How to Grow Perennials from Cuttings

Growing perennials from cuttings involves creating a new plant from a stem that starts out with no roots at all. If you’ve ever stuck a stem of ivy in a glass of water and watched it grow roots, you already have some idea how this technique works. Not all perennials can grow from cuttings. Use the cutting method for perennials that don’t tolerate division.

Follow these steps to coax your cuttings into growing roots:

  1. Punch a few pencil-sized holes in the side and bottom of any clean, flat, shallow container to provide drainage for excess water.

    For a large number of cuttings, a plastic kitty litter tray is a good size. A plastic container of any sort works well if you’re rooting only a few cuttings (recycled food containers are perfect).

  2. Fill the container with a moist, not soggy wet, mixture of 50 percent fine peat and 50 percent washed coarse sand.

    Alternatively, you can use vermiculite or any potting medium labeled for starting cuttings. All these materials are available at your local nursery.

  3. Using a clean, sharp knife or scissors, cut the top 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) of the stem, just below a leaf or cluster of leaves.

    Take your cuttings when the plant is growing vigorously but not blooming.

  4. Remove all the leaves from the bottom 2 inches (5 cm) of the stem.

    Don’t pinch off the leaves. Use a clean sharp knife or scissors to minimize trauma to your cutting.

  5. Use a pencil or screwdriver to make a hole (2 inches [5 cm] deep and a little wider than the stem) in the sand or potting mix.

    Make additional holes several inches apart if you’re starting more than one cutting.

  6. Use a rooting hormone (available in powder or liquid) to stimulate root growth on the cutting.

    You can purchase rooting hormone at a local nursery or most garden centers. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product you buy.

  7. Stick the stem into the hole.

    Press gently around the cutting, so that no air holes remain

  8. Cover the container with plastic wrap or a clear plastic bag.

    The plastic allows light through while preventing moisture loss.

  9. Place the container in a brightly lit location or under a grow light.

    Do not place the cuttings in direct sunlight.

  10. Water with a misting spray bottle as necessary.

    Keep the potting mixture moist, but not soaking wet, at all times.

When the stems start to grow new leaves, they’re ready for transplanting. Most cuttings are well rooted in about a month.

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