Select the parent plant based on its health and desired traits. The expectation is that roots will develop to form a complete plant. Types of cuttings are based on where they come from on the parent plant:
Hardwood are relatively easy to prepare and can last for a few weeks in refrigerated conditions with light moisture provided. The cutting should be taken during the plant’s dormant period from the previous year’s growth.
It should have nodes that are evenly spaced and should not be from the tip of the branch. Central and basal portions form roots more easily.
At least two nodes should be included, with the cut from the lower portion being just below a node and the upper cut being one-half to 1 inch above a node. A rooting hormone can be applied to the lower portion to be placed in the medium to accelerate root formation, but it is not necessary as long as the rooting medium is moist yet well-drained and the high humidity is maintained. Easily rooted species include forsythia, spirea, rose and fig.
Semi Hardwood are usually obtained from woody broad-leaved evergreens or leafy summer cuttings from partially matured woody or deciduous plants. The cutting should be 3 to 6 inches in length with larger leaves removed or cut to make smaller to lower the amount of water lost through transpiration.
They should be obtained from terminal shoots with the bottom cut being just below a node. It is best taken from the parent plant early in the day when water levels in the cutting will be high. Use a rooting medium of 1 to 1 peat moss to vermiculite or perlite.
Softwood cuttings come from new spring growth of deciduous or evergreen species, though not usually fruit trees. They usually root at a faster rate, but need more attention. Since the leaves remain attached to the cutting, more care must be taken to keep moisture levels consistent.
Taken from mid-year growth, the cuttings should be somewhat flexible but break if sharply bent. At 3 to 5 inches in length and having at least two nodes, leaves should be removed from the part of cutting that will be placed beneath the rooting medium. Large leaves should be cut to a smaller size and all flowers and flower buds removed. To help ensure success, make cuttings early in the day.
Herbaceous plant cuttings are a relatively easy way to start new plants. These include geraniums, coleus and herbs such as oregano. Follow the same method as with softwood cuttings.
For plants with sticky sap such as poinsettia, allow the cutting to air dry for a few hours before placing in the medium so the end can form a callous.
Leaf cuttings are done on fleshy-leaved species such as violets and begonias. Adventitious roots and shoots form at the leaf base and the original cutting will die off after the new plant is established.
Using a mature leaf, cut the end of large veins on the bottom of the leaf then lay flat in propagating medium. Weigh down the leaf against the medium.
Likewise, a large leaf can be cut into triangular sections with a large vein and inserted upside down into sand. Whole leaves may be used, but ensure a large vein has contact with the sand. High humidity is important and can be maintained in a closed environment like a sealed plastic bag. Don’t allow it to become too hot.
Propagation sanitation is very important to prevent disease, so make sure pots being used are clean. Keep water from being held against the cutting by making sure there is drainage. Humidity should be high and soil medium moist, but not wet. Remove any dead material and perform insect control immediately if bugs are seen.
Once new growth is observed, plants should be gradually hardened-off to prevent shock. Use trial and error to find which method works best in the greenhouse or windowsill where propagating is done.
Once a system is developed, cuttings are one of the easiest and most fun ways of “making” new plants.
Root cuttings are best taken from younger plants in late winter or early spring. Make sure the root is positioned similar to its original state of growth (the part closest to the stem is placed higher than the deeper root portion). Most root cuttings can be rooted 1 to 2 inches deep under a well-draining medium. Portions should include several nodes at 2 to 3 inches in length. Keep soil moist until new growth is seen.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.