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Easy tips to rooting plants with the Hometown Gardener

Easy Tips to Rooting Plants

What is propagation?

Propagation is simply the process of starting new plants. A common way of propagation is, of course, germinating seeds. Propagation with seeds is known as sexual propagation. Some problems with growing plants from seed are that some plants don’t have viable seeds, others might be extremely hard to germinate, or not grow true to type, and often plants from seed can take a longer time to fruit. Asexual propagation includes rooting cuttings, layering, dividing, grafting, and tissue culture. Today I want to tell you tips on how to root cuttings at home. Rooting cuttings will give you a plant faster than seeding, and they will be true to the variety of the plant you took them from. Once you learn these easy tips, you should find it can be fairly simple to root your own plants.

Do You have a green thumb?

Having a “Green Thumb” isn’t necessary to grow plants. The truth about growing plants is it only takes persistence and the willingness to learn. Rooting plants is a basic horticultural skill. Once you learn some simple techniques your success rate will immediately increase. Below are what I will call Easy Tips to root plants at home:

Easy tips
  • Make sure the plant you get your cutting from is healthy and well-fed. An undernourished plant is an unhealthy plant. Plants that insects are feeding on and have visible signs of disease should be avoided.
  • Make sure the plant is turgid. Turgid means the plant is full of water. Plants are around 80 to 90% water. When you take a cutting, it no longer is taking water up from its roots, although it is still losing water out its leaves. Before you take a cutting, the plant should be well watered. Early in the morning or after a long rain is a great time for this.
  • Make sure your clippers or cutting implement is sharp and clean. Crushing the stem with dull clippers will impede its uptake of water. Damaged tissue might also invite disease. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle.
  • Keep the cutting out of the sun. The sun will take water out of the cutting. The cutting needs to form roots while it is still turgid.
  • Use a rooting mix that holds moisture yet will drain readily. Also, make sure your soil and pots are clean.
    Close up of dark canadian peat and white perlite soilless mix

    Figure 1. Sphagnum Peat and Perlite at a 50/50 ratio make for a good soilless media for rooting cuttings. Photo by David Austin

    Half sphagnum peat and half perlite is a good mix. See figure 1. Perlite is a light white volcanic rock commonly used for drainage in soil mixes. Garden centers often sell these types of soils already formulated as rooting mixes. A good rooting mix is a good investment.

  • Don’t take a cutting that is too large and be sure not to leave too many leaves on your finished cutting. Six inches is plenty long for a cutting. See figure 2.
    Cutting lay on a countertop prepared and ready to use as a plant cutting.

    Figure 2. The two cutting on the left can be stuck in the same container and rooted to later form a bush. The larger cutting to the right has it’s tip intact and could be stuck to grow into a tree. Photo by David Austin


  • An ideal cutting might have one to two nodes left without leaves to place under the soil and two or three with leaves to place above the soil line. The place that the leaf was attached to the stem is the node.  Higher concentrations of the natural plant growth hormones (auxins) are found at the nodes. The node is where the roots will most likely form. You can leave as little as one leaf on your cutting.
  • Once cuttings are firmly placed in the mix, put them in a shady location to minimize water loss from the leaves. Also, keep them out of winds or drafts. Keep them moist but not soaked. Soil should be firmly packed around the cutting to support them.
  • You can take cuttings from different ages of plant growth. Tip cuttings with hardened off new growth can be used, but avoid those with newer tender growth.
  • You should remove flowers from the cuttings.
  • Don’t be afraid to stick more than one cutting in each pot, especially if you want the plant to be a bush. Cuttings that you would like to grow as a tree can be taken from the tips of the plant and planted singly.
  • Use a rooting hormone and store it in a cool dry place when not in use. Rooting hormones are formulated to replicate the natural hormones found in the plant. Read the label to learn how to use them. They can be purchased at most garden centers.  Many plants will root without the use of rooting hormones but your success rate should improve by using them.
  • Make a small greenhouse to root cuttings that are harder to root. For example, to create a better rooting environment, a milk jug could be used to hold in the moisture. See Figure 3

    Photo from the top of a milkjug that has been modified to create a greenhouse like structure over a potted cutting.

    Figure 3. A milk jug doubles as a greenhouse after removing the bottom.  Photo by David Austin

  • Roots should start to form within two weeks and be ready to transplant in 4-6 weeks. This will depend on the plant variety and other factors such as temperature.
Some easy to root plants

Hibiscus, penta, porterweed, plumbago, milkweed, false heather, blue daze, dracaena, cordyline, as well as, most vining plants are examples of easy to root plants. Through trial and error, you will find many more that root readily. Don’t give up because you have temporary failures. Follow as many of the easy tips you can and you should find success. Happy gardening!

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2 Comments on “Easy Tips to Rooting Plants

  1. Is it possible to root beach sunflower and transplant a large one. It’s grown too big for the flower bed & love to move it. Thanks!

    • Hi Sonia, yes, Dune sunflowers are very easy to root. Pay special attention to taking the cuttings when they are turgid. Early morning before the sun hits them is best. Follow the other Easy tips also. Let me know how it works out for you. You can follow my Facebook page at Hometown Gardener.

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