KC Gardens

How to take cuttings of your favorite container plants so you can enjoy them next year

Take a cutting of your favorite container plant so you can grow it again next summer.
Take a cutting of your favorite container plant so you can grow it again next summer.

Did you have a favorite plant in your container garden this summer? Would you like to grow it again next year?

What if I told you there is a creative way to enjoy this plant next summer, too?

An easy means to renew plants for another season is by taking cuttings. A cutting is a method of plant propagation that removes a piece of the plant and its developing root system.

The result is a new, identical plant. Many house plants and annuals used in container gardens are candidates for cuttings.

Take cuttings for rooting from the healthy growth. The ideal length of cutting is 3 to 6 inches long, preferably with three sets of leaves.

Make the cut from the parent plant just below a node, which is the point on the stem where there is a set of leaves or a bud. This is the point at which rooting occurs.

The emerging plant has no roots to take up moisture. Success is improved by reducing the amount of leaf growth, thus reducing moisture loss from the stem. Remove as much as one-third to one-half of the foliage. The developing plant needs some leaf surface area to make energy.

Remove any flowers, flower buds or fruit to reduce stress.

Place cuttings in a sterile quality potting mix high in peat moss or vermiculite. A large pot is not necessary for rooting cuttings. I like to use a 4- to 6-inch clean pot and stick 4 to 6 cuttings per pot, to ensure several plants for next year.

Improve rooting results by dipping the cut end into a rooting hormone. Rooting hormones are natural compounds that increase the plant’s responses. Purchase these hormones at garden centers.

You are now ready to plant your cutting. Use a pencil or your finger to form a hole in the soil.

Place the lower third into the soil and water.

Because the plant has no roots, increasing the humidity around the cuttings also improves success. Place the container in a plastic bag and lightly seal. This traps the moist air and decreases plant stress.

Sunlight is necessary for survival. Place in a bright light but not direct sunlight, which can cause the enclosed container to heat up. Now the rest is up to the plant. Check the container regularly to make sure the potting mix stays moist but not wet. Overly wet soil leads to rot.

Rooting may take 3 weeks or more. Gently tug on the cutting. If it’s held in the soil and rooting is happening, the plastic bag can be removed.

Once rooted, move the plants into as bright of light as possible for the rest of the winter. They are high-light intensive plants.

Come spring, you are ready to enjoy your favorite plant for another season in the garden!

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org.

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