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Caring for Cuttings

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Whether you're joining us at a Cutting Swap and you're not sure what's next, or you're just not sure what to do with that cutting your friend gave you, we've got a few tips to ensure propagation success. 


-Use a clean, sharp knife or shears, taking care not to crush the stem as you cut. 

-When taking cuttings of most leafy plants, cut low enough on the stem to leave 3-4 leaf nodes, or sets of leaves, intact. Leaf nodes are the little dark bumps that stick out along the stem. Other plants can be propagated from one leaf, sections of leaves, or by simply dividing new plantlets off of the mother plant, depending on the plant. 

-After making your cut, place cuttings in water immediately, or wrap in a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag. This is not necessary for cuttings that need to callus over, like succulents, cacti, sansevierias, etc.  

Once you have your cuttings ready to propagate in water, you'll need to give them a little care to keep them happy and healthy.

Water Propagation

-Start with a clean vessel, amber (or other dark glass) is helpful since the water will stay algae free longer with protection from light. If you're using clear glass, you'll just need to change the water more frequently. 

-Remove any leaves that will be below the water level once the vessel is filled. Leaves will decompose in the water and affect the health of the cutting. 

-Keep the water in your propagation vessels clean. Changing the water about once a week is usually best. In warm months, you'll also need to top off the water often since evaporation will affect the water level more.

Over time the roots of your cuttings will start to look much more robust, once you have good, hearty roots about 2 inches in length (often after 1-4 months, depending on the plant), you're ready to pot your cutting! 


-Start with an appropriately sized pot- giving a newly rooted plant too much soil (and therefore too much water to use) will lead to root rot and/or a stressed plant. The pot should be just slightly bigger than the space the roots take up. 

-Add water to some potting soil (or growing medium of your choice) until the soil feels moist, but not soggy. 

-Add enough moistened potting soil to pot to raise the root ball to about 1 inch below the top of the pot.

-Fill in the space around the roots with more moistened soil. Lightly press the soil down to ensure the roots are fully surrounded by soil. 

-If your cutting has grown a lot while rooting, you may want to prune again to encourage the plant to branch out. You can use those cuttings to begin the process again. 

-Place your newly potted plant in a spot where it will get light, humidity, etc appropriate for the particular type of plant. 

Propagation is not only a great way to grow or share your plant collection, it also gives an opportunity for much needed pruning of your older plants. You'll be rewarded with both new growth of your older plants, and new plants to pot back into thinning plants, share with friends, or just expand your plant family with.