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How to Take Plant Cuttings | Ultimate Propagation Guide

There is no greater satisfaction in gardening than getting things for free. Taking plant cuttings from plants you already own, or from the gardens of family and friends can help you go from bare earth to a flower-filled garden in a matter of months, with stronger, more mature plants that flower faster than seeds too.

In this ultimate guide to taking cuttings, we’re going to explore every type of cutting you might be tempted to take, and give you step by step guides to how and why you would take a cutting that way too.

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How to Take Plant Cuttings Ultimate Propagation Guide

What is a Plant Cutting?

How to Take Plant Cuttings

Plant cuttings are an easy way to make more plants from existing plants, trees, flowers and shrubs in your garden, and can even create duplicates of vegetables for continuous cropping when one generation has finished for the year.

By taking a portion of stem, root or leaf material from a living plant, you encourage new roots to develop from the damaged plant cells. When you place those cut materials in soil or water that’s what we call a cutting.

How Do Plant Cuttings Work? 

Unlike the cells of animals, which can heal and repair themselves for a single purpose, plants have the magical ability to change the purpose of their cells.

In simple terms, when you cut a plant along the stem, the cells that formed the cell and carried water to the leaf suddenly transform into root cells, capable of searching for water and nutrients rather than transporting it.

In scientific terms, this means that plant cells are totipotent (able to morph into different types of cells), but I prefer to think of it as magic, which isn’t helpful but does add to the allure of cuttings.

What’s important to understand though, is that while every plant cell technically has the ability to develop roots, it is only certain parts of each plant that will successfully develop roots.

The rest of this guide shares the different types of cuttings, and which plants are best to try them with.

Growing from Cuttings vs Growing from Seed

Plant cuttings are exact clones of the parent plant, sharing the same cells and identical DNA. In horticultural terms, this is ideal for ensuring accurate reproduction of new plants, rather than propagating by seed, where genetic mutations can be inherited from two sets of parents.

Botanists and plant nurseries have long used the technique of propagating plants from cuttings to ensure they have reliably healthy and disease-resistant plants as even two identical male and female tomato plants may have higher or lower disease resistance than each other.

So, by closing the plant with the least fungal infection (for example), you begin producing strains of one plant with higher disease resistance, which can then be bred from seed.


Different Types of Cuttings

Different Types of Cuttings

There are loads of different ways to take cuttings, so to make this guide simpler we’ve divided them down into six main groups:

  • Softwood cuttings
  • Hardwood cuttings
  • Layering
  • Leaf cuttings
  • Chonks
  • Root cuttings

While everyone who hears it fails to believe that a chonk is anything other than a chunky pet, it’s actually a very specific type of softwood cutting that I’ll explain in more detail below.

By far the most popular cutting method is softwood cuttings, partly because it’s easy, but mainly because most shrubs can be propagated this way, while all the other methods have limited applications.


Best Tools for Taking Plant Cuttings

Tools for Taking Plant Cuttings

Rooting Hormone

There are two forms of rooting hormone; powder and gel. The gel has a particularly unpleasant smell so I much prefer using rooting powder which supports the development of roots without odors getting into your clothes.

Both rooting powder and rooting gel work well to support the natural development of root hormones in plant cuttings. Rooting gel is far easier to control, so preferred by most gardeners, but has a nasty rotten smell that’s not easily forgotten.

Check out our article on the best rooting hormone to use for propagating cuttings in 2022.

Cutting Knife/Switchblade

Cutting knives and switchblades are essential for successful cuttings. Serrated knives or secateurs will damage the cutting materials so it’s really important that you always take softwood cuttings using clean, sharp, blades.

9cm Square Pots

The best tip for rooting cuttings successfully is to use square pots. Softwood cuttings in particular don’t like being too wet, and can rot in soil without oxygen, so pushing them into the corners of pots means they have access to compost and the best possible drainage. 

9cm pots mean you can plant 4 cuttings per pot which means you’re more likely to have success early on. Just make sure to prick them out when they have stronger root growth so they’re not competing with each other.

Vermiculite

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral compound made up of magnesium, aluminum, iron and silicate. It improves the mineral content of soil for young plants, and thanks to its micaceous (flaked) structure, it holds water well to support plant growth.

