Growing Plants by Stem Cuttings
Plant propagation is an important practice in gardening. Surprisingly, the most popular method of raising new plants is not seed sowing; but stem cutting. Stem cutting is a vegetative way of plant propagation. This quickest and simplest way of cloning a plant is the cheapest and the most convenient method. In stem cutting method new plants maintain the characters of mother plant without showing any variations.
In stem cutting, a healthy vegetative (non-flowering) shoot of a mother plant is cut off, and it is encouraged to form roots. This can be done by putting the shoot in a rooting medium. Once the roots are established, the cutting can be treated as a separate plant and can grow in the desired place.
Plants that grow from stem cuttings:
Ornamental flowering shrubs like Hibiscus, wild Roses, Bougainvillea etc.;
Foliage shrubs like Golden Duranta, Acalypha, Crotons;
Apart from these many herbaceous annuals, climbers and creepers, and hedge plants and many flowering trees like Gliricidia can be grown by stem cuttings. Nurserymen grow native, wild, strong rootstock plants by stem cuttings in polybags for further propagation by grafting or budding.
Types of stem cuttings:
1. Softwood cuttings
The unripe tips of woody plants such as most of the ornamental shrubs and some trees. Softwood cuttings are taken from below a node, and the bottom leaves are removed. Eg. Duranta, Clerodendrum.
2. Herbaceous cuttings
3. Semi-hardwood cuttings
The portions of the stems which are green and hard, but not mature enough. Semi-hardwood cuttings are used for propagation in Jasmine and Hydrangeas. These stem cuttings are 10-15 cm long.
4. Hardwood cuttings
These are cuttings of shrubs and trees taken from mature current year’s woody growth. Hardwood cuttings are 15-30 cm long. In monsoon, even one-meter long hardwood cuttings of Hibiscus, Moringa, Ficus, etc. root quickly when planted out in the open.
5. Terminal cuttings
These are obtained from the tip portion of the shoot.
6. Heel cuttings
These cuttings are lateral shoots pulled off from the stem and contained a portion of the stem.
7. Single or multiple node stem cuttings
When to grow plants from stem cuttings?
Monsoon is a typical season to grow stem cuttings. In most parts of India duration of growing season is from July to September. But, softwood cuttings can be propagated any time during the year. If you are new to gardening and its concepts, then you should kick start it with live plants.
What is rooting medium?
After making a cut, the stem is put in a rooting medium first. Various rooting medium and their combinations have been suggested by various experts. A good rooting medium should be well aerated, but at the same time should hold enough moisture. Different combinations of sharp sand, sandy soil, vermiculite, coco-peat, sphagnum peat, etc. are used.
Steps for stem cutting:
- The stem should be cut in slanting manner with sharp knife or secateurs.
- The exposed tissue at the bottom of the stem should be applied with rooting hormone.
- Use seedling trays or poly bags to add rooting medium.
- Insert the stem inappropriate rooting medium like Sand, Soil or cocopeat.
- Root forms in the stem cutting at the end which is nearest to root of the parent plant and shoot develop at the other end.
- Stem cuttings are inserted in the medium to a depth of 2.3 to 3 cm after removing the bottom leaves.
- About one-third of the length of cutting is in inserted in the soil in case of hardwood cuttings.
- Stem cuttings are raised in partial shade if these are not planted in monsoon.
- Once the roots are formed, and new shoots start to grow, the cutting is removed from rooting medium and is planted in a polybag or pot or directly in the garden.
Please note that in gardening, cutting should not be confused with pruning. You may want to read more about understanding pruning.