spring, it's time to propagate plants. A cheap and fun way to expand your garden!

Step 1: Block Holes in Bottom of Pot.

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Anything will do: small pebbles, styrofoam, or, as I use here, a bent can lid.

Step 2: Add Potting Medium.

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The potting medium should drain well. It can be any mixture of potting soil, sand, and perlite. Here I just use straight perlite.

Step 3: Put a Large Drop of Rooting Hormone on a Clean Surface.

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I use the bottom of the tin can just because it's easy to dispose of.

Step 4: Cut New Growth From Parent Plant.

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These directions are for vines (these images are specifically of a passionflower vine growing near my house), but will work with slight variations for succulents and woody plants.

Step 5: Cut a Segment From Your Cutting.

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The prime stock is the section near the tip of the vine. Cut just below the second to last mature leaf node.

Step 6: Remove Bottom Leaf and Any Tendrils.

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The roots often sprout from the leaf node once submerged in the potting medium. The leaf and tendrils can be discarded.

Step 7: Dip Cutting in Rooting Hormone.

Picture of Dip Cutting in Rooting Hormone.

Make sure to coat the sides of the cutting a few centimeters from the bottom as well as the leaf node.

Step 8: Place Cutting 1/2 Inch Deep in Potting Medium.

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Make sure the leaf node is buried.

Step 9: For Further Cuttings, Make Sure to Take a Complete Segment.

Picture of For Further Cuttings, Make Sure to Take a Complete Segment.

That is, use a segment between two leaf nodes. Remove the bottom leaf and treat the bottom and leaf node the same as your first cutting. Dip in rooting hormone and plant in the potting medium.

Step 10: Place the Pot in a Saucer Full of Water.

Picture of Place the Pot in a Saucer Full of Water.

The potting medium will suck up the water and moisten the cuttings without washing away the rooting hormone. When the top of the potting medium is moist (or the water level has stayed the same for a while), empty out the water. If the pot sits in water, the soil will be too wet and the cuttings will rot.

Step 11: Cover the Cuttings With a Plastic Bag.

Picture of Cover the Cuttings With a Plastic Bag.

This will keep the cuttings from drying out. You don't want them to be too moist, though, so remove the bag for 15 minutes every day. If you can't, poke some holes in the bag so that air can circulate.

Step 12: Wait.

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It may take a week or two for the cuttings to root. If the plant stays green and fresh-looking, everything is ok. When there is some resistance when you tug on the cutting, that means the roots have formed and the cutting can be planted in regular soil. Congratulations!


brucekmoore17 (author)2015-07-10

karee.jones.3 (author)2015-04-11

Do you think this will work with: azaleas, camellias, peonies? I want to get cuttings from my mom's beautiful yard before we sell her house.

rimar2000 (author)2014-12-18

Thanks for this useful info.

bowlan (author)2010-05-22

hydroponics worked great and you don't have to do any thing to make it work.

i use 5 gallon buckets with a aquarium pump of 160 gallons a hour with a aquarium air bubblier with hydro nutrients.

blue stone filled 2 gallon drain pot.

i have taken 30 lilac branch cuttings already this month from the large lilac tree.

do a 45 degree cut on the branches.

slip them down into the blue stone hydro system.

thats all you need to do,your done.

leave the branches in the hydro tank under florescent lights for one month or until roots develop.

this is the simplest way imaginable to create new lilac bushes.

and you don't have to place a moister bag over the branches.

this method works with soft wood trees and rose bushes.

DIY-Guy (author)bowlan2013-04-15

Do you already have an instructable written for this? I'd like to see it. Thanks!

Preft1986 (author)2013-02-06

Nice instructable! thanks for sharing : )

Suppafly (author)2007-08-06

excellent write up. I'm not sure about this vine, but most vines will grow roots just by placing the cutting a bowl of tap water for a week or two.