The mineral is heated causing it to puff up showing the detailed layers that are emblematic of silicates. Drainage is essential for almost all cuttings, so adding vermiculite to your compost mix improves the drainage while retaining some moisture so the soil never dries out completely. 

Some cuttings prefer being potted directly into vermiculite too, with no compost at all, so you just need to keep them watered until they root. 

Cloches and Propagators

Some cuttings should only be watered once, and then left to their own devices until they rot. To help with this process and prevent the soil from drying out, the pots should be covered either with a plastic bag or a cloche or placed in a cool propagator so moisture can’t evaporate away.


How to Take Cuttings

The plants you have will ultimately decide which kind of cutting you have to take but there are two things to remember no matter what cutting method you choose for your plants:

  • Use clean tools (infected tools will kill your cuttings and damage the parent plant, so it’s crucial to use sterilized tools for cuttings).
  • Use filtered water, distilled water or rainwater (the chlorine and fluoride in tap water can often be too strong for cuttings and young plants).

What are Softwood Cuttings?

Softwood cuttings are used to propagate a huge range of deciduous shrubs and hardy perennials and can be used with some fruiting trees too. A softwood cutting is taken from the new growth in spring and early summer, from stems that have grown since early spring before bark begins to form. 

There are three different types of softwood cuttings, including nodal softwood cuttings, basal softwood cuttings, and greenwood cuttings. Nodal softwood cuttings are the most common form of cutting, basal cuttings are incredibly easy to root from perennial plants like Salvias, Lupins or Chrysanthemums.

What are Softwood Cuttings?

Source: gardenersworld.com

Taking a Nodal Softwood Cutting

Nodal softwood cuttings are the most common softwood cutting and the most common form of plant cuttings in general as they are easier to take and more reliable to root in the right conditions.

Nodal cuttings are a great way for beginners to learn how to take cuttings and perfect their skills (just be prepared to have a few failures at first).

Nodal cuttings step by step:

  1. Fill a pot with 50% cutting compost, and 50% vermiculite, and dib a hole in each corner of the pot, ready for the cutting.
  2. With clean secateurs, cut just below a leaf node (the swollen stem where a leaf emerges) 2-3” from the tip of a branch.
  3. Remove the lower leaves with a sharp knife, and dip the base in a rooting compound.
  4. Put your cuttings immediately into the pot (if you’re taking cuttings from somewhere without pots nearby, seal them in a plastic bag so they don’t dry out).
  5. Water them well, and place them in a cloche or propagator.
  6. Make sure they never dry out fully but only water when the soil is visibly dry. These plants don’t have roots and shouldn't be overwatered until they are able to drink for themselves.
  7. Rooting will take around 4 weeks for most plants.
  8. Remove the propagator or cloche gradually over a few days before potting them into bigger pots to develop.

When to Take a Nodal Cutting

Take nodal cuttings in spring and early summer when the new growth is around 2-3” with no visible flower buds at the end of a stem. 

Nodal cuttings from any perennials or deciduous plants will develop roots by late autumn, at least enough to survive any cold snaps in winter. For tender perennials though, it’s best to keep nodal cuttings taken in late summer indoors through winter.

Where to Cut a Nodal Cutting

Nodal cuttings need to be cut just below a leaf or set of leaves, then those lower leaves are cut off before pushing the base into the soil. 

Nodal cuttings use the nodes just below a leaf to form their rootstock. Leaf nodes have a high concentration of general hormones which quickly transfer their energy to rooting, and are particularly receptive to added rooting hormone.

Plants that Works for Nodal Cuttings

The best plants for nodal cuttings are typically hard rooted shrubs like rhododendron, hydrangea, jasmine and Acer.

When taking cuttings from Rhododendron or Hydrangeas it’s best to remove a thin slice of bark at the base of the cutting to expose more of the inner node. This helps speed up the rooting process, particularly with rooting gel.

For climbing plants like Jasmine and Lonicera, it’s best to leave a heel on the cutting. Leaving a heel on a cutting means cutting with a short tail of bark left on the cutting when it's separated from the parent plant.

