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This is the common process where by a plant is asexually cloned by removing some plant material from the parent plant, then providing the removed section with conditions for it to put forth its own roots. Cheaper than buying new plants, and more successful (and less time consuming) than raising the plant from seed.

Types Of Cuttings

According to the type of plant, and the desired out come of the proceess, there are several different ways in which cuttings can be taken

  • Stem cuttings, the most common method of cutting, can be made from shoot tips or side shoots and taken from most plants. Choose a healthy, young shoot, 10cm to 20cm long. Trim any leaves from the lower half of the stem, cut the stem below a leaf joint and insert at least half of the cutting into your rooting medium. Then insert into fine compost. Use this method on Geraniums, Lavender and Tradescantia
  • Leaf stem cuttings, from plants consisting mainly of leaves, with short or no distinct stems. Using a healthy adult leaf, trim and insert into rooting medium. A new plant will grow from the base of the leaf and a root system will grow from the stem. Commonly used for begonias and african violets.
  • Root cuttings, taken from some herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees. Exposing the roots, remove sections which are at least a quarter of an inch in diameter (approx the same width as a pencil). Cut the roots into sections of one and a half to three inches long. A flat cut at the top end of the cutting and a diagonal cut at the bottom is the preferred method. This is so the cuttings are inserted into the rooting medium the correct way up. Insert the cuttings completely into the rooting medium. This type of cutting is limited to a few plants, such as Ginger.
Taking cuttings of ginger. Divisions are made around the sprouting nodules
  • Division, is where a plant is dug up and completely exposed, then divided with a knife into half or quarters depending on the size of the plant. Make sure that each new piece has strong roots and several bud growths. Ginger, Herbaceous Geraniums and Pansies are propagated this way.
  • Stolons and Runners. A stolon is a horizontal, often fleshy stem that can root, then produce new shoots where it touches the medium. A runner is a slender stem that originates in a leaf axil and grows along the ground or downward from a hanging basket, producing a new plant at its tip. Plants that produce stolons or runners are propagated by severing the new plants from their parent stems. Plantlets at the tips of runners may be rooted while still attached to the parent, or detached and placed in a rooting medium. Examples: strawberry, spider plant.


The basic technique for taking cuttings is almost the same across the board. The idea being that a small part of the parent plant is taken and allowed to grow as an independent plant. Obviously, when the cutting is first taken, it will have no root system, and may not have any stem or leaves depending on the type of cutting.

To take the cutting, make sure you have a clean sharp knife. You will be making a wound in the plant, and thus want it to be as clean as possible to avoid any infection in both the parent plant and the cutting. Mentally work out where you will be taking the cuttings from. Especially if you are taking more than one cutting, the aesthetics of the parent plant can be ruined by just 'hacking' it up.

Try to get the cutting planted up straight away. If it is not possible, don't leave the cutting, especially stem and leaf cuttings lying around, as they will dry out and die. It is possible to place the cutting in a small beaker filled with water as a stop gap until you want to plant them up properly.

Rooting powder is essential. It is possible to get away with not using it, but the success rate of the cutting surviving and growing into a new plant is severely decreased. To use rooting power, dip the end of the cutting where the roots need to form, the wounded end, completely into the powder. The wound will be slightly wet, seeping sap, and the rooting powder with stick to it. If you have taken a root cutting, cover the entire cutting with rooting power to encourage growth.

Use a fine compost, not soil from outside for cuttings. When inserting the cutting, always make a hole in the soil first with either your finger or a "dibber". It need only be as deep as the length of the stem, or base of the leaf. Then insert the cutting, filling in the hole, and pressing down into the compost firmly. The hole is essential for stopping the rooting powder from being brushed off when inserting the cutting.


For the first few weeks while the cutting is establishing itself, care for the plant is very important.

  • Water- Do not over or under water. The medium it was planted in should be moist but not wet. A humid environment is best.
  • Heat- Take care not to expose the cuttings to severe temperature changes. It is best to keep them indoors or in a greenhouse.
  • Light- The cuttings will benefit from good light (apart from root cuttings at this stage) but direct sunlight is likely to cause sun burn, especially in a greenhouse.
  • Pot- The plant will need re-potting before it grows out of its cutting container. Once it has put out new roots, you will see a period of vigorous growth. It should become a mature plant within 6 and a year months depending on its growth rate.


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