How to Take a Cutting from a Plant

My Garden Life
October 19, 2022
Table of Contents

There are several reasons that you might want to learn how to take a plant cutting. Perhaps you are moving to a new home and want to take some of your favorite plants or shrubs with you. Maybe there’s a plant that has sentimental value and you’d like to preserve the memory by planting one in your own landscape. Or maybe your plants are simply flourishing and ready for a trim, making it the perfect time to learn how to take a cutting from a plant! You can share the new plants you propagate with friends and family or fill in vacant spots around your own house.

Propagating Plants from Cuttings

hydrangea cuttings growing in pots in a windowsillPropagation refers to the breeding of new plants from a parent plant. It seems like magic, but yes – you can grow a whole new plant just from a cutting! Cuttings can be propagated in a variety of ways, such as in a moist pot of soil, a damp paper towel and a plastic bag, or even in a glass of water. With a bit of care and patience, you’ll be well on your way to raising new plants for your garden or houseplant collection.

How to Take Plant Cuttings

hands with pruners taking a cutting from a healthy hydrangea shrubWhen making a plant cutting for propagation, take care in selecting a piece of the plant that is healthy and well-hydrated. Stems with leaves that are dried out, curling, or yellowed will not root well. Keep an eye out for the nodes of the plant, which appear as bumps along the stem or at the base of the stem where leaves attach. The plant nodes are spots where a new leaf, bud or roots can sprout and are the best place to encourage new root growth.
close up of tiny roots emerging from the plant nodes of an impatiens cuttingUsing a sharp, clean pair of scissors or knife, make a clean cut underneath a node on your plant. The cutting should be long enough for the cut end to be buried in soil or submerged in water — roughly four to eight inches (10-20 centimeters) is an ideal length.

Softwood Cutting Propagation

hand holding an impatiens plant cutting getting ready to set it in a pot of soil for rootingThe variety of plant you want to propagate will further determine the maturity stage of the cutting you should select — herbaceous, softwood, semi-hardwood, or hardwood — as well as which methods will be most successful to propagate your cutting.
hand holding scissors preparing to take a stem cutting from a monstera houseplantSoft-stemmed green plants such as pothos or philodendrons will propagate easily using most methods as long as you choose a healthy, flexible herbaceous cutting with intact nodes. Softwood cutting propagation is also fairly forgiving and refers to the stage when the stem of the plant is just starting to harden and able to snap.
woman holding a rose cutting that will be used to propagate a rose plantIf you are interested in propagating roses, it’s typically recommended to take a rose cutting in the softwood stage. Woodier, more mature plant cuttings, such as semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings, may need more attention to their rooting conditions and often require extra humidity in order to develop roots successfully.
mint plant growing in water in a sunny windowsill with other potted plantsIf you have an herbaceous cutting, in many cases you can simply root your plant cutting in a glass of water and start to see tiny roots growing in a matter of days. Propagation by water is very easy and a common method for propagating houseplants. Be sure to remove any leaves on the lower part of the stem that will be submerged.
hands holding a variegated dogwood cutting removing the lower leaves using prunersIn general, it is a good rule of thumb to remove most of the leaves from your cutting since it will allow the cutting to focus more energy on growing the roots. Keep the glass in a sunny spot and change out the water every few days to keep it from becoming stagnant, and within a few weeks you’ll have a cutting with strong roots ready to be potted.

How to Take a Hardwood Cutting

hand dipping a variegated dogwood stem cutting in rooting hormone with tray of potted of cuttings in backgroundFor more mature, woodier plant cuttings, roots will take longer to develop (usually several weeks to months) and the cuttings should be monitored to make sure they have enough humidity and hydration. Dipping a hardwood cutting in rooting hormone can be a helpful starting step to give it an extra boost in sprouting roots. Just like softwood cuttings, you will want to remove the lowest leaves of the cutting to allow enough stem for root growth.
wrapping variegated dogwood stem cuttings in wet paper towel to help them rootA common practice is to wrap the cutting end in a damp paper towel and then place it in a sealed plastic bag in a warm spot. Check the cutting every few days to make sure it stays moist without rotting. Once starter roots have emerged, move the cutting into a pot of well-draining soil, keep it moist but not waterlogged, and continue to monitor its growth. Once the roots are a few inches long, it will be hardy enough for replanting.
tray of geranium cuttings growing in cups of soilIf you have a variety of plant that is known to root easily, you could bury your fresh cutting directly into a small pot of potting mix. Cuttings can be prone to disease and fungus, so opt for a soilless potting mix or perlite mix if this is a concern and make sure to keep the plant hydrated and in a warm, sunny location. In general, herbaceous and softwood cuttings have a higher chance of rooting than semi-hardwood or hardwood cuttings. In any case, you may want to prepare more than one cutting in case some of your new plants do not propagate successfully.