Taking Basal Softwood Cutting

Taking Basal Softwood Cutting

Source: theenglishgarden.co.uk

Basal softwood cuttings are taken almost identically to nodal softwood cuttings, with humidity required and they should never be allowed to dry out.

The only difference is that rather than taking partially developed stems we take the cuttings from young shoots of herbaceous perennials.

Basal cuttings step by step:

  1. Prepare your pots.
  2. Using a clean cutting knife, cut at the base of young shoots around the base of plants when they are 2-4” tall.
  3. Include some of the nodes at the base of the shoot by carefully nicking the woody stem where it meets the young shoot.
  4. Continue as though it was a nodal cutting from this point, rooting in compost & vermiculite and then keeping moist in a propagator until it roots. Pot on when its roots are visible at the base of the pot.

Best Time to Take a Basal Cutting

Take basal cuttings as early as possible in the year. If they are longer than 4” they will usually fail, so you should be looking for basal shoots in the first few weeks of spring, or even late winter as the window is quite small.

Some plants, including chrysanthemums, should have basal shoots taken in mid-winter if they appear as they send up shoots around 6 weeks after they finish flowering.

Where to Cut a Basal Cutting

Basal cuttings should be taken from strong shoots emerging from old-growth at the base of herbaceous perennials. Assuming you’ve cut your perennial plants back to a few inches above the soil, the new growth should appear from nodes just below the original cut.

Include part of the woody stem or bark when you take cuttings. That will heal quickly on the parent and add loads of nodal hormones that will help the cutting survive.

Plants Good for Basal Softwood Cuttings

Chrysanthemum, Delphinium, Verbena, Lupins, Buddleia, Aster and Salvia are great from basal cuttings as they send up masses of new shoots from the base of old stems in early spring, which can be taken early in the season to create new plants that will flower the same year in most cases.

A good plant for beginners to start with is the chrysanthemum, which is really easy to root from basal cuttings. Just cut off young growth as close to the main stem as possible (including some of the stem if possible as this is full of hormones).


How to Take a Greenwood Cutting

Take greenwood cuttings exactly as you would take nodal cuttings, but take them later in the season from plants that retain soft bark until autumn and winter, like berries and vines.

Rooting compound is generally seen as an option with most softwood cuttings, but for greenwood cuttings, you need to add rooting compound as the cells are more mature and less willing to revert and respond to internal rooting hormones.

Perfect Time to Take a Greenwood Cutting

Greenwood cutting is best taken in mid-summer when plants are slightly more mature. 

Where to Cut a Greenwood Cutting

Cut greenwood cuttings just below a leaf, leaving the node intact. Then strip off the lower leaves before planting in soil.

Plants Greenwood Cuttings Work Best

Greenwood cutting works best with berries and vining plants, or flowering shrubs like Forsythia or Ceanothus with more tender bark. Because greenwood cuttings are more mature than nodal basal cuttings, they are best taken with around 4-5” or stem so they have enough nodes to produce new leaves as the plant roots.


What are Hardwood Cuttings?

Hardwood cuttings can take longer than most to root as their cells have more defined roles, so are slower to convert into root cells. As the name suggests, hardwood cuttings are taken from the most recent season’s growth after it has formed bark or outer skin. 

Hardwood cuttings are always taken in autumn or winter during the ‘dormant’ season, so growth begins in spring when the temperatures change.

What are Hardwood Cuttings?

Source: telegraph.co.uk

Taking Hardwood Cutting

Hardwood cuttings are an easy and reliable method of propagating deciduous shrubs, climbers and trees, making the most of the dormant season where the garden is usually quiet and free from jobs, so a great slow job to do over the winter.

One tip with hardwood cuttings is that multiple plants can be made from single stems, with some plants like willow able to root from 6ft cuttings.

