25 Plants & Herbs You Can Propagate from Cuttings
Growing new plants from cuttings is a great way to increase your stock in a relatively short time. Rooted cuttings are often sturdier than seedlings, and come to maturity faster, many of them bearing flowers and fruits much earlier than seedlings. For example, if you were to grow English Holly from seeds, it may take years to grow into a good-sized bush and bear the red berries, if at all it does. Holly is dioecious, having separate male and female plants. After years of waiting, you may end up with a male plant that bears no berries.
Plants grown from cuttings are exact clones of the parent plant, so you know exactly what you’re growing, which is not the case with seed-grown plants. That’s why many gardeners prefer to grow new plants from cuttings even when they can be easily grown from seeds. You can pick and choose from existing plants that have desirable characteristics such as good vigor, optimum size, disease resistance, and good yield.
For successful propagation, cuttings should be taken at the right time, especially for plants that change their growth pattern according to seasonal changes. There are different types of cuttings depending on the age of the stems from which they are taken.
Types Of Cuttings
Softwood cuttings – Taken in late spring or early summer (May-June) from new shoots that appeared that season. The soft, flexible, green stems should be kept moist with frequent misting. They readily take root and get established in the same season.
Semi-ripe cuttings – Taken in summer (June – August) from slightly matured stems of that season, they may take a bit longer than softwood cuttings to take root, but the warmth of the summer months helps with root growth.
Hardwood cuttings – Taken in fall and winter from mature, woody stems, they are ready for planting in next spring. Ideally, the cuttings should be prepared as soon as the shrubs start shedding leaves so that they can grow enough roots before the spring flush of shoot growth.
You can use different parts of the stem to grow new plants, but some plants can be propagated from leaf and root cuttings too.
Tip cuttings – 6-8 inches long cutting from the growing tip of the stem is taken just below a node. Most herbs can be grown from tip cuttings.
Basal cuttings – A side branch is taken, cutting it as close to the main stem. Most plants grow readily from 6-10 inches long basal cuttings.
Heel cuttings – Many shrubs require a bit of the old stem for successful rooting. The side branches are yanked off the parent plant so that they contain a part of the main stem (heel).
Stem sections – Many cane-forming plants can be propagated by midsections of their long stems. Each 4-6 inch section containing a few nodes can sprout roots at the bottom end and new top growth from side buds. Since the sections may have the same thickness at both ends, the bottom ends should be marked as soon as you divide the stem.
Root sections – Some plants like the sumac and the Californian tree poppy are easier to grow from root cuttings than stem cuttings. A few roots can be dug up in the dormant season without harming the parent plant, and divided into several sections.
Leaf cuttings – Many succulents grow new plants from whole leaves, but snake plant and begonias can be propagated from sections of the stem.
Helping The Rooting Process
Preparing The Cuttings
The cuttings need to be stripped away from the lower leaves before sticking them in the rooting medium. For woody cuttings, the bottom end is slightly scraped to expose the cambial tissue. Cuttings of some fleshy stems should be kept aside overnight or for a few days to form a callus––a layer of dry scar tissue––at the bottom end.
A good rooting medium that keeps the cut end constantly moist is necessary. Garden soil is better avoided because it contains disease causing organisms and spores that can rot the cuttings. A combination of peat moss and sand/perlite is good enough for holding enough moisture while allowing good drainage. Do not add any fertilizer to the mix.