Free plants: how to propagate plants from cuttings

FREE PLANTS: Learning how to propagate your own plants is easier than you think when you follow a few fundamental steps. Pictures: Hannah Moloney.
FREE PLANTS: Learning how to propagate your own plants is easier than you think when you follow a few fundamental steps. Pictures: Hannah Moloney.

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.

Watch the video on how to propagate cuttings.

There are three main types of cuttings, softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood. 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.

More lifestyle:

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 evergreens.

Softwood cuttings should be 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. 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.

The finished prop mix, ready for planting.

The finished prop mix, ready for planting.

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.

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

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

Taking the cuttings

Choose a small hardwood branch with lots of nodes.

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 three to four nodes buried in your prop mix, so overall try to have at least six nodes.

Picture left is a cutting from a Salvia Leucantha bush, being an evergreen I made sure to leave a little bit of leaf on top to help it photosynthesise.

However, deciduous plants don't need any leaf remaining.

Cuttings almost ready to be transplanted into larger pots.

Cuttings almost ready to be transplanted into larger pots.

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.

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 huge amount of plants easily and affordably.

Even I don't do it enough. So let's all remember that the whole world is our garden and crack on with it!

  • Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a landscape design and education enterprise regenerating land and lifestyles.
This story How to propagate plants from cuttings first appeared on The Canberra Times.