SFHandyman (author)Suppafly2007-11-09

You are right. Most vines will root in water. You can also root some vines by just burying one of the nodes on one of the vines. Don't cut it, just strip off a couple of leaves from one node and bury that portion. The intact vine will continue to feed it while it's rooting. After a few weeks you can cut the original vine free again and the rooting will be growing on it's own.

andybuda (author)SFHandyman2012-01-07

so similar to strawberrys.... they tend to trail off from the plant.. iv had one in a small pot for about 5 years now, that keeps coming back every year.

chivas1050 (author)2009-12-11

good idea now since i needed help in my science fair project for my school well yeah

rukkuraj (author)2009-12-09

is it be always used in all plants

dorianbakx (author)2009-09-18

i use to grow my cuttings exactly like this, exept that for a pot i use a 5" common pot and about 6 to 7 inches of a plastic coke soda for the effect of humidity. I do a "dome with the heads of 2 litter soda bottles and discard the screw cap to let air in, and, im from Puerto Rico wich is very moist and hot but i had enough dead cuttings trying it the "conventional" just in soil method. My cutting strikes increased by 100 fold!! Great article indeed. :)

CatalystSwitch (author)2007-09-18

Thanks! I'd never propagated anything in my life, but my first attempt was a success [thanks to these instructions]. It's been one week and I now have lots of little spotted phyllo plants and the mother plant looks better than ever after being trimmed down. By spring my dorm room will be filled. I'm actually having a tough time keeping myself from confiscating pieces of the campus landscaping, it was so easy! Thanks again!

Do it. It doesn't hurt to take a little piece. Many plants actually do better if they are pinched. It will make some plants grow two more stems out of the spot where it was pinched and very soon the plant is fuller. People pick flowers off of public plants anyway. They stick them in water and let them die, you are giving them new life. I usually get a flower if it has an abundance of blooms, so I can remember which one it is when I get home. Then after I get it planted, I pinch the flower off so it doesn't use it's energy to supply the flower and can concentrate on rooting. My favorite plant is a proprietary flower - it's a patented hybrid that grows really well in San Francisco. I had one last year that was gorgeous but went on vacation and there was a heat wave while I was gone. I lost it. I tried to buy a new one this year and they were sold out everywhere. The City of SF has these huge flower baskets hanging from the light posts in some areas, with a multitude of different kinds of flowers. I saw they had those planted in there, so I pinched off about 2 1/2 inches - the baskets are around 2.5 to 3 feet across, and 4 feet tall, so it was just a tiny clip. If anyone had noticed me scanning all the flower baskets one by one, to find the one I wanted must have wondered what was wrong with me. You don't want a long stem either, just a little piece. Like the Instructable says, just two nodes is plenty. If you get too much, it's too hard for the plant to support all of those leaves while it's trying to root. I took it home and rooted it and I now I have it back. All I do is strip off the bottom set of leaves, cut the stem nice and clean with an exacto (pinching it, can mash the stem end, so I re cut it. Then I dampen it and dip it in some rooting powder. I use a chopstick or a pencil to make a hole in my potting soil. Then stick it in and gently move the soil back around it. If you pack it, it is harder for the plant to make roots (that's why rooting in perlite or potting soil mixed with a lot of perlite or coarse sand is better, but I've found this almost always works too). Then keep it moist for a couple of weeks. After my replacement started growing, I pinched it also, and rooted those cuttings so I'd have a nice full plant. Often, I just root them outside right in the flower boxes, or sometimes a clay pot in the window that moves outside when the plant is rooted and strong. We have really temperate weather here in SF so it might be harder to do it outside in a more extreme climate. I've pinched a lot of plants. My flower boxes each year are probably half cuttings and half seeds. I almost never buy plants anymore. I've had my favorite houseplant for 23 years (I'm getting old!). It was in my office and my boss didn't like it. I asked the plant service if I could have it and they gave it to me. It's a velvet leaf philodendron. Over the years I have to cut it because it gets way too long (it's a vine). If it's looking a little scraggly, I strip off the bottom leaves of the ends I cut off, dip them in the rooting powder and stick them back in the plant pot. It fills it back out nicely. Don't fertilize plants while they are rooting. Most fertilizers have nitrogen that promotes leaf growth and you don't want leaf growth, you want root growth. After it's rooted and starts growing then fertilize it. My little container of rooting powder is only 2 oz. It's called Lilly Miller Root Tone. I've had that for 20 years also, and I've only used 1/4 of it. I don't know how long it lasts but it's still working and just takes a tiny bit for each rooting.

ardella (author)SFHandyman2009-05-21

I also tried for many years to root cuttings and branches from our Lilac bush in water with rooting powder. with no success. Is it possible to root this large bush? I found it interesting that you cant cut long pieces.

