User Reviewed

How to Grow Cuttings from Established Plants

You can grow more plants from the ones you already have in your garden! It's easy to do and is a great way to increase your plants, especially those that are rare, heritage or expensive.


  1. Image titled Grow Cuttings from Established Plants Step 1
    Choose the plants you wish to grow from a cutting. For example, an herb such as rosemary or lavender, a flower such as rose or any other plant. However, be aware that not all plants will grow from a cutting; a good gardening guide will clarify for you whether or not a plant can be produced through a cutting. If not, you might surprise yourself with what you can achieve just through trial and error and not being too fussed if the plant doesn't take.
  2. 2
    Using sharp garden secateurs (pruners), snip off shoots from the plant. Choose reasonably new but mature growth from the parent plant. Choose a length for the cutting. Generally, cut about 8 to 10 cm/3 to 5 inches for perennial and 15 cm-30 cm/6 to 12 inches for shrubs. Since the size varies according to the plant, you might need to practice some trial and error again. When cutting, unless advised otherwise by advice on the particular plant, cut at a 30 degree angle, leaving the cutting with a point.
    • Small cuttings are best for smaller plants and shrubs, while larger cuttings (called "truncheons") up to a meter or two long and 5-10 cm/2 to 4 inches thick can work best for larger plants such as poplars and mulberries.
    • If in doubt, make the cuttings about 10-20 cm/4 to 8 inches long.
      Image titled Grow Cuttings from Established Plants Step 2
  3. Image titled Grow Cuttings from Established Plants Step 3
    Strip a half to two thirds of leaves from the lower part of the cutting. Be sure to remove the bottom two leaves and pinch off the top pair of leaves too. Remove flower buds because they will suck the nutrition out that the plant needs during the time it is growing new roots.
    • It is best to cut the plant about 1/2 cm-1 cm/1/4 inch to 1/2 inch below a knot (a knot has two small branches or two leaves) because roots tend to grow around and underneath a knot.
  4. Image titled Grow Cuttings from Established Plants Step 4
    Treat the cutting. Treating the cutting gives it a better chance at taking root because it has nutrients to encourage it. Place the cuttings in a weak mixture of water and a seaweed-based liquid fertilizer for a period of 3-4 hours. If possible, put the cuttings under a single fluorescent light. After this, dip the cut end of the cutting in rooting hormone just before planting it.
  5. 5
    Create the rooting medium. Start the cutting in sand, soil, or even just water. Some cuttings actually produce roots better in water than in soil––again, you'll need to either experiment or read up on the specific plant's preferences. Sand is a sort of compromise, but should be treated like water when it comes to adding fertilizer.
    • Use a pencil or a chopstick to create the hole for the cutting to slip into. The cut end should be inserted to a depth of around 2.5-5 cm/1-2 inches, although this is dependent on the length of the cutting.
    • Keep the cuttings out of direct sun.
    • When using water as the planting medium, make it a very dilute fertilizer mixture. Also make certain the plant does not get direct sunlight, as the intense UV rays are hard on the roots. Aside from how well it works, another reason to use water is that you can see what's happening. This is not only fun (and great to involve the kids in), but also allows you to know when the plant is ready, without having to worry about guessing whether roots have developed. Once roots finally start, the rate of their visible growth can be astonishing, noticeably changing even hour to hour.
      Image titled Grow Cuttings from Established Plants Step 5
    • If using garden soil, plant cuttings in a moist well prepared garden bed rich in organic material, with a pH around 5.5 - 6.0 (or you can place them in pots with good potting mix). Space the cuttings so they are about as far apart from each other as the cuttings are long.
      • If using softwood cuttings, take the cutting and stick into moist soil straight in the garden. Simply water them and in a year or two, they'll be growing along with the rest of the garden.
  6. Image titled Grow Cuttings from Established Plants Step 6
    Water well when first planted. Then, keep the cutting moist, but not over watered (try a mister). Success rates can be anything between zero (some plants cannot be rooted from cuttings at all) and 90 percent. Try not to get discouraged if it doesn't take; equally, don't be surprised by initial wilting in the first few days––that's normal.
    • Covering the cuttings with a plastic bag loosely (to allow for continued airflow) can help trap adequate moisture.
    • Trees are the hardest to grow from cuttings, while cactus and succulents are the easiest. Plants with water retaining leaves like lavender and geraniums work almost 100 percent of the time.
  7. Image titled Grow Cuttings from Established Plants Step 7
    Transplant the cuttings to their final growing spot once you're certain they have taken root. With large 'truncheons' of willow, poplar or mulberry, trim a point on the bottom end, and ram the cutting into the ground for three quarters of its length, so that just a small part sticks above ground. This action is best done right where you want the tree to grow; no further action is necessary apart from keeping weeds and plant-eating animals (rabbits, deer, kangaroos, etc.) away.
    • To test for roots, give the cutting a very gentle tug. If you feel resistance, it means that the roots have begun to form and are growing. Don't be rough with this action or you could destroy the cutting.


