Growing Plants from Cuttings: the Steps and 8 Things to Know

Adventitious roots of Magnolia cutting

When you think about new plants, you most probably consider planting seeds in your garden and starting them from early life. However, finding seeds and going through the whole germination process isn’t always practical. Fortunately, growing plants from cuttings is another method to start a garden. With one single branch, you can develop an entire plant.

Cuttings with yellow labels beside them

Why growing plants from cuttings is a viable idea

Planting seeds and helping them grow is not the only way to get new plants in your garden. In fact, there are many other solutions to propagate them. If you already have a certain plantation and want to expand it, you can resort to these cuttings. What you will do will basically be to clone the original plant, or allow it to grow in more places in the garden.

Growing plants from cuttings works just fine with plants you don’t already have in your garden. You can find these cuttings either in stores, or you can clip them from a friend’s garden who has an impressive array of plants. This is one of the easiest methods to multiply plants that you can try anytime. If you follow the steps thoroughly, you shouldn’t experience any problems.

Types of cuttings

Before starting growing plants from cuttings, you should know what types of cuttings you can use. According to the moment when you cut them, they are split in different categories. Fortunately, they all need mostly the same treatment. However, judging from the plant you want to grow, you’ll need different cuttings.

The first one is the softwood cutting. You can remove it when the plants have plenty of fresh growths. Therefore, the ideal moment is spring or early summer. Among the most common plants that propagate through softwood cutting, there are dogwoods roots and butterfly bushes.

The next type is the greenwood cutting, that comes from plants that are still young, but are already starting to mature. You can remove these cuttings up until midsummer. The plants that you can easily propagate through greenwoods are boxwood and gardenia.

The semi-ripe cuttings are next in line, so they should be next on the maturity scale. These plants should already be sturdy enough, as you will remove the cutting anytime from midsummer to fall. If you want to grow delicate plants like honeysuckle and camellia, do it from semi-ripe cuttings.

In the end, we have the hardwood cuttings. Like the name suggests, you should remove these stems when they are already in the bare wood state. This means during late fall or even winter, when the plants are already dormant. Of course, this is the perfect stage to propagate trees, as well as most shrubs.

Growing plants from cuttings

At this stage, you must have decided what plants to propagate from cutting, and the perfect timing to remove the stems. Now, it’s time to get ready for the breeding process itself. Here is what you should know while making the cuts, as well as two alternatives to start the cuttings and turn them into plants.

Don’t forget to do your research. You have to be sure your plant can grow from a cutting. To avoid killing it from the start, look for information on the plant and see if this type of propagation is suitable for it.

1.      Cut the branch

The first thing you should do is remove the stem that you are going to plant. Choose a branch that looks healthy and, with the help of a pruning tool, clip it at the base. If the branch has some new growths on it, it’s perfect to start a new plant rapidly. Make sure the cutting is at least 4 inches long. Then, it’s time to prune this cutting and make it suitable for growing.

Remove about two thirds of the leaves on the branch, as well as any other secondary branches. Once planted, these will help with the sprouting of new growths. Then, you’ll have to pay attention to the remaining leaves. While the roots are developing in the ground, see how these leaves react. If they start dying, it means your plant won’t reach adulthood.

2.      Mark the bottom

Before doing the planting, you might forget which is the top and which is the bottom. To know what side of the branch you need to plant, cut the bottom at an angle of 30 degrees. This way, you won’t prevent your new plant from growing even from the beginning.

3.      Pick the ideal growing environment

When it comes to growing plants from cuttings, you have to choices in terms of growing environment. You can either plant the branch in soil, or start it in water. For bigger wooden branches, the soil method is ideal, while the water one is more suitable for herbs. However, depending on your plant, one environment or the other might be better. Make sure you find out what is advisable for your future plant.

Three cuttings next to a coin

Planting in soil

Here is how to grow a fresh branch that you will plant in soil.

4.      Scrape off the branch

To help the roots get a good start, you’ll have to scrape the bark off the bottom of your branch. Do it carefully, and make sure you don’t cut too much from the bark, as you might damage the plant permanently. This step is also necessary in case you want to give it a small boost. You can place the cutting in a recipient filled with root hormone, and help it grow more quickly.

5.      Start the cutting in a pot

When growing plants for cuttings, it’s important to help the plant get sturdy before transplanting it outside. Therefore, take a pot with draining holes on its bottom, and fill it with potting soil. Create a thin hole for your cutting, and insert it into this mix. Then, water this medium abundantly. To kickstart the formation of the roots, the cutting will need plenty of water.

There is one more way to keep the plant in a humid environment. Take a plastic bag, and place it carefully over the branch, but be careful not to touch it. Keep it like that for two or three weeks in a sunny place, but away from direct sunlight. Meanwhile, your roots must have started developing.

6.      Transplant the cutting

Once the roots have grown, take a small gardening shovel and dig carefully around the branch. Pay attention not to damage the roots while doing it. Then, pick up the cutting, and plant it in your garden, where it will grow and turn into a new plant. According to the plant you have chosen, you can choose different locations and different conditions for breeding.

Planting in water

7.      Insert your cutting into water

Take a glass or a bottle, and fill it with water. Then, insert the cutting into it, and keep it in a bright place for a week or two. After that, you’ll see your little branch has started developing some small roots, so you can transplant it into soil.

8.      Move the rooted cutting into a pot

The two methods of growing plants from cuttings are pretty similar. Once the branch has some small roots, it can grow in a well-draining pot filled with potting soil. Once you move it, keep it for a few days in a dark place. This way, it will direct all its energy to getting used with the new medium.

You will no longer need to cover the cutting with a plastic bag to maintain humidity. That step was necessary for the development of roots. Since you already have the roots, you can skip this step. From now on, you can keep watering the plant while it grows in an area with enough sunlight. You can transplant it as well once the roots have got sturdy enough.

What to keep in mind when growing plants from cuttings

To ensure the success of your planting session, you should pay attention to a few tricks that will help you. At first, you should pick the ideal moment to cut the branch from the mother plant. For instance, early morning is when you should do the cutting. At this time, the plant keeps the most moisture it gets.

If you’re not going to plant the cutting immediately, store it in a place that is both humid and cool. This way, it won’t suffer any damage. If you leave it exposed to direct sunlight, your chances to grow a new plant from the branch will get significantly smaller.

Choosing plants to start from cuttings

As mentioned above, not all plants can thrive from cuttings. If you want to experiment with this method but don’t know what will work, here are a few plants that thrive best when started like that. Hydrangeas, lavender, geraniums, or rosemary are among the most popular plants that easily grow from cuttings.

If you want more flowers, gardenias, azaleas, and camellias are on the list as well. The majority of succulents are perfect for this method, as well as old school roses and hibiscus. In fact, all plants that are native to your areas should thrive if planted from cuttings.

Plant cutting placed in a bottle filled with water


Growing plants from cuttings is an easy way to propagate plants in your garden, or even to start an entirely new plantation. Instead of having a hard time sowing seeds and then helping them germinate, all you have to do is cut a branch from an already matured plant, and help it grow some roots. This way, you skip some tiring steps and get a pretty garden with almost no effort. However, before deciding to adopt this method, do your research on the plants and make sure they can grow from cuttings.

Image sources: Wikimedia Commons

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