Gardening

Acclimatizing Rooted Cuttings

Cuttings rooting “under glass” need to be gradually acclimatized to the outside air. Photo: rainbowgardens.biz

Question: I recently tried rooting a few cuttings (Virginia creeper, wisteria and honeysuckle) under a plastic dome. They all took, but when I removed their covering, the leaves wilted right away! Where did I do wrong? Is there a progressive “deconfinement” procedure I should have applied? It’s certainly true that the poor things were used to a very humid atmosphere.

Estellanara

Answer: You understood perfectly! Cuttings produced “under glass” (inside a “mini-greenhouse” of some sort, which could be a dome or a plastic bag) root more readily than cuttings made in the open, because the extreme humidity inside the mini-greenhouse eliminates the water loss the cuttings would normally experience due to transpiration. Not having the added stress of constantly trying to replace the water its leaves are losing, the cutting can instead put its energy into root formation.

Cuttings producing new leaves.
New leaves are a sign the cuttings have rooted. Photo: earth.com

However, when the cutting has rooted and begins to produce new leaves (new leaves are a sure sign rooting is well underway), those leaves will have adapted to very high humidity and will often wilt if the mini-greenhouse is removed abruptly. That’s what happened to your cuttings.

You haven’t lost them, but that did give them a serious setback. They’ll soon produce new leaves now that they’re in the open, but the initial leaf loss will slow their recovery.

Opening a plastic bag with a cutting inside.
Open the plastic bag greenhouse a bit at a time, over several days. Photo: missouribotanicalgarden.org

So, the secret to succeeding in this “deconfinement” without the leaves wilting or dropping is to do it early, when the new leaves are just forming, and—above all!—to do so gradually. 

Plastic dome lifted on a wedge
You can raise a plastic dome of some sort of wedge to let outside air in. Photo: forum.wordreference.com & amazon.ca

As soon as you see new leaves, open the bag a little or raise the dome just a bit (you can prop up one corner on a wedge of some sort) to let in some outside air and lower the humidity. The next day, open a little more and the day after, even more. After 5 to 7 days of this gradual deconfinement, your cuttings will be fully acclimatized and ready to face life outside their mini-greenhouse without even losing a leaf.

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

3 comments on “Acclimatizing Rooted Cuttings

  1. I just separated a dozen or so cuttings of ‘Ponderosa’ lemon. I took the opportunity to do it now, after they got dumped out of their can. Then, it occurred to me that it is autumn, and going into winter, when any new growth that the rough treatment stimulates will be sensitive to even minor frost. Oops. They do not need to be covered, but should have been separated in spring. Acclimatization would have been easier.

  2. Elaine Gibson

    Hello,,,I was wondering if it is to late in the season to try and root some ivy clippings inside. Maybe under a dome? Thank you…

    Sent from my iPad

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