by Terese at

Get ready.

Check individual plant instructions.

Stem cuttings (slips) mature faster than seeds but not all stems cuttings will root. Certain plant families are better propagated by other methods. Review each plants propagation methods before attempting to take cuttings.

Determine if you need basal, stem tip (softwood) or root cuttings.

Get set.

Prepare cutting trays. 

  1. Clean and sterilize cutting trays, containers or pots with one part bleach to nine parts water and rinse well. All must have drainage.
  2. Fill trays with a pre-moistened cutting medium. Any combination of light sterilized seed starting mix, clean coarse sand, peat or perlite will work as long as it holds moisture, is well drained and sterile.
  3. Have a clean sharp knife and a bleach solution for dipping knife into between every cut.
  4. Providing bottom heat under the cutting tray is beneficial. Have a propagation mat or other heating source available.
  5. Have rooting hormone available which can be purchased in any good gardening center. Don’t dip cuttings directly in jar. Remove a little rooting hormone powder to a separate paper cup. Discard after use.

Go get the cuttings

Stem tip cuttings.

  1. In late spring and early summer cut 3”-8” of the green flexible non flowering tips of plants with 3 sets of leaves. These are known as softwood cuttings and should be grown indoors. Check to make sure it is healthy, disease and pest free. If possible take cuttings in the early morning and choose lateral shoots from young plants that haven’t been heavily fertilized.
  2. Snip or pinch off any buds (the youngest – very tip of the shoot) or flowers and snip off the lowest set of leaves.
  3. Snip off any excess stem below the lowest node (area where leaf comes off stem) leaving about a quarter to half inch of stem below the node.
  4. Snip off excess leaf tips to reduce transpiration.
  5. Dip the cut stem end and the lowest nodes in rooting hormone powder and tap off the excess.
  6. Use a small clean pencil or dibble and place a hole in potting soil mix where the cutting will be placed. This prevents all the rooting hormone  powder from falling off.
  7. Insert the cutting on third to up to half its length and gently firm the medium around the cutting.
  8. Space so leaves do not touch.
  9. To keep the humidity high, place the tray in a clear plastic bag or glass container and put in a sunny window with filtered light or under grow lights raised high. Take care to make sure the plastic doesn’t touch the cuttings.
  10. Keep cutting medium consistently moist. Mist plants early in the day.
  11. Heating or propagation mats help maintain warm soil temperature.
  12. In 3-4 weeks gently tug on the cutting to see if it has rooted. Some plants require longer rooting periods.
  13. When roots are about an inch long slowly start hardening off (minimum two weeks) then repot into individual containers and grow until late summer. Whenever repotting or transplanting always protect plant (limit environmental exposure) for the first few days until it is acclimated.
  14. Plant outside in the fall and keep well watered until established or the ground freezes.
  15. These cuttings may also be held in the original cutting container  indoors or in a cold frame until spring.


Basal Cuttings

  1. Early in the growing season basal cuttings involve taking a small piece of the crown (base area of plant where new shoots emerge from the ground).
  2. Leave the plant in the ground and with a sharp clean knife cut or sever short, stubby, solid (not hollow) 4″ shoots from the mother plant. Cut close to the crown and only take a few from each plant.
  3. Remove lower leaves and pinch out the growing tip.
  4. Dip in rooting hormone powder and place  3-4 basal cuttings along the edge of  6″ clay pots filled with pre-moistened, loose, free draining potting soil mixed with perlite.
  5. Water in and top off with a little grit to hold the cuttings steady.
  6. Keep in a warm bright location out of direct sun or in a greenhouse or cold frame. Use bottom heat to speed root growth.
  7. Roots form in 5-8 weeks and when they appear at the drainage holes – transplant to individual containers.
  8. Establish plant in individual container and harden off before planting outside.


Root Cuttings

  1. Dig a hole on one side of the parent plant to expose a large size root attached to the base or crown of the plant.
  2. With a clean sharp knife or pruners cut the larger size root and divide into 2”-3” sections with a horizontal cut on the top and a slanting diagonal cut on the bottom end. There will be a short wasted piece between each good cut. Dip knife in bleach solution between each cut to keep the risk of infection low.
  3. Refill the exposed hole with compost or soil.
  4. Plant the root cuttings diagonal cut end down and horizontal cut end up in pre-moistened (barely moist) sterile growing medium. Keep root cutting media moist but on the dryer side to prevent diseases.
  5. Store in a cool greenhouse or unheated room with bottom heat until well rooted.

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