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Stem Cuttings

Starting plants from existing ones is fun as well as economical.

Stem cuttings in water. (Silentpilot / pixabay)

It is easy to make new plants by propagating them using stem cuttings.

  • Cutting just a piece of a stem allows one to leave the plant in place rather than digging it up to separate it.
  • Slice off a 2-6 inch piece from the tip of a stem about a quarter of an inch below a node, which is where a leaf is.
  • Strip off the lower leaves off the cutting, but the new piece will need at least two leaves left on it to make food.
  • Some cuttings can be put in a glass* container of water to form roots. Coleus cuttings root easily this way.
  • Or, you can dip the cutting into water and then into a rooting hormone powder (available at garden centers and hardware stores).
  • Put those into a small 4-inch pot of soil so that at least 1 inch is under the soil.
  • Water and then tent a plastic bag over the pot to keep it moist.
  • Tuck the ends of the bag under the pot and place it in bright shade (not sun).
  • Check frequently and sprinkle the soil with water when it dries out.
  • Slips usually root in 2-4 weeks.
  • When the slip puts out new leaves, or if it feels firm as if roots have formed when you gently tug on it, leave the plastic bag open at the top to allow fresh air to acclimatize the new plant for a few days.
  • It is best to do a number of cuttings at once to ensure some success.
  • Plant them in a larger pot while they get larger and stronger before planting them in the garden where they have to compete with other plants.

I have had success with Dragon Wing begonias and other annuals. I have also started shrubs such as hydrangeas. Try those in June before the stems get woody, as soft green wood is needed to produce roots. Starting non-patented plants from existing ones is fun as well as economical.

*Glass containers allow the water level to be monitored and replenished.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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