Hardwood cuttings step by step:

  1. Find a strong shoot that has grown since spring this year (for Willow or Buddleia this might be 6ft tall, and for Roses or Viburnum it could be 6”).
  2. Remove any soft growth at the tip (this could cause root in the case of any frost).
  3. For maximum results, cut the stem into sections of 6” to 1ft long. 
  4. Cut the top end with a slope, and the bottom straight across. The slope helps water drain and reminds you which end is the top (deciduous plants will only root from the end that is closest to the ground).
  5. Prepare a pot or a trench in the garden filled with 50% compost and 50% garden soil. 
    1. Pots are more convenient, but if you have space, planting in a trench means you can forget about them through winter, and start watering in spring.
    2. You don’t need to rush this as the stems can be allowed to callous.
  6. Plant 6” – 1ft apart, and firm in with your heel.
  7. Do not move them or repot them for at least 12 months, making sure they are watered in dry weather while roots establish for the first growing year.

When to Take a Hardwood Cutting

Hardwood cutting should be taken when deciduous plants are dormant (mid-autumn to late winter) and as long as they stay moist until spring they should root perfectly well. 

Anyone with wet winters should avoid autumn hardwood cuttings and take them in late winter just before new leaves emerge, so they spend less time exposed to standing or freezing water.

Where to Cut a Hardwood Cutting

While old growth from previous years won’t ever develop roots, the shoots from spring and summer this year will have developed bark or woody skin. This young woody growth is perfect for cuttings

Plants Good for Hardwood Cuttings

Deciduous shrubs and trees make great hardwood cutting material. Cornus (dogwood) is by far the easiest plant to root from hardwood cuttings, barely even requiring rooting hormone or proper compost.

Last year we just stuck dogwood shoots in autumn into the soil around the parent plant, and they had leaves on by spring and had grown another 2ft by autumn.

The same method works for willow whips just as well and is a great experiment for kids who can plant an entire maze that will be covered in leaves by the end of the next year.


What is Layering in Plants?

Layering plants to create cuttings from living material is the easiest method of taking cuttings and works with softwood and hardwood alike depending on the plant.

Layering is a great way to take cuttings from deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs like box or holly that involves pinning relative young growth to the ground and covering it with soil so it roots to form new plants, while still being fed by the parent.

How to Take a Cutting by Layering

The natural ability of plants to re-determine their cells is no better expressed than with layering, the propagation method that most closely resembles their natural cloning ability.

Layering step by step:

  1. Choose a young shoot near the ground that is flexible enough to pin to the floor without snapping. 
  2. Skim off the top layer of bark around a node facing the floor.
  3. Apply rooting hormone if you have it (not necessary but it helps).
  4. Bury the cut section of the stem around 4” deep, or mound soil over it, and ped it into the ground to stop it bending back up.
  5. Train any shoot beyond the cutting on a vertical cane as this will for the main stem of the new plant.
    1. For tip layering: follow the guide above but just bury new growing tips in the soil as long as they don’t have flower buds in spring. They will send up new shoots.
    2. For serpentine layering: follow the guide above, but for climbing plants with very long flexible shoots, you can lay these out with multiple points along each stem buried. They can produce up to 6 plants reliably from this method of layering.

When to Prepare Layering Cuttings

Layering can be done any time that a plant isn’t dormant or fruiting, so is best done in spring or autumn. For evergreen shrubs, layering is usually more successful when started in spring as they have a tendency to callous over too quickly in autumn.

For deciduous plants, layering is best carried out in autumn as they are already producing roots to cope with winter at this point, but they can also be layered in spring if needed.

Where to Cut a Layered Cutting

Layered cuttings should have the top layer of bark removed from their stems around a leaf or a node. This can be done at any point along a young shoot in its first or second year provided it’s flexible enough.

Plants are Perfect for Layering Cuttings

Ivy is the most common example of layered propagation, demonstrating this naturally wherever it is found, rotting from every point along its stem when it hits the soil creating new plants. But low growing magnolia and most deciduous shrubs like Viburnum, Acer and Camellia can be propagated this way too.


What is a Leaf Cutting?

Leaf cuttings are the most extreme form of totipotency, where leaf cells (filled with cellulose and ready to create sugars to support the plant, are transformed into not just root cells but stems as well.

Leaf cuttings are often associated with sporing plants like ferns but can be taken from heavily veined tropical plants like begonia too.

What is a Leaf Cutting?

How to Take a Leaf Cutting

While most plants prefer some part of a node to develop roots that are plants that prefer to be propagated from their leaves, a trait shared by many house plants and tropical plants with succulent leaves.

