Starting plants from cuttings is a great way to increase your plant collection. Also, plants grown from cutting will be just like their parents, whereas seeds may develop into plants very differs from their parents.
# Leaf Cuttings
Succulents or fleshy-leaved plants are best for this type of propagation. With a razor blade, cleanly cut firm, healthy leaves from the parent plant.
There are 3 ways to root leaves in a sand and peat mixture. Gesneriad leaves can be buried in a rooting medium up to the leaf blade; firm the medium around them. Don’t let the leaves touch each other as they could rot.
Long, thin succulent leaves, like those of mother-in-law’s tongue, can be cut into sections about 3-4 inches deep, and rooted in the same manner. Begonia plants can be started from leaf pieces that include vein sections. Either inserts a piece of the leaf about an inch into the medium or slash across the veins and lay the leaf on top of the medium; hold it securely in place with pebbles.
Leaf cuttings should not be rooted where the humidity is too high — diseases can infect succulent leaves easily in damp conditions. To stimulate root formation and growth, water the rooting medium with a mixture of vitamin B-1 and water after leaf cuttings are inserted.
Starting new plants from cuttings can be very fulfilling. But don’t overdo it; it’s easy to be completely overrun by tiny new plants in small containers.
# Softwood Cuttings
You can take these new-growth cuttings from late spring well into summer, beginning as soon as spring growth is firm and sturdy. In choosing cuttings, look for normal healthy growth; avoid both fat and spindly branches. Softwood cuttings root best if you can snap them off cleanly from the parent plant. If they crush or bend, the wood is too old. If new leaves are still forming at the tip, the branch is too young for a cutting. Keep all cuttings cool and damp (not wet) until you can plant them.
To start softwood cuttings, fill your propagation tray with a mixture of one part clean, sharp river sand and one part pre-moistened peat moss. Place an opened container of rooting hormone next to the propagation tray. Take the cuttings, one at a time, from their moist wrapping and make a clean, slanting cut with a razor blade or sharp knife just below a leaf or bud. Strip off lower leaves so only the stem will be buried in the rooting medium. If the remaining upper leaves are very large, snip off about half of each leaf with scissors. Dip the stem in the rooting hormone. Make a hole in the rooting mixture with a pencil and set in the cutting; firm the soil around the stem.
Softwood cuttings will root much more easily if you provide bottom heat, keeping the temperature between 70° and 80° F in the rooting medium. Place the cuttings out of direct sunlight where the atmosphere around the leaves is moist and warm — so the upper parts of the cutting do not dry out. You may put a plastic bag over the cuttings to retain moisture (remove it for an hour or so once a day to get rid of any condensation).
# Hardwood Cuttings
Deciduous shrubs and trees can be grown from cuttings taken in autumn, after the leaves have fallen but before the first frost. Cut off the tip of a selected branch at a point where it becomes about pencil thick. Discard the tip and cut off the next 6 to 9-inch section that includes at least two leaf buds; the end near the trunk should be cut on a slant just below a bud. Be sure to label each cutting, then store them upright in a container of sand until spring; during this time the cut ends will callus over.
Since these cuttings may take up to a year to root, you’ll want to start them in an out-of-the-way spot where they won’t be disturbed. Apply rooting hormone. Then set the cuttings in rooting medium (half sand, half peat moss) up to the upper pair of buds, spacing the cuttings about 4 inches apart. When the cuttings have rooted and show enough sturdy growth, you can move them to their permanent spot. Keep them shaded until they become established and begin to grow.
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