Plant propagation and cutting is an important part of overall care, and it differs significantly from one species to another.
Some methods are simpler, the others are a bit more complex. What all of them have in common is that they require a thorough knowledge of those plants.
Also, you need to take conditions into account and have the proper equipment as well.
In my guide, I shall explain how a couple of cutting methods work. I shall also share tons of useful tips and tricks with you, so stay with me to hear more about plant propagation!
Which Types of Cutting Are There?
The main cutting methods are divided by the part of the plant you are supposed to cut and propagate. Quite logical, isn’t it?
The following are the four most methods gardeners usually implement:
- Stem propagation
- Leaf propagation
- Root propagation
- Cane propagation
Now, let’s go through the major highlights for each of them!
The most frequently used option, stem propagation is one of the simplest ways which can help you expand your “green” family. If you cut plants in this way, you use a stem and its sides from the main plant.
Do note that you ca take these parts ONLY when a plant is growing, not when it produces flowers.
How it is done?
There’s nothing particularly complicated.
First of all, you need some clean and disinfected tools- a sharp knife will do the job.
Use it to cut the plant below the node/leaf joint. As for the size of the cutting, let’s say it’s something between three and five inches.
Then remove the foliage, but only the lower ones. A couple of leaves should be left in the upper part.
The next step is to dip those cut parts in rooting powder and put them in the soil.
To make sure you won’t damage that delicate part you’ve just removed when placing it inside the soil, use a pencil to dig a hole that would be deep and wide enough.
In case you have plants that don’t have the main stem, this is the option you use for propagating. This variant has three sub-methods to say so, defined by the actual part of a leaf you are removing.
- A section with an inch or two of a shoot (a petiole)
- The entire leaf
- Just a small part of a leaf cut
Gardeners prefer the first one, but they all work more or less similar.
There are small variations from one plant species to another.
For example, cacti and succulents don’t have a woody stem, so you use leaves. Then, if you have Peperomias, you use the first one, with a shoot. On the other hand, a part of a cut is what you need to propagate Streptocarpus or Snake plant.
In this method, you usually take a larger portion of the root and divide it into several sections. This is also known as root division, and the optimal size for those cuttings is between two and four inches.
If you want to boost your chances to succeed, then I advise planting approximately 5 root cuttings. When you place the cutting in the soil, make sure the end of the root which was closest to the top of the plant is just below the top layer of the soil. That’s the part which will “give birth to” the new shoots.
I’d just like to remind you to be extra careful when dividing your plant, be it root or any other part of the parent plant. Good thing is that you will be able to remove majority of them easily by hand. Still, you need to be very gentle.
As for the most common species people propagate using this option, those are Spider plants, African violets, ferns.
If you are a proud owner of Dieffenbachia, Cordyline, or some types of Dracaenas, this is the option you will apply. What you do is take the stem and cut it into several parts, each around 3 inches long.
It would be great if each of these parts has at least one node or preferably a bud. Some gardeners place the cane upright into the soil, the others choose to place it horizontally so that half of it is in the soil.
Pro-Tip: If you are wondering when is the best time to propagate your plants, the answer is spring or summer. That’s because this period of the year is the one when plants actively grow, so the chances for propagation to be successful are significantly higher. While this works for stem and leaf sections, if you use root parts, then propagate plants in winter. This way they will start to develop just in time when the spring comes.
What Are Plantlets and Offsets?
Have you spotted something that looks like baby plants on your Spider plant?
Those tinny parts you see on smaller stems, they are plantlets or offsets. They can be re-planted quite easily, even beginners can do that.
Everything is more or less self-explanatory here, you just take the bottom part of the offset and put it in the moist soil. There’s one more way- you can place it in water as well and then pot it.
On the other hand, offsets usually appear on the main stem’s side. They are also called pups. Just like with plantlets, you remove them from the main plant and accommodate them in the soil.
Of course, don’t remove the pup too early, it needs to be mature enough so that it can start developing on its own. Once you remove it, you apply the same steps as with stem cutting.
