Now is the Season to Take Houseplant Cuttings

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Preparing oleander (Nerium oleander) stems to be rooted.

The cuttings of most plants will root more quickly and more surely when the plant is actively growing. That’s why it’s not a good idea to take cuttings of houseplants during the fall and winter, especially after mid-October. Their growth at that time of year is often reduced or nil and cuttings taken then tend to rot rather than to produce new roots. At best, they languish for months before showing a few timid signs of recovery.

But that was winter. Spring is now upon us, at least as far as houseplants are concerned. Under the influence of lengthening days, they’ve begun to show new growth or will do so very soon. That’s why the best time to take cuttings of most houseplants is from mid-February to the end of August.

Which Plants to Choose?

Almost all houseplants that have a stem can be used to make stem cuttings, palms being the major exception (they can only be multiplied by seeds or division). Philodendrons, spiderworts, ficus, scheffleras, hibiscus, cactus: the choice is yours. There are even plants you can root from leaf cuttings (see the blog Clone a Plant Today Through Leaf Cuttings) although they make up a very small group indeed!

Not Rocket Science

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Remove the lower leaves. At least 2 nodes should be covered with soil.

Propagating plants by stem cuttings is easy. Simply cut a terminal section of stem about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) long, depending on the size of the plant, and remove the lower leaves and any flowers or flower buds. Now insert the cutting up to the second node (bump on the stem where a leaf was once attached) into a small pot filled with moist potting soil. Place the cutting in a bright location but not in full sun. And for the next few weeks, as new roots form, keep the soil at least slightly moist.

When new leaves appear, it’s a sign that the cutting has rooted and is therefore no longer a cutting but a plant. You can then place it in a spot more suitable for its needs, perhaps in brighter light.

Taking cuttings is both interesting and enjoyable: you kind of feel you’re playing God! And if you have children or grandchildren, make sure to do it with them. It’s the sort of experience they’ll absorb like magic. Years later, they’ll still remember how to take cuttings, even though they may have totally forgotten how they learned.

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