Cuttings provide a cheap and often easy method of reproducing a desired specimen: a certain tomato plant or favorite rose. However, the new plant is a clone of the first, is genetically identical, and shares the same weaknesses and strengths of the original plant. Thus, your rhubarb or rubber plant may be identical to your neighbours', and importantly, can be equally susceptible to the same problems.
This section covers general principles. Specific techniques relating to stem cuttings and heel cuttings are covered separately. Additionally, we deal with leaf cuttings, root cuttings, and grafting on other pages.
Growing from cuttings is easiest for non-woody plants. Deciduous trees and shrubs are also fairly easy in spring; hardwoods and some evergreens may prove difficult.
Most plants are reproducible in this manner, though some coaxing may be needed. Plants that have been pruned in the previous growing season produce the most vigorous shoots and are most likely to root well. Rooting hormone or willow extract can significantly aid with difficult plants: stand cuttings in willow extract for one or two days, then pot, or water with willow tea after potting. See relevant section.
Use only new growth from young specimens, if possible. Plants should ideally be pruned back the previous fall, so that the new, healthy and very vigorous stock may be used as material for cuttings. Use a sharp, clean knife. Keep cuttings moist and cool until ready to pot up, and ideally take these in the early morning, an hour or two after watering.
Softwood cuttings taken in the spring usually work best; plant immediately. Grow in good indirect light, temperatures of 60-80F/15-27C, and in a humid atmosphere: mist frequently, or enclose the pot in a plastic bag, allowing it to breathe several minutes daily. Bottom heat may help.
Semi-hard or semi-ripe cuttings are taken from mid-summer to early fall, and are harder to grow, but share the same requirements.
Hardwood cuttings are taken at the start of the dormant season, when leaves have dropped, and as such, humidity is less a priority. These are often overwintered in a cold frame, with new growth expected the next spring.
Grow cuttings in a rooting medium consisting of well-draining soil or peat mixed with sand, perlite or vermiculite. Peat mixtures especially will be sterile and protect against disease. Cuttings, especially if harder to root, may be tied into small bundles prior to planting. Protect, and watch for fungal infection.
Inspect regularly for growth, and pot up into small pots. Rooted specimens should resist a gentle tug; if not yet rooted, stick back into the medium. Remove and discard rotting specimens.
Some cuttings will even root in water (plant up if roots are 1" long), or reproduce by runners which may be rested onto fresh, moistened compost until the new plantlets grows roots, after which they are severed from the parent plant.
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