Anyone with houseplants knows how quickly leaves can drop off when they dry out. Those leaves callous over, and if you leave in the soil long enough you’ll notice they form small roots at the base of their leaves. This can be exploited for a bigger plant collection.

When to Take a Leaf Cutting

Leaf cuttings can be taken at any time of year, but with some plants including ferns and begonia where you take a part-leaf cutting, it’s important to take these early on in the year either in late spring or early summer before the leaves start to wilt for winter.

Where to Cut a Leaf Cutting

There are two types of leaf cutting; part-leaf cuttings, and whole-leaf cuttings. In both cases, the entire leaf should be removed from the plant, but for part-leaf cuttings, you can create multiple new plants from a single leaf, while whole leaf cuttings will create just one new plant.

Plants that Works for Leaf Cuttings

There are hundreds of plants that can be propagated from leaf cuttings, but the step by step guide below gives an outline of how and when to propagate some of the indicative plant species from leaf cuttings:

Cape primrose or Primula can both be propagated from leaf cuttings (though the Cape primrose Streptocarpus) is more reliable. Cut them along the midrib of a leaf, discarding the midrib.

The two lobes you are left with can then be planted cut side down in seed and cutting compost. Place in a propagator and water. They should root within around 14 days.

Sansevieria cuttings are the easiest house plant to propagate from leaf cuttings, and once the leaf is removed at the base should be cut into 2” long sections and allowed to callous for 12-24 hours.

Once calloused, place the lower part of the leaf into well-drained compost and plant them 2cm deep in the soil. After 3-4 weeks you should see new leaves.

Begonia leaf cuttings and fern leaf cuttings are very similar processes but work slightly differently. You can cut a begonia leaf into small sections, or in half to create multiple plants, but basically, lay the whole leaf across the compost and pin it down.

After a few weeks, you’ll need leaves emerging from the old leaf. Ferns use the same method but actually root from the spores on the underside of leaves.

Kalanchoe, Jade and Echeveria are a great way to make use of fallen leaves. Allow the leaves to callous over and then insert them into pots of cactus or succulent compost with extra drainage.

Keep them in a warm spot with good light, and mist a few times per week to stop the compost from drying out until they start producing new growth.


What are Chonks or Wet Stick Cutting?

Chonks, other than being the most adorable name for a cutting, are also known as wet sticks, or wet stick cuttings, and require a node to successfully develop new roots.

Essentially, by taking short pieces of stem without leaf, or any of the main stem, the nodes send out new roots either in soil or water. Chonks are best used on plants with aerial roots (which gives you some idea of why the nodes are so important).

How to Take a Chonk Cutting

Chonks are fast to root and can be rooted in a variety of mediums, including vermiculite, sphagnum moss, or water.

Chonk Cuttings step by step:

  1. Using sharp secateurs, cut through the plant stem on either side of a node, leading 1-2” on either side of the leaf node.

    (See our review of the best secateurs available for 2022.)
  2. DO NOT LEAVE TO CALLOUS! Chonks should be potted straight into moisture like any other softwood cutting without being allowed to dry out.
  3. Place in water, damp sphagnum moss, or vermiculite with the lower side of the cutting down.
  4. Keep moist for the next 1-2 weeks and you should see new roots develop pretty quickly, followed by new young leaves after 2-3 weeks.
  5. Pot on once the roots are well enough established to move and the new growth is strong enough not to be damaged by handling.

When to Take a Chonk Cutting

Chonk cuttings can be taken any time of year, but the best time to take chonk cuttings is in spring when the temperatures are slightly cooler and helps to stop excess moisture loss in young wet stick cuttings.

Where to Cut a Chonk Cutting

Chonks, also called “Wet-Stick” cuttings are taken from any part of the main stem of a plant whose mature stems are green (hence ‘wet stick’). While wet stick cuttings can work from any part of a green stem, they are best taken from part of a stem that includes a node, where the stem joins a new stem or a leaf midrib. 

What plants are good for Chonk cuttings?

Monstera is the most reliable plant to grow from wet stick cuttings or chonks, but devil’s ivy, Philodendron and cane stemmed Begonias (Begonia Maculata) work just as well.


