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Propagating Plants with Stem Cuttings

May 7th, 2010

I’m a thrifty gardener. I like save money in any way I can, so I use material I can find in my local area (like all those rocks), mix my own potting mix, make compost, collect leaves, and pretty much anything that will help save me money when it comes to gardening. One thing saves me a bundle is propagating my own plants.

Spring is when I’m busy propagating plants for the new garden areas. Most perennials can be propagated either by saving seed, dividing them when they’re mature, or taking root or stem cuttings. My favorite way to propagate plants is by stem cuttings, it really couldn’t be any easier.

I’m using a catmint plant for this demonstration. Catmint is one of the workhorses in my garden, I find myself propagating tons of these and using them everywhere.

Fill some pots with soil mix or vermiculite then water and poke a hole it in with a pencil. You want the holes so that the rooting hormone doesn’t get wiped off when you put the cutting in it. I like to use my own mix of 50% peat and 50% medium vermiculite, sometimes I use 100% vermiculite (you can use perlite instead of vermiculite, I’m just not a fan of perlite feels too much like styrofoam for my liking).

Take some stem cuttings from the plant you want to propagate, make sure it’s new growth (unless you’re doing hard wood cuttings for things like hydrangeas and boxwoods). I like to cut pieces that are 3-6 inches long. You can to cut a centimeter or two below a leaf node, then strip off the lowest leaves. Roots will form from these nodes, so you want to make sure you have at least one of these under the soil level.

Dip the stem into rooting hormone making sure to get some on the nodes. Then insert the cutting into the pot and press the soil gently around the cutting. (make sure to not breathe rooting hormone and wash hands thoroughly when finished, or order natural rooting powder from Richter’s – I’ll be getting some when I use up this bottle of rooting hormone)

Place tray of cuttings in a sheltered location and keep well watered and if desired covered with plastic or a dome (I don’t always cover mine I just mist with water). I like to keep mine in a tray and water from below and mist the leaves frequently to keep leaves moist. Make sure they’re in a shaded location or in the garage by a bright but not too sunny window, if they get too much sun the plants will lose too much water or cook under the plastic. Right now I have all kinds of trays of cuttings in various sheltered spots around the garden and in the garage. At the moment, I’m trying to propagate: lemongrass, dumb cane, hydrangeas, viburnum, clematis, boxwood, black elderberry, salvia, sedum, thyme, kennelworth ivy, and catmint.

Remember to propagate more plants than you think you want, you’ll have some that don’t survive. I usually have a 75-80% success rate depending on the type of plant. Some plants propagate better than others, so don’t get discouraged if you fail. Try again with a different kind of plant. Sedums, catmint, hydrangeas are pretty much no-fail when it comes to propagation.

Do you or have you propagated plants for your gardens?

19 Comments to “Propagating Plants with Stem Cuttings”
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susy Morris. Susy Morris said: Propagating with Stem Cuttings #miscellaneus #frugalgardening #propagatingplants […]

    Reply to Tweets that mention Propagating Perennials with Stem Cuttings | Chiot’s Run —'s comment

  2. Seren Dippity on May 7, 2010 at 9:49 am

    There are some plants I can’t conceive of actually paying money for! Pothos Ivy for one, actually almost any type of Ivy. And its not always just economy that drives it (although it is always a good thing!) Some times the satisfaction of growing a plant from a start given to you by a friend is much greater than buying a full grown version of the same plant! I have purchased an occasional (unusual) african violet before, but I much prefer starting from a leaf cutting. The ADVENTURE! The SUSPENSE!

    Reply to Seren Dippity's comment

  3. Bertie on May 7, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I saw instructions for how to make your own rooting hormone. Maybe you would find this interesting.

    Reply to Bertie's comment

  4. MAYBELLINE on May 7, 2010 at 10:22 am

    This is an excellent lesson.
    I look forward to learning grafting.
    .-= MAYBELLINE´s last blog ..Summer Crops – Part III =-.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  5. David in Kansas on May 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I think it’s safe to say all of my Mom’s plants were done from cuttings! She can make any twig grow. I have not had much success but then i have to admit I gave up too soon. Thanks for this post!
    .-= David in Kansas´s last blog ..First Tomato of 2010! =-.

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  6. Dave on May 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I have to say propagating plants is my favorite garden activity! Perennials, shrubs, trees, and herbs are all fun to root. Like you said it’s not hard. Catmint roots very well. In some cases I’ve just stuck a cutting in the soil and let it root in place. Right now I have salvias, Russian sage, Husker’s Red Penstemon, hydrangeas and several other things rooting. You forgot to warn that propagating plants is addictive!
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Propagating Rosemary in Water (The Herbs) =-.

    Reply to Dave's comment

    • Susy on May 7, 2010 at 9:17 pm

      Yes, very addictive. You’ll never want to buy a plant again. It’s even more fun when you can get cutting from another gardener and give cuttings away!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Lisa on May 7, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I’m fairly new to this blog, so perhaps you’ve discussed it in the past, but what do you do with your workhorse catmint? I’ve not grown it before and am intrigued.

