Rooting Plant Cuttings

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Introduction: 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.

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

Step 2: Add Potting Medium.

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.

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

Step 4: Cut New Growth From Parent Plant.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Make sure the leaf node is buried.

Step 9: 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.

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.

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.

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!

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    58 Comments

    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.

    Thanks for this useful info.

    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.

    1 reply

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

    Nice instructable! thanks for sharing : )

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    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.

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

    is it be always used in all plants

    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. :)

    3 thriving cutting in dome.jpg

    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!

    7 replies

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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! :)

    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.

    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

    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.