What are Root Cuttings?

Root cuttings can be taken from plants with rhizomatous or tuberous roots thanks to the unique properties of rhizomes and tubers to store energy. Fibrous rooted plants are technically capable of rooting and sending up new shoots from cuttings, but they don’t have enough energy to properly regenerate.

If you’ve ever propagated a plant by division, the cell regeneration in root cuttings is the same, but without the support of top growth.

What are Root Cuttings?

Source: gkvks.com

Taking a Root Cutting

Root cuttings are a reliable way to create new plants from herbaceous perennials. The plants that work best are those that naturally grow into wider and wider clumps. Producing ‘suckers’ from the roots (where new plants grow around the base of older plants).

Root cuttings require very little aftercare, and provided they don’t dry out completely will quickly send up new shoots in spring.

Root cuttings step by step:

  1. Dig up your plants in their dormant season (ideally in late autumn), making sure to select a healthy plant that grew well last year.
  2. Find a young healthy root about the width of a pencil (older roots with harder skins aren’t suitable, and fibrous roots won’t work either).
  3. Cut off any fibrous side roots from the main piece of root, and trim the thin tips.
  4. Cut roots into 5 or 10cm sections depending on the size of the original plant, cutting an angle at the lower end that was pointing down on the parent plant (just to mark the bottom so you plant it the right way up).
  5. Fill pots with cutting compost, and insert the entire root into the compost (about 1cm below the surface). 
  6. Cover with grit or wood chips to stop water splashing young leaves in spring.
  7. Water them lightly, then leave them in a cold frame or greenhouse over winter. Water again in spring when you see shoots appear, and grow them on until they have roots appearing at the base of the pot.

Best Time to Take a Root Cutting

Root cuttings should be taken in late autumn or early winter when plants are dormant, but it’s possible to take them from some plants like Geranium or Japanese anemones in late winter provided they haven’t yet started producing new shoots.

The benefit of this is that while your plants would likely send up some suckers in spring they would be one-sided and take a while to re-establish the same year if separated and moved, so by taking cuttings at the end of the growing season you create a reliable new plant for flowering next year in a neat and even dome, rather than a semi-circle of flower.

Where to Cut a Root Cutting

Dig up a dormant plant for propagation, and shake off dry soil from the roots. Choose a pencil-thick root and cut as close to the main root ball as possible, ensuring you’ve got at least 5-10cm of root to grow on.

You can cut longer roots into smaller sections but will need at least 5cm on smaller plants, or 10cm on larger plants so they have enough of a carbohydrate reserve to power new growth in spring.

You can take up to 1/3 of the root system as root cuttings, but the more you take the more you weaken the parent plant, so leave as much root in place as possible.

Plants that Grows Well for Root Cuttings

Oriental Poppies (Papaver) grow really well from root cuttings and are a great way to reinvigorate old stock of these herbaceous plants that usually last for around 3 years at their best before they begin to fade.

The same goes for Japanese anemones and globe type primulas (Primula denticulata) which can’t be propagated any other way than root cuttings or seeds.

While most plants are suitable for root cuttings and thick rooted herbaceous perennials, some woody plants like Chaenomeles, and Syringa (lilac) can be grown from root cuttings, but Passionflower is probably one of the most exciting plants that grow significantly faster from rooted cuttings than any other propagation method.


Best Planting Medium for Cuttings

All cuttings have different needs, but for a lot of tender-stemmed houseplants, water and sphagnum moss are a brilliant starting medium for cuttings, giving strong control and reducing disease and infection. 

Hardwood cuttings prefer standard garden conditions which mimic their natural propagation (because most hardwood cuttings you take will be from native plants). 

Best Planting Medium for Cuttings

Watering Plant Cuttings

As a rule of thumb, plant cuttings should always be watered with fresh rainwater or distilled water. Cuttings are young plants that have been deliberately damaged and have exposed wounds, meaning they are much more likely to suffer from bacterial infection.

Cuttings are also more likely to harbor fungal infections too, which can easily take residence in their cuts. 

