After my last post on pelargoniums, several people asked me how to take stem cuttings of favorite plants for the greenhouse or to grow indoors.
First you need good light.
Well, dear readers, I always endeavor to help so this is how I take stem cuttings from plants I want to overwinter in my greenhouse. I don’t think you’ll have enough light to just grow cuttings in a window, but you could grow them under lights indoors. Here is how you grow your own transplants from seed which is similar to growing root cuttings under lights.
Soft stem cuttings versus other types of cuttings.
You can grow transplants from other kinds of cuttings besides using soft stem cuttings. In fact, there are leaf cuttings, root cuttings, single-node cuttings, and stem cuttings. I have the most success with stem cuttings and root cuttings. The ones we’re discussing here are soft stem cuttings. Hard stem cuttings have a slightly different method, but I’ve also done them when I wanted another favorite rose for the garden.
Decide which plants you want to overwinter.
First, I decide which tropical plants and other perennials I want to increase in the garden or have again for next year. You can save a lot of money by growing some of your own plants. With the right equipment, it isn’t that difficult.
Out in the garden, I cut several stem cuttings from various plants. On many plants like begonias, you can also do leaf cuttings, but they seem to take forever, and I’m not that patient. I want to see some growth before the season is over, and winter’s cold chill takes out my tropical plants.
Why I grow so many tropical plants.
I grow a lot of tropical plants in my garden. Here’s why. Tropical plants, although they must be replaced each spring, give a lot of bang for your garden buck. They don’t take three years to establish as perennials do, and they love our summer heat. Many of them, including certain late-blooming salvias and false vervain, are wonderful nectar plants for late summer pollinators when other long-blooming perennials have quit flowering. Plus, tropical plants are a summer garden’s best friend. Tropical plants also figure into my winter gardening because they comprise some of my favorite indoor blooms and other houseplants.
Gather your cuttings and bring them indoors.
I gather up the stem cuttings and bring them indoors where I prep them for the greenhouse. It’s better if I already have pots filled with potting soil ready to receive the cuttings. You don’t want the cuttings to dry out. Use a fine quality potting soil. I like to reuse four-inch pots. Before reusing, disinfect the containers in a ten percent bleach solution to kill off bugs and bacteria. Fill the pots with good quality potting soil and wet down the soil.
Prep yours cuttings for their new home.
Snip off extra leaves from the stem to decrease the amount of water that comes from the leaves. I leave the small leaves on top but remove larger leaves.
Once I snip off the leaves, I like to have a stem with an axillary bud. This is the spot where leaves meet the stem, and it’s a great place for the plant to form roots. I place the stem into the potting soil so that the axillary bud is beneath the potting soil. In fact, I place the cutting so that the two leaves aren’t very far above the soil.
Dip the cutting into rooting hormone.
My favorite rooting hormone is HydroDynamics Clonex rooting gel. There are also hormone rooting powders, but they don’t stick to the stems as well as the gel. I had a lot more success once I switched from rooting powder to rooting gel.
Don’t leave the rooting hormone in the hot greenhouse after using. Instead, bring it indoors where it will stay cool. Even in early fall, greenhouses can get quite hot.
Now, stick the cutting down into the potting soil. I pulled this one back up out of the soil to show you how the gel sticks to the cutting surface, and the potting soil sticks to the gel.
Once you place your cuttings in potting soil, firm up the soil around the stem making good contact between the potting soil and plant.
Top off your little cuttings with grit.
I love the pink granite chicken grit I buy at feed and seed stores like Tractor Supply. You can also find grit on Amazon. Be sure to buy layer grit and not the smaller grit for baby chicks. You can also use rocks from Lowe’s, but I save gravel for larger plants.
Why use grit?
Grit keeps the top layer next to the plant stem dry, and there is less rot. I also think it inhibits some of the bugs because they don’t see that moist, soft layer of potting soil. They also don’t seem to like to crawl around in grit.
After you place the grit around the seedlings, water everything really well until water runs out of the bottom of the containers.
Water your cuttings every three or four days. You want the potting soil to remain moist, but not overwatered. You may lose a few cuttings but just replace them. It’s no big deal.
That’s all there is to it. Your little plants will grow and then stop once the days grow shorter. After the winter solstice, your plants will again begin growing. You can then take further cuttings from your own robust plants to increase their numbers before spring.
I hope this little tutorial helps you grow your own plants from cuttings. It’s a fun and economical way to make more plants.
This is my October bloom day post for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day hosted by Carol Michel. Carol and I also have a new Gardenangelists’ podcast episode this week on buying yellow mums and happiness.
Happy October everyone!
Rooting gel? I think I need to look for some of that. I have my best success with taking cuttings and sticking them in the ground in a sheered place. Of course that only applies to certain plants. And layering. For some reason I can spend a lot of time doing cuttings, even putting grit on the top and they always go mouldy. Ntoi sure how to stop that from happening.
Jenny Young says
Thank you for such a detailed post! This is very helpful.
I’d love to see more through the winter, maybe updates on how they’re doing.
I don’t have a greenhouse, sadly. But we’re in the process of rebuilding a pump house on our property where my husband stores tools. I’ll have one west wall with one large window & I hope to use it next winter for overwintering plants by hanging a grow light.
I’d love to see more posts like this on overwintering.
Dee Nash says
Hi Jenny, I’m glad you found it helpful. Having some type of light is essential. They don’t have to be grow lights. You can use regular fluorescent lights. They work too. However, if you have that is on the red spectrum and another on the green, it’s even better. Good luck. ~~Dee
Wonderful post, Dee! I love taking cuttings and do it quite frequently, but you’ve shared some tips here that are certain to increase my success. I love the idea of the grit. British gardeners are always talking about using grit. Do you ever mix it into your potting medium? I’m also interested in your potting soil: do you make your own? And if you do, are you willing to share the recipe? I’ve had trouble starting tiny seeds like campanula. The roots don’t seem to be able to get a purchase into the potting medium, even though it is a germination mix. I’ve experimented with using half potting soil, half vermiculite and that seems to work a bit better. Any recommendations you have will be greatly appreciated! I love your posts! Keep up the good work!! (PS your address request below doesn’t accept .farm as a URL, but I assure you, it IS one — I’ve had it for years! 🙂
Dee Nash says
Hi Laura, I don’t usually mix grit into my potting soil. Honestly, good potting soils have everything we need. Occasionally, I buy cactus soil which is grittier, but most things I grow just use regular potting soil. I like several brands, one of my favorites is Happy Frog. Your email address came through just fine too. Good luck with your campanula seeds. ~~Dee
Arun Goyal says
Lovely explanation. I will definitely try this procedure in upcoming spring.It would be my pleasure if you join my link up party related to Gardening here http://jaipurgardening.blogspot.com/2020/10/garden-affair-fruit-harvest.html
Dee Nash says
Hi Arun and thank you for the invite. I’m sorry I missed the link party. It looks fab.~~Dee
ginny talbert says
A good tutorial, Dee, thanks! Usually I do coleus cuttings, and have this year too, but have also collected coleus seed heads to try them from seed next spring. Fingers crossed!
Dee Nash says
Ginny, I bet your coleus seeds will work great too. Sometimes, they reseed in the garden for me.~~Dee