Gardening Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Plant propagation

Now is the Season to Take Houseplant Cuttings

Preparing oleander (Nerium oleander) stems to be rooted.

The cuttings of most plants will root more quickly and more surely when the plant is actively growing. That’s why it’s not a good idea to take cuttings of houseplants during the fall and winter, especially after mid-October. Their growth at that time of year is often reduced or nil and cuttings taken then tend to rot rather than to produce new roots. At best, they languish for months before showing a few timid signs of recovery.

But that was winter. Spring is now upon us, at least as far as houseplants are concerned. Under the influence of lengthening days, they’ve begun to show new growth or will do so very soon. That’s why the best time to take cuttings of most houseplants is from mid-February to the end of August.

Which Plants to Choose?

Almost all houseplants that have a stem can be used to make stem cuttings, palms being the major exception (they can only be multiplied by seeds or division). Philodendrons, spiderworts, ficus, scheffleras, hibiscus, cactus: the choice is yours. There are even plants you can root from leaf cuttings (see the blog Clone a Plant Today Through Leaf Cuttings) although they make up a very small group indeed!

Not Rocket Science

Remove the lower leaves. At least 2 nodes should be covered with soil.

Propagating plants by stem cuttings is easy. Simply cut a terminal section of stem about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) long, depending on the size of the plant, and remove the lower leaves and any flowers or flower buds. Now insert the cutting up to the second node (bump on the stem where a leaf was once attached) into a small pot filled with moist potting soil. Place the cutting in a bright location but not in full sun. And for the next few weeks, as new roots form, keep the soil at least slightly moist.

When new leaves appear, it’s a sign that the cutting has rooted and is therefore no longer a cutting but a plant. You can then place it in a spot more suitable for its needs, perhaps in brighter light.

Taking cuttings is both interesting and enjoyable: you kind of feel you’re playing God! And if you have children or grandchildren, make sure to do it with them. It’s the sort of experience they’ll absorb like magic. Years later, they’ll still remember how to take cuttings, even though they may have totally forgotten how they learned.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Now is the Season to Take Houseplant Cuttings

  1. Pingback: Starting Cuttings in Water: Not Such a Good Idea | Laidback Gardener

  2. Pingback: When to Use a Mini-Greenhouse for Cuttings | Laidback Gardener

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