Using fresh rainwater, or distilled water reduces the chance of this immensely, but is impractical for many gardeners, so boiling water yourself creates a sterile watering medium that removes many of the chemicals in tap water. It’s not perfect but it saves money and time and works most of the time.

Rainwater is quite beneficial to plants so be sure to read our guide on rainwater tanks, it's benefits, types, and more on rainwater harvesting

Soil for Plant Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings, nodal cuttings, and greenwood cuttings all enjoy the added moisture of soil or compost in their early stages, so if you have clean compost with any weed roots sieved out that will make a great cutting compost, but the best choice is to mix seed and cutting compost with vermiculite for added drainage.

For hardwood cuttings, mix cutting compost, or garden compost with garden soil. They are tougher shoots and less likely to suffer from infection anyway, so you can save time and money by just digging over a trench in the garden. 

Taking Cuttings in Vermiculite

Some cuttings, like chonks or basal cuttings, need really good drainage and can be propagated in pure vermiculite which has gentle nutrients, and stores enough water to keep them going providing you keep them topped up in a propagator, and stop them drying out. 

Rooting in vermiculite reduces the risk of infection and keeps young roots well aerated. It’s also really easy to pot them on when they’re ready too as the roots get full contact with fresh compost.


Easiest Plants to Take Cuttings From

Best Vegetables to Grow from Cuttings (and how)

Carrots can be grown from basal cuttings just like any herbaceous perennial
  • Carrots can be grown from basal cuttings just like any herbaceous perennial. Just because you eat the root doesn’t mean the top won’t regrow.

    Whenever you have a carrot with the tops still on, cut back ¾ of the top growth, and keep the top of the carrot. Place that in moist compost, or even a tray of water. The roots will regrow, and the carrot tops will give you loads of edible leafy greens too.
  • Tomatoes are grown as annual veggies here, but they’re such fast-growing plants that you can take basal cuttings and nodal cuttings from any part of the plant through the growing season.

    If your tomatoes are getting too leggy, or you’ve left a side shoot to get too long you can root that in water, and then place it in compost. If you do it early enough you’ll get tomatoes off that plant in late summer just like any other plant.
  • Ginger grows really easily from root cuttings, as it’s an edible rhizome. If your kitchen ginger has started to dry out too much, drop in water for a few hours to plump it up, and then place it on moist compost with a plastic cover.

    It should germinate in a few weeks in spring or summer, and if properly cared for, will produce a tall tropical spike with orange flowers at its peak in late summer (the new roots can be harvested and eaten again too).

Best Garden Plants to Take Cuttings from (and how)

Best Garden Plants to Take Cuttings from
  • Verbena Bonariensis cuttings are really easy to take. The towering purple plants give a mystical feel to any garden, and basal cuttings from new growth in late winter are really simple.

    Just cut away any fresh green growth, keep part of the node attached, and place in vermiculite, or a weld rained cutting compost for 4 weeks. By the time spring comes around you’ll have new plants ready to plant into the garden.
  • Rhododendron cuttings can be taken either as greenwood cuttings in autumn or by layering. Personally, I find layering to be more effective with any large shrubs as the shrub continues to feed to cutting and it’s far less likely to die of neglect.
  • Japanese Anemone cuttings are the same as oriental poppies in that their roots are slightly smaller than most herbaceous perennials, but they take really well as root cuttings. Taking root cuttings from Japanese anemones couldn’t be simpler.

    Just snip off a few of the healthy new roots from the latest growing season in autumn, or late winter, and place them with good compost, pushed right into the soil. A few into spring you should see new growth appearing.
  • Cornus (dogwood) cuttings will take in almost any condition, and are utterly desperate to grow. In autumn, cut off last year’s most mature growth (hardwood cuttings) and stick them in the ground with the bud side up.

    Cut off the youngest part of a stem at an angle so water can roll off, and then just leave them. They’ll sprout in spring without fail.

Best Houseplants to Grow from Cuttings (and how)

Monstera cuttings are one of the simplest large plants you can propagate from cuttings
  • Monstera cuttings are one of the simplest large plants you can propagate from cuttings for fast and impactful new plants. Because you can leave their leaves on for nodal cuttings, or cut them into smaller pieces for chonks, you can’t really go wrong.

