Propagating plants from cuttings 

 
 
A cutting is a piece of stem, root or leaf which is removed from a plant, then treated in a way that stimulates it to grow roots, stems and leaves; hence producing another new plant.

Cutting propagation can be carried out on a very wide variety of plants, and after seed propagation, is the most commonly used method of producing new plants. Cutting propagation is most commonly used for shrubs, indoor plants and many herbaceous perennials. As a general rule, it is not as commonly used to propagate most types of trees.

You may take cuttings from plants growing in gardens, pots, parks or in the wild; and you may successfully produce new plants from cuttings taken from any source; however, you will always get much better results if you carefully choose your source of cuttings.
 
-If you know the cultivar name of the plant, you can be more certain of how to propagate it, and be confident of the characteristics that will be demonstrated by the new plants.
 
-If you take cuttings from healthy plants; they are more likely to develop roots faster, and produce healthier plants quicker.
 
Why cuttings?
Despite all the difficulties that can be experienced with various techniques to propagate a plant, the cutting technique still remains one of the easiest and cost effective techniques to produce a number of new plants, whether that is for commercial or domestic production.

The home gardener will find that cuttings are easy, time effective and cheap; the rewards in watching a plant produce roots and develop into a new plant encourages them to propagate even more plants, and share them with friends etc.
 
Commercial production nurseries know the benefits of the cutting technique. Their profit and existence relies upon using the right technique for the right plant. Improving their techniques can increase production and hence increase profit.
 
Growing plants by cuttings can be a very rewarding exercise, and for commercial propagators may be the most economically viable method for many plants.

How to propagate a cutting
Most cuttings are pieces of stem, often with some leaves left at the top of the stem. Some plants can be grown from cuttings of other tissue (eg. a piece of leaf, or section of root, or even part of a bulb, with no stem at all).

Cuttings are usually planted into a mix of materials such as sand, peat moss, perlite, rockwool or vermiculite. Part of the tissue is usually below the surface of the mix, and some exposed above the surface.

The cuttings should then needs to be kept moist, and other conditions such as light, temperature, humidity and hygiene should be kept appropriate to the requirements of the variety of plant being grown.

Other things that can be done to enhance development of the cutting will either speed the rate of growth or improve the percentage of cuttings that succeed.
 
Chemical hormones may be applied to stimulate the formation of either roots, or foliage/shoot growth. Pesticides or disinfectants may be used to prevent diseases or pests.

Heating may be used to warm the root zone (ie. bottom heat), to encourage faster growth of roots; or periodic misting of the foliage to cool the top of the plant, or prevent dehydration of the foliage.
 
If you want to get the best results from your cutting propagation, you really need to pay attention to selecting the appropriate technique for the time of year, and type of plant you are growing. Different types of plant tissues have varying abilities to sprout roots and shoots and turn into a new plant.

The ease with which particular tissue can grow as a cutting depends upon the chemical and physical make up of that tissue. These physical and chemical properties can be extremely variable at different times of the year, under different environmental conditions, and even between different varieties of the same plant species; let alone from one part of a plant to another. To become more and more successful at cutting propagation; you need to try and understand these subtle differences. In time, a good cutting propagator can develop an ability to make informed guesses as how to propagate a wide range of different plants.
 
Learn more about Propagating plants with our Home Propagation course. Or read more with our ebook on Trees and Shrubs.