Acclimatizing Rooted Cuttings

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

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.


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:

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:

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: &

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.

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.

3 comments on “Acclimatizing Rooted Cuttings

  1. 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


  2. 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.

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