Free Plants: How to Propagate Plants From Cuttings
Imagine cutting off a finger, sticking it in some soil and growing a new you from it. Many plants can do exactly that.
Seeds are the most common way to propagate plants. Known as sexual propagation, seeds are important because they often contain the genetic makeup of two parents creating genetic diversity. Asexual propagation, on the other hand, creates offspring that is genetically identical to their parent. This limits diversity but is useful for the home gardener who wants to propagate a particular plant because of its particular genetics. Also, it is a way to get free plants!
How to Propagate Plants From Cuttings
1. Choose The Perfect Plant
The plant you take your cutting from will be genetically identical to the parent so choose a plant that produces great tasting food and thrives in a climate similar to the one you will be growing it in.
2. Prepare Your Container
Fill a small container with a soilless potting mix (do not use soil from your garden). Use a pencil to make a hole 2-3 inches deep.
3. Take Your Cutting
There are different methods of asexual propagation. For this article, we will be using the vegetative propagation technique referred to as “cuttings.” There are two types of cuttings to know about:
Softwood Cuttings: This is new growth that is succulent, soft and bends easily. These cuttings are usually taken in spring or summer.
Semi-hardwood Cuttings: This part of the plant is taken later in the year than softwood cuttings. These cuttings are woody and usually break if bent. These cuttings root more slowly than softwood cuttings but are often a good choice when propagating shrubs.
Disinfect a sharp garden knife or garden shears by wiping them with a rag soaked with isopropyl alcohol. Cut a 3 to 5-inch piece beneath a node. Gently remove any leaves except for 4 or 5 leaves at the tip of the cutting. Place the bare stem into the container you have prepared.
4. Care For Your Cutting
Keep your new plants in a warm location where they will receive bright indirect light. Your new plants will need greenhouse-like conditions to grow. If you do not have a greenhouse poke three sticks or pencils into the pot and place a plastic bag over them leaving an end open for air flow. Make sure the bag does not touch the leaves of your plant. Check regularly to make sure there is moisture in the soil.
Depending on the cutting, it will make roots in 2 weeks to several months. Check your plant by very gently tugging on it. If it has rooted you will feel some resistance.
Repot or transplant your new plant into the garden when the roots are firmly established.
What is Rooting Hormone?
Rooting hormone is a product that plant cuttings are dipped in before potting. It encourages root growth and enhances your chances of success when propagating plants by cuttings. There is a debate about the safety of the product to your health and the environment. I have not seen conclusive evidence that the product is harmful but I believe when unsure it is better to avoid. Many plants will root easily without using it.
If you would like to try making your own natural rooting hormone from the willow tree follow these directions from Deep Green Permaculture.
Check out my other post on some of the easiest (and edible) plants to propagate.
If you want to dig deeper into the world of plant propagation grab a copy of The American Horticultural Society’s Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques.