Creating a new plant from a cutting is a wonderful way of filling your home and garden with more beautiful plants for free.  With a little bit of know-how, it is possible for even the least green-fingered of us to successfully propagate new plants from our favourite ones. Here, we look at how you can swap and share your favourite plants with your friends and family.

What is plant propagation, or, more commonly known, cutting?

Taking a stem, leaf, or root cutting from a plant and placing it in water or in a suitable compost will spur it on to grow new roots, creating you a genetically identical clone of the parent plant. It does this because as soon as it is separated from the roots of the parent it becomes desperate to take root again in order to restart the flow of hormones, like auxins.

How to propagate a plant

While plants can be propagated by placing the cuttings in water, transferring seedlings that have rooted in water to soil is much less successful than choosing to root them in potting mix in the first place so it is on the whole a better idea to choose the second method. 

You should always take cuttings in the morning or the evening, never during the hottest part of the day. If you put them straight into cold water or into a sealed plastic bag (to maintain the humidity) then as long as they are kept cool, they can be stored for 12 hours.

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Before beginning it is important that you have researched the temperature and moisture level that is appropriate for the plants that you are trying to propagate. You should also ensure that you buy the correct potting mix. Most cuttings will grow well in a standard potting mix but some species that prefer dry conditions will prefer a more porous mix. Not all cuttings will be successful, so we’d advise taking several clippings to increase your chance of success.

Tools for cutting

  • Sharp and sterilised secateurs
  • Stick
  • Plastic bag
  • Potting mix
  • Rooting hormone
  • Pots
  • Parent plant

The process for plant swapping

  1. Ensure you have selected a healthy parent plant with plenty of green growth and no drooping or dying foliage.
  2. Put your potting mix into your pots. It is better to use potting mix rather than soil from your garden as it may contain pathogens that could kill your cuttings.
  3. Select your cuttings carefully. Fresh growth will produce roots easier than older stems. Choose a stem that has a node. Nodes are a bump on the stem from which a leaf or a flower bud grows. This is where the new roots will grow from.
  4.  Cut the stem below the node using the secateurs. The sterilisation helps make sure no disease is passed onto the cutting. The sharpness of the tool helps keep the cut clean to prevent disease entering. Ensure that your cuttings have at least two leaves and a node. The most successful cuttings are generally between four and six inches long.
  5. Dip the node into some water and then into the rooting hormone. Use your stick to make a hole in your potting mix that is slightly larger than the diameter of your cutting to avoid the rooting hormone being brushed off when you insert it.
  6. Pop the cutting into the hole and gently pat the soil down around it so that the cutting is supported.
  7. Pop your newly planted cutting into a plastic bag. Do not seal it completely as while you need the bag to maintain the humidity you also need there to be some airflow to avoid fungal rot.
  8. Put it in a warm place in the house, out of full sunlight until it begins to grow new leaves.
  9. You need to keep the potting mix moist but not wet. If condensation appears on the inside of the bag, then it is too wet.
  10. Once two to three weeks have gone by tug gently on the cutting to check for roots. If you feel resistance then roots have grown and your cutting is ready to be moved to its final destination. 

It is also possible to grow plants from cut flowers. In order to do this, you should take the cutting when the blooms are as fresh as possible. Make a cut at a 45-degree angle below the lowest node then make your second cut three nodes above that. Pop the end in the rooting hormone mix, and follow from step 5 above.

Once you have mastered the skill of propagating plants from cuttings then you can fill your home and garden with as many beautiful plants as you like without your bank balance ever suffering!

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