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Cuttings

Plant Propagation Technique

The parts of plants cut, or sometimes broken, from a parent plant and inserted into water, sand, soil-less mixes, sphagnum or peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, or many possible combinations thereof, where they form roots and become new plants are known as cuttings. More recent rooting medium developments include foam and tree bark "rooting cubes" which provide all of the benefits of the aforementioned media, with less mess, greater ease of use, and in many cases, greater success rates.

Cuttings are classified according to the parts of the plants used in two different ways. As roots, tubers, rhizomes, stems, or leaves according to the state of development of the parts, or alternatively as dormant, ripe or hardwood cuttings, semi-hardwood cuttings, and active, green, immature or softwood cuttings.

Plant Cuttings in Hoop House

Softwood Cuttings

Softwood, or green tip cuttings, are by far the most popular form of propagation, and is used most frequently in the propagation of herbs, vegetables, annual and perennial flowers, as well as many houseplants. Softwood cuttings are most commonly taken in the spring, however the advent of hobby greenhouses, cold frames and high powered indoor grow lights, have expanded the opportunities for growers to root softwood cuttings virtually anytime of the year.

Taking a Softwood Stem Cutting

Semi-hardwood Cuttings

Semi-hardwood cuttings are favored for deciduous and evergreen plants, as well as many perennials, and since the cuttings are firmer than softwood cuttings, they will generally survive more abuse. Semi-hardwood cuttings are most commonly taken between late summer and early winter.

Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings are generally used in propagating deciduous shrubs and trees such as grapes, soft-wooded trees like willows and poplars, and bushes such as gooseberries and currants. Hardwood cuttings are most commonly taken during the winter months when the plant is dormant. Many plants that are propagated with hardwood cuttings can also be reproduced through green or semi-hardwood cuttings, however, due to the lack of foliage and growth activity in a hardwood cutting, propagation via this method requires little, if any, environmental control, and thus makes it ideal for growers who don?t have access to a greenhouse or propagating device.

Leaf Cuttings

Leaf cuttings are often made from the leaves of certain plants that are succulent or fleshy, especially those from tropical regions. A mature leaf of the Rex begonia can be cut from a plant, slashed at each point where two large veins unite, and secured flat on a moist medium with pebbles or pins. If treated at this stage as a softwood cutting, such a leaf will develop tiny new plants at many if not all of the points where the cuts were made. In some cases, the leaf itself is cut into pieces, with the cut end of the leaf inserted into the rooting medium. Baby plants will appear where the leaf contacts the rooting media in approximately six to eight weeks, depending upon the environmental conditions.

Petiole Cuttings

Another form of leaf cutting is the petiole cutting, commonly employed with African Violets and some other forms of gesneriads. This simple method is accomplished by removing a leaf from the plant, trimming the stem (petiole) to between an inch or two, and sticking the leaf into a potting mix or rooting medium so that the entire stem and a small portion of the bottom of the leaf is in contact with and supported by the media in an upright position.

Root Cuttings

Root cuttings may be used to propagate plants, which naturally produce suckers from their roots such as red raspberries and blackberries. In a sense, these are simply small divisions. Small pieces of the roots, approximately 2 to 4 inches long and 1/8 inch in diameter are stored over winter to form calluses, then planted in spring in a horizontal position, about 2 inches deep, preferable in a loose, sandy soil. Plants commonly propagated through root cuttings include oriental poppies and the California tree poppy.

Articles about Propagation by Cuttings

Clone Your Favorite Plants for a Winter Garden Indoors
by P.J. Madden

Simple Fall Plant Propagation Techniques
by Jeff Edwards

How To Clone or Propagate Softwood Cuttings of Deciduous Plants
by Jeff Edwards

How To Propagate, or Clone, Deciduous Plants with Hardwood Cuttings
by Jeff Edwards

How To Take A Leaf Cutting
A simple guide to taking and rooting leaf cuttings.