  • Vines that root easily include:
    • Bittersweet
    • Boston ivy
    • Bottlebrushes
    • Honeysuckles
    • Virginia creeper
    • Wisterias
  • Perennials that take well as cuttings include:
    • Artemesias
    • Bleeding heart
    • Catmints
    • Chrysanthemum
    • Dahlias
    • Dianthus
    • Garden phlox
    • Purple rock cress and other rock cresses
    • Soapwort
    • Turtleheads
    • Veronicas
    • Vinca, periwinkle
  • Trees that root easily from cuttings include:
    • Sweet gum
    • Birches
    • Catalpas
    • Colesium maple
    • Flowering cherries
    • Gingko
    • Goldenrain tree
    • Smoke tree
    • Willows
  • A dab of honey can be used on the cut end of the cutting in place of root growing hormones.
  • Cuttings grow best in spots which are shielded from afternoon sun and excessive wind
  • To increase your success, put a clear plastic bag around the pot and tie at the top. This will increase the moisture and heat. Use a mist sprayer to increase the moisture on the leaves since one third of the moisture of most plants is absorbed through the leaves.
  • Cuttings will grow best in times of low "stress" - such as early spring, or early autumn. This allows the cutting time to establish roots and settle before times of excessive heat or cold, or low moisture.
  • Commercial root growing hormones, such as "Rootex", can be obtained from most nurseries. These provide an excellent booster for the cutting.
  • You should cull out failed cuttings after two to four weeks. The failures will be obviously dead. If the cuttings have remnants of green after this period of time, they will probably succeed in growing into a healthy plant.
  • Buy a two cubic foot bag of potting soil and the good nutrition in the mix will increase your success for planting cuttings.
  • Some cuttings have much better success rates if you have a greenhouse with undersoil heating cables and mist-spraying equipment. These plants are rarely successful for the casual home grower.
  • Plants grow at different rates so it is difficult to judge when it will be OK to transplant - generally leave two to three months if growing in spring/summer, or leave until after the worst of winter if you struck your cuttings in autumn.
  • Shrubs that root easily include:
    • Barberries
    • Brooms
    • Butterfly bush
    • Flowering maple
    • Forsythias
    • Fuchsias
    • Heaths
    • Honeysuckles
    • Hydrangeas
    • Hypericums
    • Mock oranges
    • Potentillas
    • Pyracantha
    • Roses
    • Rose-of-Sharon
    • Spireas
    • Trumpet creeper
    • Viburnums
    • Weigelas


  • Always be considerate of invasive species; avoid producing more cuttings of a plant that is already considered to be a pest in your local environs.
  • Always be cautious when handling potting mix or soil, as pathogens in these mediums can be breathed in or transferred from hand to mouth. Wash your hands thoroughly and if you're in any way immuno-suppressed or susceptible to respiratory problems, wear a mask when handling the soil or potting mix.
  • Do not over water cuttings as this can kill them easily by rotting the wound of the cutting and causing it to die. Honey helps prevent rot if you have dipped the cutting in to it but this still does not mean that you always have the compost wet, keep it moist.
  • Some plants simply won't develop roots from cuttings. After trying a few times, you'll get the hang of which work and which don't.

Things You'll Need

  • Secateurs, garden snips, pruners or similar (ensure the tool used is clean)
  • Rooting hormone
  • Seaweed based fertilizer
  • Water
  • Suitable pots or garden area
  • Planting medium of choice (soil, sand, water, potting mix, etc.)

Sources and Citations

  • Catriona Tudor Erler, The Frugal Gardener, pp. 66-68, (1999), ISBN 0-87596-801-5 – research source and source of the lists of plants that grow well from cuttings.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Planting and Growing