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How to Tips on Propagating Plants

Updated on November 3, 2017
tlcs profile image

Trudy otherwise known as tlcs, loves to garden! I have a passion for beauty and can see it in my gardening. I hope there are some tips!

Increase your plants by propagating your own plants found in your garden!
Increase your plants by propagating your own plants found in your garden! | Source


Once a gardener, professional or amateur has a plant in their care the first question may well be what sort of growing condition will it need and the second is usually how can it be propagated.

A lot of work we do in the garden is seasonal, like mowing the lawn and pruning the roses but plant propagation can be done throughout the year, that includes your house plants.

There is no aspect of gardening more interesting than that which involves raising new stocks of plants from seed or by means of cutting, grafting or budding, these are all very exciting areas to get into.

Sowing seeds offers the gardener an easy, quick means of getting a large stock of a particular species.

To increase ones stock of plants, the gardener must resort to budding, grafting, layering, division or cuttings all of these methods will give you more plants.

Make sure you have your tools at hand before commencing this job!
Make sure you have your tools at hand before commencing this job! | Source

Tools for the job

To propagate plants successfully you will need certain basic tools and the main one being a sharp knife this is essential when propagating and a smooth, round blunt ended piece of wood to use as a dibber, if you don't have a piece of wood a pencil will do for pricking out seedlings. You can also use old diner forks for lifting seedlings, a desert spoon for potting, eyebrow tweezers for spacing seeds, all of these items I am sure you have lying around in your home.

I'm not going to cover sowing seeds in this hub as I have already done that and the link is below for you.

Taking Cuttings

The word cutting is a term used to describe any portion of plant which, after being severed from the parent can be persuaded by careful cultivation to grow into a completely new individual (propagating). A cutting can be any portion of a root, stem, or leaf. It is different from layering or division which already have a fully formed root system before being separated, because the cutting initially has no roots.

I hope that explains it to you ok, I'm not sure of how else to write this part.

There are several different kinds of cuttings, each needing particular treatment and cultivation according to which part of the plant it is taken from.

I am going to break this down for you the reader to make it a little easier.

General principles which apply to all cuttings you take

  • Use only material from strong healthy plants
  • Don't leave cutting material to dry out before inserting them in rooting compost
  • Stand the cuttings in water or wrap the ends of the shoots in moist paper then put them into a polythene bag until you are ready
  • Always insert the cutting in a suitable compost
  • Never neglect your cutting, keep an eye on it daily
  • Make sure you water it regularly and removed any dead leaves

Cosmos are a delight in the garden border!
Cosmos are a delight in the garden border! | Source

Types of Cuttings

Stem or Top cuttings

These can be taken from any non-flowering shoot and can be taken at any time in the season

Leaf cuttings

These can be done from house plants such as begonia, or you could try with any perennial with fleshy leaves.

Leaf-bud cuttings

These I find quite tricky! there a cross between a leaf and stem cutting which includes a leaf with a bud at the base and a section of stem. (Doing these are trial and error and the success rate for me is not very good).

Root cuttings

These are taken when the plant is dormant and the plants have to have thick roots although that said some plants with thin roots can be propagated by means of root cuttings.


This is a method of propagating lilies.

This example of propagating may help you

Lets attempt Stem or Top Cuttings (Propagation)

These offer an easy method of increasing your stock of many plants which grow in many gardens. You don't need expensive equipment but if you find like me that you enjoy this part of gardening you may which to purchase a heated frame, or small propagating unit.

For small quantities of cuttings, which is usually all the average garden can accommodate, a plant pot enclosed in a polythene bag on the kitchen windowsill will often do the job, this is how I started my propagating of my plants and my mother taught me this process.

A closed frame, propagating unit or a simple polythene bag provides the close, moist conditions which stop the cutting from drying out until new roots have formed. This is essential with cuttings of soft young shoots taken early in the growing season which de-hydrate very quickly.

The basic ingredient in the compost used for rooting cuttings is sharp, lime free sand. Purchase it in small quantities as it can be expensive, although it can be used over several years with only an occasional topping up to maintain the right depth and it repays you many times over with the amount of plants you will gain and not have to buy. That said I have also used a good all purpose compost for rooting cuttings. No fertilizer should be included in the mixture as this can damage the roots.

Good drainage is essential as roots will not establish in a compost which is airless.

