How To Propagate Plants From Cuttings: AKA Free Plants!

Learning how to grow plants from cuttings is a liberating activity. You’ll never see the world the same again and you’ll always carry secateurs with you just in case you walk past an interesting plant you’d like to grow yourself. For week 9 of our Crisis Gardening series, we show you how easy it can be. You can watch the video here and read about the process below.

Our prop station in action which you can see more of here

Firstly, there are three main types of cuttings, softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood. I’m focusing on the hardwood cuttings for this blog and video. Depending on what plant you’re taking cuttings from (and what season you’re in) will depend on the type of cutting you take – be sure to research for the particular plant you’re working with.

Hardwood cuttings are taken from dormant, mature stems in late fall, winter, or early spring. Plants generally are fully dormant with no obvious signs of active growth. The wood is firm and does not bend easily. Hardwood cuttings are used most often for deciduous shrubs but can be used for many evergreens. 

Softwood cuttings are prepared from soft, succulent, new growth of woody plants, just as it begins to harden (mature). Shoots are suitable for making softwood cuttings when they can be snapped easily when bent and when they still have a gradation of leaf size (oldest leaves are mature while newest leaves are still small). For most woody plants, this stage occurs in the warmer months (i.e summer). The soft shoots are quite tender, and extra care must be taken to keep them from drying out. The extra effort pays off, because they root quickly.

Semi-hardwood cuttings are usually prepared from partially mature wood of the current season’s growth, just after a flush of growth. This type of cutting normally is made from mid-summer to early autumn. The wood is reasonably firm and the leaves of mature size. Many broadleaf evergreen shrubs and some conifers are propagated by this method (NC State Extension). 

The prop mix

We use a 50:50 mix of coarse potting sand and coco peat for any type of cutting. The sand provides good drainage and the coco peat provides water retention. You don’t need any compost or garden soil as the cuttings don’t require any nutrients at this stage of growth.

The finished prop mix, ready to be planted into

Taking the cuttings

Choose a small hardwood branch with lots of nodes on it. Nodes are the little things sticking out the side where usually leaf would grow from. Once buried in your prop mix, this will be where the roots come out of. You need to have a 3 – 4 nodes buried in your prop mix, so overall try to have at least 6 nodes.  Below you can see a cutting from a Salvia Leucantha bush, being an evergreen I made sure to little bit of leave on top to help it photosynthesise – deciduous plants don’t need any leaf remaining. You can read more about this type of Salvia here.

A cutting with a small leaf left on the top and 7 nodes. 

Planting the cuttings

When it comes to planting, you can choose to dip each cutting into a rooting hormone (of which there are many). We often just dip them in honey which is anti-bacterial and can also help with root growth.

Then, you can simply pop them into some pots with the prop mix. As you can see below, you can plant them very close. After a month or so you’ll notice small roots coming out the bottom of the pots – this is one way to know they’re reading to be transplanted into larger pots of their own.

From here, we simply make sure we water the cuttings as needed and pot them up when they’ve struck roots.

Cuttings are an under utilised option for growing a huuuuuge amount of plants easily and affordably. Even I don’t do it enough. So lets all remember that the whole world is our garden and crack on with it!

2 Responses to “How To Propagate Plants From Cuttings: AKA Free Plants!”

  1. Chloe

    Hello Hannah, I discovered your blog during lockdown and love it so much! Quick question, when you pot them up what sort of soil should you pot them up into?

    • Hannah Moloney

      It can be much of the same Chloe – honestly these hardwood cuttings are *tough*. Don’t worry over them too much :-). Good luck!


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