Using Softwood Cuttings to Propagate Plants

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One of my favorite plant reproduction techniques is to take cuttings from a mature plant to create as many new plants as my heart desires. This involves taking a vegetative plant part (vegetative propagation) and rooting it, as opposed to collecting and planting seeds (sexual propagation).

1. Prepare the cuttings’ temporary home by filling the 4″ containers with the dampened potting soil. By the way, there’s no magic to a 4″ container. I just like that they have room to grow a bit before I have to transplant them to their permanent garden bed. You can always fill a large black plastic container and stick as many cuttings as you’d like in there.

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2. Snip the cuttings off of an older plant (the “mother” plant) just below a node. The node is the leaf “joint” where they attach to the plant stem. You’ll want 2 or 3 nodes on each cutting and one pair of leaves should be left at the top of each one.

3. Clip any flowers or buds off of the cuttings. Also take off the leaves at the bottom of the cutting so that the leaf node is left exposed. There will probably be just a single pair of leaves at the top.

4. Make a hole in the potting soil with the pencil so that you don’t have to shove the soft stem into the soil.

5. There are two ways to go about this next step: The first is to put on gloves, dip the bottom of the cutting (including the nodes) into a powdered (or liquid) hormone and then place it into the potting soil. Using a rooting hormone does up the chances of the plant successfully taking root.

However, many (many) cuttings will grow roots just fine even without the hormone. This part, my gardening friend, is up to you. The 4″ container can hold more than one cutting at a time, so feel free to place 3 or 4 into it.

6. Once you’ve placed the stem into the soil, gently press the soil down around them. Make sure the places where you cut off the lower leaves (node) are buried.

7. The plastic bag can be placed over the entire container and secured around the edge with tape to keep things moist. You can also use a couple of Popsicle sticks or small branches (that are a little taller than the slips) and stick them into the soil before covering it with the plastic. This will prevent the bag from touching the cuttings.

8. Keep your new plants in a warm place, but keep them out of any direct sun. When you see new growth on the cuttings, be sure to make some slices into the plastic creating little air vents. If the soil looks dry, gently add a little water using a small watering can. Remove the bag completely several days after adding the vents.

9. Once you notice more growth on the cuttings, use a spoon as a gentle scoop and place each little plant into its own container.