This Video may help you with taking your softwood cuttings

Soft Wood Cuttings (Propagating)

These are available early in the growing season, being made from young, soft shoots before they harden. If soft wood cuttings are not given good conditions after they are inserted in the compost they will quickly be attacked by fungus disease which cause damping off.

This has happened to me previously and I lost a complete load of cuttings due to not making sure that the cutting were in the right conditions, if this happens to you it will never happen again as it is quite heart breaking when you think you have succeeded just to check them on the next occasion to find that they have all died! Take heed!

So, that said, keep them in a close, fairly humid atmosphere to prevent the leaves losing moisture before roots are formed to replace it. Soft wood cuttings should root in 4 or 5 weeks.

Always use a sharp knife when taking cuttings.

Here we go,

Make a clean cut just below the node or leaf joint where a leaf joins the stem. The length of the cutting varies from an inch to four inches, but apart from this the method of propagation is the same.

Using a sharp knife or safety razor blade trim away the lower leaves to above the level at which the base of the cutting will be inserted in the compost.

Dip the end of the cutting in one of the rooting powders available at garden shops and insert it in the compost using a blunt ended dibber (or pencil end).

Push the cutting right to the base of the hole, then firm without crushing the stem and take care that no air pockets are left to gather moisture which will hinder rooting taking place.

If you put your cutting round the edge of a pot they will form roots more rapidly than those placed in the centre, this is worth remembering with plants which prove difficult.

Make sure you keep your cutting watered!
Make sure you keep your cutting watered! | Source

At first the soft wood cuttings will droop, this is quite worrying at first but persevere and spray over them with water and they will quickly recover. Once roots are formed, the cutting will start to grow. This is when you pot them off into a compost containing a proper food supply or one with a peat based mix.

Some plants such as lupins, michaelmas daisies and delphiniums will rot off if they are given too much heat and are best accommodated in an outdoor frame or under glass.

Semi-Hardwood Cuttings (Propagating)

These are prepared from shoots. A good way of checking ripeness is to take a shoot between the fingers and bend it. If the stem snaps then the wood is soft, if it is pliable and hardening at the base then it is known as semi-hardwood or half-ripe. This method is used for many woody plants such as heathers, conifers and small leaved rhododendrons. These are normally taken during June and early August.

se a good general purpose compost for rooting the cuttings.

Here we go.

Trim the node to a clean cut with a sharp knife. Treat the wound with rooting powder after removing the lower leaves, then dibble the cutting into the compost. Keep them shaded from direct sunlight for a few days. After that, provided the watering is carried out regularly, warm sunlight will, in most cases quicken the root formation.

Pot them off into compost containing a proper food supply in October. Newly potted cuttings are best given the protection of a frame for the first winter.

Some cuttings will often root better and quicker if the shoot is pulled from the parent branch, sounds harsh I know but this is known as heeled cuttings.

Sometimes tearing the cutting away leaves a jagged, unsightly wound on the shrub or tree. I prefer to remove the cutting with a sharp knife though still leaving a piece of the old stem attached. Heeled cuttings are particularly useful with shrubs which have hollow stems which, when taken as normal cuttings, cannot completely callous over so rot off. Other half ripe cuttings are trimmed to just below a leaf joint and are then referred to as nodal cuttings as I have mentioned earlier.

A few shrubs will root better if the cuttings are taken and trimmed as equal distance between two leaf joints. One of these as an example is Clematis. The cutting is then inserted in the compost so the first node is buried about half an inch deep.

This Video will help you to take semi hardwood cuttings

List of Semi-hardwood cuttings and when taken

Taken in May June
Taken in July August
Taken in July
Taken in July August
Taken in July August (another favorite success story)
Taken in July August
Again, these are a few that I have attempted and have managed to grow

List of Softwood Cutting to take and when taken

Plant name
When taken
Taken in early sumer
By young shoots in June
Taken in June
Aster (Michaelmas Daisy, my favourite success story)
Taken in March
Taken in May June
Taken in February to April
Taken in spring
Taken in late sumer
These are just a few that I have successfully propagated from plants of my own

Try these methods first

These methods are the easiest I think. There are lots of other methods too. These include Serpentine Layering, Air Layering, Stools, Division and Budding and Grafting, however, I would start with these methods and see if you can succeed before trying any of the others.

Good Luck and Happy Gardening!

The beautiful Gazania, a real showpiece!
The beautiful Gazania, a real showpiece!

© 2014 Trudy Cooper


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