List of Plants That Grow from Cuttings

Some plants are easier to grow from cuttings than others. Here’s a list of different types of plants that are most successfully grown from stem cuttings:

6 Trees to Grow from Cuttings

1. Lemon Tree

Lemon tree with fruits hanging from a branch

Lemon trees can be grown from cuttings and make attractive potted trees for a deck, patio, or sunny balcony. Plant your lemon tree in the ground when it becomes too large for a patio pot.

2. Juniper Tree

row of juniper trees growing along a brick wall

Junipers are popular for creating hedges or planting around the foundation of a house. Propagating the plants you need from cuttings is an economical way to get all the shrubs you need from a single plant.

3. Fig Tree

close up of figs growing on a fig tree

Potted figs make a beautiful focal point for a patio or deck. The fig can be planted in the ground when it outgrows its pot or the space.

4. Elderberry

close up of elderberry tree with clusters of ripening berries

Elderberry is a low-maintenance plant that provides multiple seasons of beauty. You can easily grow more elderberries from stem cuttings to place throughout your landscape.

5. Willow

willow tree in a park-like landscape

Willow trees are a good choice for areas with moist soil, such as low spots in the landscape or near pods or streams.

6. Tea Olive

close up of the waxy yellow flowers of a tea olive tree

Mature tea olive trees produce clusters of fragrant flowers. Plant them near areas where people congregate, such as a patio or deck, where the sweet fragrance can be enjoyed.

6 Shrubs to Grow from Cuttings

1. Honeysuckle

honeysuckle shrub in full bloom covered with flowers in shades of white to yellow

Honeysuckle’s dense foliage is good for hiding an unattractive fence or training to a trellis to create a privacy screen. The flowers have a sweet fragrance and provide a food source for butterflies and hummingbirds.

2. Forsythia

forsythia shrub in full yellow bloom in a home landscape

Forsythias are popular for creating hedges. A single plant can supply many cuttings to grow into shrubs for a hedge or foundation planting.

3. Dogwood

close up of Chinese dogwood flowers

Dogwood shrubs are great for naturalizing around large landscapes. Most types have attractive foliage, good fall color, and produce berries that offer a food source for birds.

4. Holly

closeup of Holly, Ilex opaca, with ripe red berries

Evergreens, like Holly, offer a touch of color in otherwise dull winter landscapes. Hollies can be used to create a privacy hedge, foundation planting around a house, or to create a backdrop for a flowering borders.

5. Lilac

close up of purple lilac flowers on the shrub

Lilacs’ lush, fragrant flower clusters are a sure sign that spring has arrived. These fast-growing shrubs make an excellent screen, wind-break, or informal hedge.

6. Hydrangea

Blue hydrangea macrophylla shrub in full bloom

Hydrangeas are so popular you might be able to get stem cuttings from your friends or family. Any of the species are easy to propagate for sharing or adding more hydrangeas to your landscape.

6 Perennial Flowers to Grow from Cuttings

1. Rose

beautiful pink shrub rose in full bloom

Taking a rose cutting is a common way to preserve varieties that may have sentimental significance. The flowers or fragrance may hold memories of a special time, place or loved one.

2. Bee Balm

beautiful red bee balm flowers in full bloom in a garden

Bee balm (Monarda) is one of the most popular plants to grow to entice hummingbirds to the garden. Grow them near a deck, patio, or porch where you can sit and watch your winged visitors.

3. Chrysanthemum

bronze flowered chrysanthemum plant in a flower garden

Many commercial growers that supply the chrysanthemums sold at garden centers every fall, grow their mums from stem cuttings. So easy, you’ll want to try it yourself!

4. Sedum

close up of the beautiful pink flower clusters of Sedum spectabilis

Most sedum species are incredibly easy to propagate from cuttings or plant division. The low, spreading varieties make great groundcover for hot, dry areas and a single sedum plant can provide many cuttings to cover a large area.