    Provided there is a node involved in the cutting they can be propagated in water, moss, or soil.
  • Begonia cuttings are a magical process. By pinning a begonia leaf to the surface of the soil, you can watch as it sprouts new leaves from that leaf.

    It’s neater to separate the leaf into lobes between each midrib, but you can just as easily lay an entire leaf on the soil and separate it once the new plants have rooted.
  • Kalanchoe cuttings are super easy to take and almost essential for good looking plants. Kalanchoe grows really leggy, really quickly, so by regularly pruning them you can maintain a good shape, and use the offcuts as cuttings.

    While you should aim to cut below a node, I can guarantee that if you cut a kalanchoe at any point on its stem, it will root in tap water without any fancy tools or potting mediums.

Common Problems with Plant Cuttings

While cuttings are pretty straight forward there are a few basic rules to observe so you don’t fail at the last hurdle. It’s really easy to get excited when you see new growth and think your cutting has worked, but there are still a few things to remember even once your cutting has sprouted:

Common Problems with Plant Cuttings

Water for cuttings

Cuttings are young plants, so they need watering like young plants. They won’t cope with drought, and they won’t cope with drowning either.

In nature, most young plants are protected by their parents in some way, either in shade under the canopy, or by seed distribution making sure they travel to water or more open conditions. Cuttings should be grown on with that in mind. 

Make sure to use sterile, chemical-free, water where possible. Cuttings are really susceptible to pH rises in tap water, and old rainwater that’s been standing out will be harboring bacteria so make sure it’s fresh and clean.

Heat and Light Conditions for Plant Cuttings

Different plants need different conditions for their cuttings, so try to treat cuttings as you would treat their parents in terms of light.

For tropical plants, they’ll need high temperatures and dappled light, but for many deciduous trees, climbers and shrubs they prefer having cuttings taken in autumn when temperatures and light conditions are lower.

Using Young Plants

For root cuttings in particular. The age of the plant you use is really important. Make sure not to use young plants that are less than half their mature size to take root cuttings from as they will still have underdeveloped roots, and be trying to establish themselves.

Mature plants can cope with being dug up, so try to use pants that have been in your garden for at least 2-3 years for root cuttings.

Planting Out Cuttings Too Soon

The signs for when a cutting is ready to plant out are the same as the signs for a plant grown from seed. When it has true leaves, good new growth, and its roots are poking out of the bottom of its pot, your cutting is ready to plant out, or pot on into a bigger container. Planting cuttings out too soon will shock their roots.


Plant Cutting FAQs

You can take cuttings from almost any plant, including many annual plants and tender perennials

Are cuttings and divisions the same?

While cuttings and division are similar ways to create new plants, propagating by division is more reliable, but does more damage to the parent plant.

By propagating from root cuttings instead, you don’t disturb the parent plant and can create even more young plants for the new season.

Can you take cuttings from annuals?

You can take cuttings from almost any plant, including many annual plants and tender perennials that can be propagated from cuttings and overwintered indoors where many will regrow in spring.

Do you cut above or below a node?

It’s always best to include node materials in a cutting, as the node contains masses of hormones that transfer the purpose of cells from stems to roots.

When taking a cutting, always try to cut below a node, or nick out a small piece of a node from basal cuttings on herbaceous perennials.

What is the best time of year to take cuttings?

Most cuttings are best taken in spring from new growth, but for hardwood cuttings and root cuttings, they should be taken in autumn or early winter while the plant is dormant.

This promotes new growth on the parent plant, and allows the roots time to callous and get used to their new position before spring.


Wrapping Up Our Plant Cuttings Guide

While I’m not promoting horticultural vandalism, cuttings are a brilliant way to create a garden for free, whether you own the pants or not. You can take cuttings from native hedgerows in autumn and spring before the nesting season, and neighbors’ gardens will be full of plants that give you a guide of what grows well near you too.

As you can probably tell, I’m a gardener that thrives on thrift, and cuttings are by far the cheapest way to create masses of new plants and boost the color in your garden quickly before the next growing season starts.

I hope this guide to how to take a cutting gets you growing, and as passionate about plant cuttings as I am.

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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