Gardeners with experience and a green thumb know a secret for increasing the plant population in your landscape at very low cost. It takes a little bit of skill and a lot of patience, but propagating your own plants – growing plants from cuttings – is a fun way to get more of your favorite garden species. Taking clippings and rooting them is the easiest way to do this. While there is no guarantee of success, a few basic steps increase the chances of successful new plants from cuttings.
Shrub and Tree Cuttings
Not all tree and shrub species will root from cuttings. It’s a good idea to check a detailed propagation handbook or plant guide before you spend time trying to root a particular species. Use sharp pruners to make your cuttings. Generally, you should cut about six to eight inches of year old growth. Make your cut at an angle. Strip any leaves off the bottom two or three inches of the cutting.
A well draining potting soil or sand works for most cuttings. It is hard to predict how cuttings will respond; you might try some in soil and some in sand. There are a few species that will root with just water. Place the cutting about two inches deep in the rooting media. Keep the soil or sand moist; a plant mister is a handy tool for this.
If the leaves on the cutting wilt in the first few days, your cutting will not survive. If the leaves look healthy and normal after a few days, you may be on your way to success. Sometimes, creating a mini-greenhouse by placing a plastic bag over the cutting and its pot helps the cuttings to root.
Do not be in a hurry to replant your cuttings. You want to make sure there is good root growth so the new plant will survive. It’s fine to wait several weeks or even a couple of months. Generally, spring and fall are the best times to take and grow new cuttings.
There are a number of commercially available compounds that stimulate new root growth on cuttings. Again, there is no guarantee of success, but for most species, they will increase the odds that your cutting produces new growth. Both powders and gels are available. Dip the end of the cutting in the compound before you place it in the soil or sand. Some plant propagators recommend scratching the stem of the cutting in addition to using the compound.
As you may have gathered, there is no one method that works for all plants, all the time. The recommendations above work for many plants, most of the time. There is a lot of trial and error involved in rooting cuttings. Over time, you will discover what works best for your favorite plant species. Then, you will experience the fun and excitement of producing your own plants for your garden, becoming an even more dedicated and knowledgeable gardener in the process.