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How Do You Take a Cutting?


A cutting is a ‘snippet’ of a particular part of a plant which you nurture until it produces new roots and ultimately new growth. Most garden plants, with a few exceptions, can be grown successfully from cuttings. These include trees, shrubs, climbers and perennials.

Cuttings from some plants, like roses, must be taken from hardwood. Fuchsias, geraniums and pelargoniums grow well from green or softwood cuttings, while other plants can be reproduced from leaf cuttings. The popular African violet is an easy candidate to grow from a leaf cutting. Choose young, healthy parts when taking a softwood or leaf cutting.

Before you head into the garden to take your cuttings, there are a few materials that you will need to purchase. Vermiculite is a rich volcanic mineral that gardeners use as a planting medium or to improve the condition of soil. It retains water very well and allows for good air circulation in the soil. Vermiculite can be mixed with peat. This provides the plant with sustained nutrients as the peat naturally breaks down in the medium over time. Also consider adding a quality water-retaining polymer to the medium. Polymer granules absorb water and swell but release the moisture back to the plant when it is needed. The addition of a polymer will help to prevent the medium from drying out. You will also need a bag of washed silica sand and rooting hormone, available from your local nursery.

It will take just over a fortnight to three weeks for your cuttings to take root. You can test how strong the roots are by gently tugging the plant upwards in the soil. A little resistance usually indicates that the roots have taken hold.

Taking a cutting

  • Always take several cuttings from the same plant. Not all will survive and you can choose the strongest plant to keep once the root system is properly established.
  • Find a suitable container. An old oven dish works very well or you can use seed trays or a plastic ice-cream container.
  • Use a clean bucket and rinse the silica sand in water. Allow to drain.
  • Add a few handfuls of vermiculite, a water retaining polymer product, peat or compost and mix well. Fill your container and water the medium.
  • Take your cuttings. Hardwood cuttings need to be at least 30cm in length and greenwood cuttings should be about 10 to 20cm long. When you take the cutting make sure you mark the bottom of the twig, as it is this end that must be placed into the medium.
  • Dip the end into liquid rooting hormone, then gently place it in a small, prepared hole in the medium.
  • Water well after planting.
  • Slide the container into a large, clear plastic bag Use twigs or wires to keep the bag up and away from your cuttings. Close up the bag. This helps to retain moisture and create a ‘hot house’ effect. If the container is too large, place the bag over the cuttings and tape it to the container.
  • Keep the container out of direct sunlight and water every day.
  • In about two to three weeks, check to see if the cutting has taken root. Once the roots have formed, you can gently dig it up and plant it into a new container with potting soil. Keeping watering the young plant daily. Within a week or two, you should start to see new leaf growth.

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