Question: How can I start new plants from cuttings?

Answer: Some plants are much more easily started from cuttings than others. Most groundcovers, vines and shrubs are started this way. A few trees and perennials are, as are some annuals. Since seeds are not involved, each of the new plants will be genetically identical to the mother plant. “Hardwood” cuttings are taken during the winter dormant season. “Softwood” cuttings are taken from succulent new growth in late spring. “Semi-hardwood” cuttings are taken from partially matured new growth in the summer. Timing will depend on the type of plant being rooted. Cuttings should be 3 to 6 inches long (again, depending on the type of plant), and they are generally taken from near the terminal ends of healthy, vigorous shoots. Work quickly to prepare the cuttings, stripping the leaves off the bottom 60 percent of each cutting. If you’re trying to root more difficult species you should “wound” the cuttings by removing two thin slivers of external tissue on opposite sides of the bases of the cuttings. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone powder (available from nurseries), tapping off any excess. Stick the cuttings into pots filled with some type of rooting medium, generally half Canadian peat moss and half horticultural grade perlite. Keep them warm and moist and in bright light until they form roots. It usually helps if you cover them with clear plastic such as dry cleaners’ bags to keep the humidity up. It will help greatly if you have a greenhouse with a mist system to maintain 100 percent humidity. Cuttings will root in 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the species, at which point you can dig them carefully and pot them individually.

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