SFHandyman (author)ardella2009-05-23

You should be able to root almost anything (some plants have to be divided though - see below). Cut the end off a new branch. It should have a green growing tip. Make sure at least one leaf node (with leaves stripped off - if they don't break off cleanly, just snip them off with scissors close to the node) is coated with rooting powder and underground. Roots grow from the node, not from the cut end. Make sure the cut end is a clean cut and not crushed. Don't cut it right below the node. You don't want to damage the node. Leave 1/2" or more of the stick below the node. I'm not sure what kind of light a Lilac rooting needs. We can't grow Lilac's here. They require a winter freeze. I'd just root many at the same time. Keep them in different environments and see if one of them takes. As long as you have the room and equipment, it is just as easy to root 20 cuttings as it is to root 1. Go ahead and try some woody cuttings also along with the green tips. That could certainly be the correct way to root a Lilac. I'm not an expert. Using the green tip is just a guess. Make sure you have one buried node and ONLY one or two sets of leaves above ground. Without roots, a long branch can't get enough water to flow all the way to the end of a long branch or supply many leaves. Don't try to root sticks with flowers. If your stick has a flower or bud on the end, snip those off. Don't fertilize it while rooting. Some plants, especially bulbs and some tubers, need to be divided. Here are some basic instructions but it's more complex than this. Many you have to separate the bulblets (little bulbs growing out of a large bulb) and plant those. Sometimes you need to let the bulb plant or tuber completely turn yellow in preparation for winter, before you try to divide it. To divide a root ball - I think a Lilac has a root ball - you dig the plant up and cut the root ball into pieces with branches on each piece, then plant those. I really have no idea it would work, but maybe you could dig a couple of branches off of the side of the plant. You don't need to dig out the roots to the end. A half a foot of roots on a large plant like a Lilac would probably grow. Just try to cut them cleanly with a sharp shovel or spade. I wouldn't dig the whole bush up! I'd hate to lose the whole thing since you only have one. Use 2 or three branches from the side that are coming right out of the ground. Cut the roots with a sharp trowel, or shovel, so your branches have some roots attached. Plant that (I don't think rooting medium is needed, as you already have roots). I still wouldn't fertilize it. You want it to focus on restoring it's roots, not growing new leaves and branches above ground. Keep it moist until it starts growing well, then care for it like you do the full grown lilac. I usually get about 1 to 2 plants out of 5 cuttings. 3 or 4 won't work.

ardella (author)SFHandyman2009-05-25

Thank you so much for your time in the responses!!!. In your picture instructions., you said "here I used only straight Perlite" That why I did only that. So I should I mix half potting soil and half perlite? I'm already trying to start the vine and the Lilac. Thanks for the tip to make sure its always moist, but not 'soaking'. Your idea for the Lilac bush was great! It is a pretty wide bush.. so cutting parts of it off shouldnt hurt it. THANK YOU! You need to have your own web site! :)

SFHandyman (author)ardella2009-05-25

Ardella, sorry about the confusion. I didn't write this Instructable. I just got too talkative in my comments. :-) I'd started to write one, then I found this one and realized I'd be duplicating much of what Arwen already covered. So I put my soil based technique in the comments instead of starting a new Instructable.

ardella (author)SFHandyman2009-05-25

oh!!!! I thought you wrote this! your answers looked like you did!! ok quickie do you think I shouldve mixed dirt and perlite!? because the leaves of my plants are droopy.. I"m starting to just poor water from top. I especially appreciated your comments for the Lilac bush.. thank you for your time

SFHandyman (author)ardella2009-05-26

I like the idea of using perlite and soil. The perlite preserves the air spaces in the damp soil, so the plant doesn't drown and the soil holds the water well to keep it moist. Should work very well. The leaves will be droopy. You've cut all of the water gathering roots off, so it cannot supply enough water to keep the leaves perky. Just let it droop. They may even fall off. Keep it moist without drowning it, and it hopefully will come back and start some new growth. The droopy issue is very common with most of the cuttings I've done (in soft growth plants. Woody plants stay upright but leaves still wilt). Leaves might even drop off. Just don't give up unless you don't see any more green left. It could be working hard underground building some great roots in preparation before it sends out some new growth above ground. Now you've got me excited about the Lilac hahaha. I hope it works. I understand why you love it. I remember lilacs when I was a little kid in Idaho. They were incredible. Good luck.

ardella (author)SFHandyman2009-05-21

your ideas and instructions are the BEST! I have tried for 5 years now to root our White Lace Vine with no success. (the one we have growing on our fence is growing great.. we want more) I just put together your way for my cuttings. I live in the mountains, in colorado so its dry here. Should I cover my pots with plastic? I will not give up this year on rooting this! thanks for your time!