5. Catmint

close up of Nepeta, catmint, in full bloom with purple flowers

Catmint is an excellent choice for areas that experience summer drought. Established plants are virtually carefree and the fragrant foliage and flowers attract bees and butterflies. Propagate plants to create a low border or a groundcover.

6. Lantana

lantana plant with a butterfly visiting the pink and yellow flower clusters

Lantanas are at home in the garden or growing in pots or hanging baskets. By starting lantana plants from stem cuttings, you can grow plants to place in many locations.

6 Annuals to Grow from Cuttings

1. Impatiens

pink, white, and red impatiens in the garden

Dense plantings of impatiens are a great way to add a mass of color to shady locations. They’re also popular for pots, hanging baskets and window boxes.

2. Geranium

decorative pot filled with pink, red, and white geraniums

Vegetative geraniums (those that are not started from seed) are easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Keep a few of your favorite geraniums as potted plants through the winter to use for taking cuttings in the spring. Grow them in a bright window to keep them healthy until you can safely return your plants outdoors.

3. Begonia

decorative urn overflowing with a dragon wing begonia plant with red flower clusters

Many species of begonias are available in an array of colors, leaf shapes and sizes. Stem cutting can be used to grow begonias for the garden, pots, hanging baskets and window boxes.

4. Coleus

a mass of coleus plants in a wide array of green, red, pink, and gold blends of foliage colors

The colorful foliage of coleus is a great way to brighten up mixed containers or use individual plants in pots or the garden for consistent color all summer long. Remove flower buds as they appear to keep all the plant energy focused on growing foliage.

5. Salvia

large terra cotta pot filled with red salvia splendens plants in full bloom

Starting salvia from stem cuttings is a great way to produce more plants for creating a garden edging or growing in a pot. The tubular flowers will attract hummingbirds and bees!

6. Hypoestes

pink polka-dot plant (Hypoestes) in a garden

Commonly known as a polka-dot plant, the beautiful, speckled foliage of Hypoestes makes a colorful filler for mixed annual plantings or grown individually in a pot. Hypoestes can be brought indoors for the winter and enjoyed as a houseplant near a bright window.

6 Houseplants to Grow from Cuttings

1. Pothos

pothos trailing from a white planter placed upon a table

Pothos is one of the easiest houseplants to grow from stem cuttings. You can grow them in water or start directly in soil to share plants with friends, family, or coworkers.

2. Philodendron

philodendron 'Brasil' plant in a white pot on a shelf

Philodendrons come a wide array of shapes and sizes. Propagating philodendrons from stem cuttings is a great way to share your plants or trade with other philodendron fans for varieties you don’t have.

3. African violet

potted African violet plant growing in a windowsill with purple flowers

African violets grown from stem cuttings have been a source of new plants for generations of houseplant enthusiasts. African violets are easy to care for, produce beautiful velvety foliage, and are reliable bloomers under optimum growing conditions.

4. Monstera

huge monstera plant growing in a white pot in a living room

Propagating monstera plants can be a little confusing since they produce aerial roots along the stem as they grow. Aerial roots serve to anchor the plant to trees in nature and will not start a new plant. A proper stem cutting, including a growing node, is required to grow a monstera from a stem cutting.

5. Snake plant

potted sansevieria plant, snake plant in front of a decorative wooden screen

Sansevieria (snake plant) is so easy to grow, it’s ideal for anyone new to growing houseplants or who is forgetful about watering. Snake plant’s rigid leaves, and distinctive vertical lines look great in rooms with a modern décor.

6. Spider plant

spider plant (Chlorophytum) in a white pot on a rustic wooden table

Chlorophytum (spider plant) is another incredibly easy plant to grow and share. Baby spider plants are produced on long stems that extend from the main plant. The little plantlets are ready to be snipped right off and placed in water or soil to start a new plant. Propagating plant cuttings may require some trial and error as you determine what conditions your specific plant cuttings prefer. With a bit of perseverance, your efforts will pay off and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of new plants to decorate your home and share with family and friends. If you’re new to plant propagation, try putting a pothos cutting in a glass of water and watch for the roots to start sprouting — it’s that easy!

pothos cuttings growing in a clear square vase filled with water set on a rustic wooden table


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