Propagating Plants With Clippings or Cuttings

Propagating plants with cuttings (AKA clippings) is one of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest ways to expand your collection of plants. It is an alternative to starting from seed that poses many advantages. It’s also an incredibly neat way to share plants with friends and family. One of the other advantages is that you can easily take cuttings from any garden or park and take them home with you.

How To Choose The Perfect Clipping

A cutting, also known as a clipping, is the vegetative material that is most often used for asexual propogation of plants . It is “a-sexual” because the new plants produced via this method of propagation are exact clones of their parent. This means that any features from the parent plant will be preserved in the new plants.

The cutting itself is usually a 6-12” stem with at least 4-8 nodes. Nodes are the growth points on the stems where new branches usually emerge. Since these nodes have undifferentiated tissue they can be handy when propagating plants. Nodes left in dark humid conditions often naturally start producing roots.

Tips for choosing the cutting

  • Avoid vegetative material with disease, insects, or any form of damage.
  • For most plants you want to avoid old and woody stems. Young vigorous sprouts or "suckers" are often the best sources of cuttings.
  • Ideally, your cutting will be straight and not have large stems or branches.
  • If taking a cutting from a tree, the time of year may be important. Late spring or early summer is often best for softwoods while hardwoods do best in late summer or fall.
  • You may benefet from looking up the exact species you are propagating before taking the cutting. Every plant is different and there may be better methods for specific species!

How to take a cutting or clipping

Once you have found the right stem, it’s time to make the cutting! This process is easy as long as you have the right tools. I recommend having a sharp pair of clippers, a razor blade, and ideally some alcohol to disinfect. Disinfecting your clippers is important! It reduces the risk of pests and diseases affecting your plant. This is particularly important if you're working with diseased plants or in a commercial operation.

  1. Disinfect your clippers and razor blade.
  2. Cut the stem at the desired location at a 45 degree angle. This angle is both better for the mother plant but also for your new cutting. Remember: you want a cutting 6-12” long in most cases. If you have large suckers or branches they can be made into multiple cuttings.
  3. Remove all the leaves from the stems. This helps prevent the stems from drying out.
  4. Once you have all your cuttings collected you are going to remove the thick bark layer from the bottom 1-2” of the cutting. This exposes the cambium tissues, increasing the root growth area and increasing the likelihood of success.
  5. Depending on your plant species, it may be necessary to dip the cutting into rooting hormone. For most houseplants, this isn't necessary.

How to care for plant cuttings or clippings

Since it can take several months for a cutting to establish, regular waterings and check ups are required.

  1. If you're transporting your cuttings before placing them into your propagation station, make sure to keep them in a moist plastic bag and out of the sun during transport. For long distance transport, you can wrap moist paper towels around the bottom of the cutting.
  2. Cuttings should then be placed in a propagation station. Make sure only the bottom half of the cutting is submerged. Keep this in the shade. This will help stimulate root growth and will make it more resilient once placed in soil. This step can last a couple weeks or a couple months depending on the plant and your own schedule. Make sure only to put 3-4 cuttings per container and to change the water every 1-2 weeks.

How to care for your new plant grown from your clipping

The first stage of a new cuttings life is completely focused on root growth. Since your plant is living completely void of an established root system, it’s important to cater it’s need for moisture.

Your cutting may not appear to do anything for the first month! As long as your nodes remain green then you know your plant is alive. Have patience. Keep your plant in deep shade or even in complete darkness until the first leaves emerge. After this you can slowly start exposing it to more and more sunlight.

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