SFHandyman (author)ardella2009-05-23

I really don't know what is best for your climate and plant. Try several cuttings and put them in different environments.

ardella (author)SFHandyman2009-05-21

i'm excited now and asking a lot of questions.. do I keep the saucer always full of water for my pots filled with only Perlite?

SFHandyman (author)ardella2009-05-23

I don't grow with only perlite, but know that you cannot let a cutting dry out completely while trying to root it. You also shouldn't drown it though. I'm not sure if pure perlite holds moisture. If it does, just keep it moist. If not, be sure to sprinkle the area around the plant every day. Standing water in saucers is usually not good for plants in soil. I don't do hydroponic gardening though, and I think keeping standing water in the pots might be required for that kind of pot. Maybe that is why the author's terrarium works best - to keep moisture on the plant.

Simpson_jr (author)2009-05-15

Slightly warm room, enough but not too much light. Direct sunlight is not a good idea. I do disagree a little with SFHandyman, I've found it nearly impossible to clone some plants without... terratorium. Type of plant/location (Netherlands) are probably be the cause. One other thing I found very helpfull is giving cutlings light for 24/7. I've noticed that A fluorescent light, placed 6 inches above the cutlings can decrease the time needed to grow enough roots by 3-5 days. In my case that often saves a lot of cutlings since I need a very high humidity which in return increases... the possibility of rotting.

SFHandyman (author)Simpson_jr2009-05-23

I'm just lucky to live in San Francisco. It is very temperate. The Ocean, plus the Bay, and also the fog, keep the air moist. It is probably pretty close to a cool terrarium outside here. It isn't perfect though. It does get cold in the Summer fog and in Winter. SF doesn't have as much direct sun as other places, because of the fog, so we can't grow things like most tomatoes and some peppers in the foggy part of town. I'm sure the terrarium is a great help for most climates.

amparosinlimites (author)2008-11-23

I appreciate very much all the information, certainly I´ve learned a lot.

missy125478 (author)2008-09-28

I have 2 passion flowers. The one with the five pointed leaves is doing fine however the one with the three pointed leaves is losing all of its leaves. I don't know whats wrong. Can someone help?

parhelion5 (author)2007-12-16

This is a great instructable, however I was wondering if you have tried this for rooting a woodier plant? Do you think that I might encounter any problems trying this with plum trees? Thanks!

AubreeMarie (author)parhelion52008-08-14

It takes a lot more care and effort to prop.woody plants such as roses, grape vines, etc. It takes a careful balance between keeping the humidity and avoiding rot/dampening off. For these things I take a cutting, about 4-6 inches long, remove the bottom sets of leaves, use rooting hormone, put it in my soil medium then give one or two good spritzes with a spray bottle on "mist" setting, the I cover it with a bell glass jar. That way I can clearly see the moiture level (if it gets too "beady" and wet I take it off for a few minutes several times as not to shock the cutting but let it get less wet) but also keeps the humidity. Plus it looks really pretty. Usually the woodier the longer it takes, it typically takes roses 6-8 undisturbed weeks to form good strong transplantable roots.

CatalystSwitch (author)2007-11-10

Help! The plants have long since rooted and I've kept them in their little propogation tray with the clear plastic cover. It's getting cold and dark now [I live in Iowa] and even though they're indoors, something is wrong. The upper leaves look alright, but the lower leaves have large blacks spots that look like they've been burnt. They're slimy to the touch though, not crispy. What is this? Are they rotting?

This may very well be what's referred to as "dampening off", it will rot your plant out, usually starting at just under the soil or at soil level so if it look like the main stem is bent (like it was knocked over or pinched) it may be too late. It's just caused by too much moiture. But since you say it's on the leaves with no mention of the stem I would say it's some kind of infection or leaf rot.

arwen (author)CatalystSwitch2007-11-10

Hmmm...I am no expert in horticulture, but I'm guessing you need to give them some air. They only need the cover when they're rooting and tender. They probably are rotting from too much moisture...just my guess, though. Good luck!

pyro13 (author)2008-03-30

Very nice. i just take the plant and stick it in a cup of water though =D

AubreeMarie (author)pyro132008-08-14

Some plants are easy and great for straight to water, but some take a lot of extra care like roses and woody fruit bearing vines (like grapes). Also many will attest that the roots from a water propogation are much weaker (to transplant into soil) than those in perlite or soil (already), but many will also say GETTING them to root in water is easier.

