By Bonnie L. Grant
There are few things better than free plants to the committed gardener. Plants can be propagated in a number of ways, each species with a different method or methods. Rooting plant cuttings is one of the simpler techniques and you need not be an expert horticulturist to try it. A few quick tips from the professionals will teach you how to start plants from cuttings. The process of starting plant cuttings is very straight forward and only requires a good medium, clean and sharp cutting implement and perhaps a rooting hormone to help jump start root growth.
Types of Cuttings
The time a cutting is taken depends upon what type of plant you are propagating. Most plants will root well from a soft wood cutting, which is this season’s new growth. It hasn’t had time to harden and the interior cells are very active and generally easy to reproduce.
Semi-softwood cuttings are taken in summer when the new growth is nearly mature and hardwood cuttings are very mature material and generally quite woody.
Rooting a plant from cutting can be as simple as a leaf or several inches long with numerous growth nodes and full foliage.
How to Start Plants from Cuttings
The first aspect of propagation from cuttings is to use a healthy plant. Only a healthy plant will give you good tissue from which to start a plant. The plant should also be well hydrated. The cells in the tissue will need moisture to begin knitting together and creating a root system but the cutting cannot remain too wet or it will rot. Desiccated tissue will not provide good root cells.
Taking the Cutting
Once you have a good specimen you need to consider the implement. A very sharp blade will prevent damage to the parent plant and to the cutting’s rooting edge. The item should also be very clean to minimize introducing any pathogen to either part. Starting plant cuttings is very easy but you must follow a few rules to make certain the potential baby plant has every advantage.
Medium to Root Plant from Cutting
A soilless media is the best starting mix for starting plant cuttings. The mixture should be loose, well draining and have plenty of oxygen movement for newly forming roots. You can start cuttings in perlite, vermiculite, sand or a combination of peat moss and any of the previous items.
How to Root Cuttings
Rooting plant cuttings may or may not benefit from rooting hormone. The container should be deep enough to support the new root depth. Plant the cutting with the cut end buried in premoistened media by 1 to 1 ½ inches.
Place a plastic bag over the container and put it in a 55 to 75 degree Fahrenheit indirectly lit area. Open the bag daily to encourage air circulation and keep the media moist.
Check for roots in two weeks. Some plants will be ready and other will take a month or more. Repot the new plant when the root system is well established.