What is Cutting Propagation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Cutting propagation is a form of plant propagation in which new plants are propagated from cuttings taken from older, established plants. The new plants will be clones of the parent plant. This type of propagation can be used on many woody plants and some trees, and it is extremely common and very popular among gardeners. Plants also use this method to propagate themselves in some environments, dropping stems and branches which take root in the ground under the parent plant.

New plants grow from cuttings of older plants.
New plants grow from cuttings of older plants.

There are three types of cutting propagation. The most common and well known is stem propagation, which is further divided into softwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood cuttings on the basis of the age of the stem used for propagation. Leaf buds and roots can also be used for cutting propagation with some species, although these methods are in less common use and they are not always reliable. They can be useful when there is limited material to work with.

In cutting propagation, a small cutting is taken and encouraged to root. Sometimes this is done in a special moisture-rich soil mix, and other times it is done in a nutrient solution. The plants need high humidity to root well, which can be accomplished by doing cutting propagation in a greenhouse, or by bagging the containers used for rooting to help the plants retain humidity.

Depending on the plant, roots may set in a matter of days, or it may take weeks. Sometimes, roots never take, and the cutting withers and dies. Using a rooting hormone can promote rooting, and once the plant is rooted, it can be established with the help of fertilizer to help it grow strong. The young plant can then be transplanted into a new location.

One great way to use cutting propagation is for people who want to share rare or unusual plants. For example, someone who raises roses can cultivate cuttings to give away to friends or sell. Gardeners may also exchange cuttings with each other, or as part of an organized garden exchange club. Exchanging cuttings with local gardeners can be a great way to get access to plants which have a proved performance record in the area where one is gardening.

Cutting propagation is also used by commercial nurseries to generate products which are standardized and reliable. For the same reason, the agriculture industry also engages in cutting propagation so that their crops will be reliable and so that they can preserve specimen plants which are especially valuable.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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