TinaParker15 (author)pyro132008-07-05

I put cuttings in perlite to root.This works fantastic for angel trumpet cuttings

shadonsd (author)2008-08-14

Has anyone every tried to use the root toner on evergreens trees? If so what was the results?

shannonkringen (author)2008-07-26

thanks so much for this! i literally just did a clipping of a passion flower and was hoping to find instructions for this exact vine !

EcoMotive (author)2008-04-15

I used a similar method to grow mint from cuttings I bought at the supermarket.
I used root hormone powder and placed the cuttings in a cup of water through a piece of garbage bag stretched over the rim. This protects the roots from light.
After they took root I transfered them to 4 pots with a 4:1 ratio of potting soil to vermiculite.
They are growing and expanding rapidly, I now have mint growing all over the house!
Good Instructable, everyone should do their part to help the environment by planting.

The Saminator (author)2008-02-20

I have done this before... Are their any useful or cool plants that do this? For example: Apple trees and trees that you buy at a store. lol thanks!

Cool-fool (author)2007-12-29

What is the advantage of perlite over just water? Is rooting hormone necessary? How does this technique work? (I know it's a well-established, age-old thing. I'm just wondering about the science behind it.)

arwen (author)Cool-fool2008-01-18

Water will work for some plants (vines or some succulents), but generally roots need some air to develop. Perlite (or vermiculite, or sand, or...) is good because it holds the cutting firm but lets air reach it. Rooting hormone isn't necessary, but I've had much more success when using it. Hope that helps!

Keith-Kid (author)2007-12-28

Great instructable. I dot this a lot in winter (its always sunny here, and the lowest temperature we've ever had is 80dergrees)

venuscansang (author)2007-07-14

Using perlite! I've always used dirt with a powder root hormone. I think I might try this, because my other first tries to root other cuttings just didn't take! Thanks for the tip!

SFHandyman (author)venuscansang2007-11-09

A nice loose medium is best. Perlite, or potting soil with lots of perlite or coarse sand mixed in will work also, as will peat moss. If the soil is too dense the roots have a hard time and will often fail. I root right in potting soil but I'm careful not to pack the soil around the rooting, just gently cover it.

kirnex (author)2007-09-20

Great instructable! The one other step I picked up from the American Horticultural Society's book on propogation is to cut the remaining leaves on your cutting back to half their original size. It proably seems like an insignificant step, but the theory is that the plant will devote less energy to the preservation of the leaf structures and more energy is available for rooting. As a sort of impromptu test, I've done simultaneous propogations both this way and by clipping the leaves, and have noticed that the clipped leaves root more quickly and seem to have a higher success rate. That said, I'm sure the type of plant is of importance, as well. Deciduous plants would benefit from this moreso than succulents, obviously. I think it would actually be counterproductive with the latter, since it would cause the cutting to have to expend more energy to callous over the wound. Anyhow, you are very kind to share in your knowledge. It's an awesome instructable.

SFHandyman (author)kirnex2007-11-09

Succulents are super easy. They grow in really harsh climates usually, so they are very hardy. I've found, if you just pinch off the end of a stem with only a few leaves, strip off the bottom two leaves and stick it back in the soil, it will root fine. I had a jade plant that was doing really well, and a steep slope behind it. I'd just toss cuttings up there and many of them actually took and started growing!

lucianoabcd (author)kirnex2007-10-14

> "The one other step I picked up from the > American Horticultural Society's book on > propogation is to cut the remaining leaves..." I have red about this several times, not only for the plants to save energy but also for a variety of purposes. For example, I've heard that removing some of the blooms in a plant makes the other blooms to turn into bigger, stronger flowers. The same is said to happen with fruits.

SFHandyman (author)2007-11-09

This is great. I was going to write a Rooting Instructable, but decided to check and see if someone already had one. I'm glad to see you are helping folks learn how to root plants. I find it's really fun and easy.

Sebastian Tonic (author)2006-09-21

Hello, do have any advice where to kep the pot while the cuttings are rooting? Dark and cool or sunny and warm or maybe light and tepid?! thanks.

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