Pro-Tip: If you propagate plantlets and offsets in soil, not in the water, don’t forget to water them, it will increase the chances for a plant to develop. Of course, don’t drench them in the precious liquid either, be smart when watering.
What is Air Layering and When You Use it?
This method is usually used for plants which have larger stems, and you implement it when the plant:
- Has become overly leggy
- Has grown over its “home” (a pot)
- Cannot be propagated using stems
One of the best examples where you use air layering is Swiss cheese or Rubber Plant, as their stems are often not so approachable. This method will make propagation less stressful both for you and your plant.
How does the procedure look like?
First, cut the stem by leaving around 2 feet of the tip above. Then, make 2 cuts through a bark, making sure there’s a couple of mm between then.
The next step- remove about an inch of bark. This is the part where the roots are supposed to form.
Use a plastic bag or a transparent foil to wrap around the cutting, but don’t forget to fill it with some rooting powder. Tie the bag well and give roots some time to form inside.
Once you spot them growing, you can re-plant your new “baby” and be happy for welcoming one more new member to your plant family.
Pro-Tip: This method produces much bigger plants than those coming from other options, namely stem or cane propagation. That’s because the upper part of the parent stem, including leaves, are replanted with new roots, giving your plant an excellent head start.
Seed Sowing Instruction Manual
This method is preferred by nurseries and professional gardeners as well. That’s because it requires more time and above all- adequate environmental conditions.
That’s something an ordinary grower to home gardening is a leisure time activity, a sort of hobby, may not be able to provide.
Then again, no one says you cannot and shouldn’t try, a bit of experimenting is more than well-welcome, as it gives you a better insight into the plant’s properties.
And who knows, you might just end up with quite an interesting species!
In this procedure, you put the seeds on the top of the soil, but make sure they are separated and water them generously.
If you have some larger seeds, then you should also put a bit of compost, find some shadier location. Also, make sure the temperature is around 60 – 75ºF (15 – 23ºC). Also, cover them using plastic foil or transparent food film, it adheres much better.
Once the seeds have germinated that’s the sign the plant is ready to develop further so remove the cover from the container and place them out into a brighter location. Don’t expose it to direct sunlight.
Pro-Tip: This method is excellent to perform some educational experiments with the youngest members of the family. Even though the plants won’t last very long, it’s the perfect way for little ones to see a plant’s development cycle.
More Cuttings Tips for You
First of all, allow me to answer one of the most widely discussed topics- propagation in water VS soil.
Which one is better, and why?
Some plants will produce roots when placed in water, but this method is only good if you use it as a temporary solution.
That’s because the process of oxygen absorption differs significantly. Plants with water roots which are propagated in water shall develop their roots twice, which weakens the plant.
When a plant needs to go through this process twice, it losses energy. Consequently, chances for it to continue growing properly when placed in the soil are significantly smaller.
IMHO, I’d always use soil as it will be simpler for your plant to adapt. I know that observing the roots develop in water is an amazing picture, but leave the visuals aside, do what’s best for your plant.
If you are new to the whole thing, you probably wonder how to be sure when is the right time to repot the plant?
When you spot new foliage on the cuttings, the time has come to accommodate your new plant in its new home. As for the size, it would be ideal to pick something between two and four inches wide, depending on the size of the cutting.
Also, when you use leaf propagation, don’t forget to remove the parent leaf before you put the new plant in the pot.
As for the tools, for indoor gardening you need a sharp knife and a pair of pruning shears. This pretty much does the job for the majority of plants. Don’t be a lazy gardener and clean and disinfect your tools before and after you use it, otherwise your risk harming your plants.
Pro-Tip: Many pro gardeners use the bottom heat method to propagate plants, to speed up the development process. You can do the same at home, by placing the pot with a new plant on a heat mat. Of course, always make sure the air is not dry, mind the moisture level.
As you can see, propagation is not overly complex, but the most important thing is that you know your plant (or plants) well.
If you do it correctly, you will have a whole universe of new plants produced by yourself, which will make you love this whole gardening adventure even more.
I truly hope my guide brought you some valuable insights on plant propagation.
What’s your opinion on water propagation?
I’d like to hear from you, so please share your valuable experience in the comments section below!