    Reply to Lisa's comment

    • Elizabeth Davis on May 7, 2010 at 8:28 pm

      Lisa, I’m with you…I want to know what to do with the workhorse catmint! I have never growth this, but have passed it up a few times, because I wasn’t sure of it’s value.

      Please tell in more detail the benefits of catmint.

      I know that catnip and mint both have wonderful benefits as companion plants and allies for a lot of vegetables in the garden for retarding undesirable pests and attracting good, beneficial insects. Is catmint the same? What exactly is catmint?

      I, too, love to propagate my own plants. I have been successful this spring in propagating sage by simply inserting a cutting into the soil like Dave. It takes a while for the root system to develop, but if you do it in early spring, it will have the whole growing season to get robust.

      Reply to Elizabeth Davis's comment

      • Susy on May 7, 2010 at 9:24 pm

        Catmint is a wonderfully beneficial plant in the garden. The bees LOVE it. It blooms early in the spring and can be cut back so it will rebloom in the fall, supplying a nice source of both early and late food for the beneficial insects. Because of this it attracts tons of beneficial insects to your gardens.

        It’s a nice looking plant for the entire season, it doesn’t get leggy or ugly like some other plants (I have Walker’s low catmint and want to get a few other varieties soon). Mine almost look like a flowering hedge, each plant has a nice rounded shape that’s quite lovely. When planted en masse, they form a beautiful light purple/silver drift of soft flowers and foliage.

        It is also a nice thick plant so it’s really great at shading out weeds in a perennial bed. I never have to weed around these plants.

        It is said to deter cabbage moths, which worked well for me last year in the garden. The cabbage & broccoli I had by a few catmint plants never got a worm on them, while the others in other parts of the garden had loopers.

        It’s easy to propagate and grows to maturity quickly, so I can propagate a plant one spring and by the next spring it’s almost a mature plant. This is great when you want to add a new flowerbed that you want to look full and mature very soon. You can always fill spaces with catmint that you want to later have other plants it, just take them out when the other plants mature more.

        It lasts and lasts, some perennials are short-lived and only live for 3-5 seasons, not catmint. I’ve had mine for many years and they just look better and better.

        They can take pretty much any kind of soil and a little shade (although they’re not as compact with some shade). I have some planted in dry sandy areas and some in clay wet areas, they do well in both.

        These are a few of the reasons I LOVE catmint in the garden!
        You can dry it for tea and bring it inside for your cats.

        to Susy's comment

  8. Lynn on May 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I have a Rosa Banksiae Rose cutting that seems to be doing pretty good.

    Reply to Lynn's comment

  9. Miranda on May 7, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for another great reminder. Pretty much all my planting areas are full, but once the wildflowers subside i may want to propagate a new lantana and salvia to fill in the space. You can do this without rooting hormone with some success as well, can’t you? i know my jade plants readily propagate just by pinching off a branch and shoving it in some dirt.
    .-= Miranda´s last blog ..The Curse of the Cayenne =-.

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  10. meg on May 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I have been taking cuttings for a while to propogate but have been somewhat successful. The post is what I needed to step it up a notch and use some rooting hormone & put it in better soil.
    I am usually doing some pruning and just stick the end in the ground.
    Sometimes works, sometimes not.

    Reply to meg's comment

  11. Morgan G on May 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I gave seed saving a go last year and it didn’t go so well. This seems like it requires less patience; which may mean there’s hope for my propagating future yet! Thank you, Susy!
    .-= Morgan G´s last blog ..SX-70 Modified; Polaroids to Prove It =-.

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  12. mary on May 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I have propagated geraniums, mona lavender, wandering jew, and some others with success. Other plants I have tried, even roses and have not had any success. I am wondering if you have ever tried to propagate hydrangeas and if you would have any tips?

    Reply to mary's comment

    • Susy on May 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm

      Hydrangeas are super easy to propagate. I usually have almost 100% success with them. I often take starts just like this for hydrangeas, only I usually cut half of the leaves off (cut each leaf in half crossways, this helps the stem retain moisture).

      One super easy way to propagate them is to bend a stem down to the ground and put a stone over it about halfway or 3/4 of the way out towards the tip. Next spring that tip will be it’s own plant with roots forming where the stone was over the stem.

      I’ve also easily propagated them in my compost pile. I put the pruned branches in the bottom of the pile and when I harvest the compost the next spring the branches have rooted.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. melissa on May 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    impatiens can be propagated simply by putting a cutting in some water for a few weeks (no rooting hormone required) so I try to do a bunch of those and give them as gifts each year. SO easy.
    .-= melissa´s last blog ..2010 garden update =-.

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  14. We Have Roots | Chiot's Run on December 4, 2010 at 4:47 am

    […] talked about propagating your own plants back this spring and did a little how-to with some photos. Early this summer I got some boxwood cutting from a friend. He has a beautiful old shrub, very […]

    Reply to We Have Roots | Chiot’s Run's comment

  15. Miranda on April 27, 2011 at 9:43 am

    FINALLY starting some cuttings today!!! Thanks for this great tutorial. I’ll be following your advice. I’m starting a ton of the smaller celled seed trays though, and don’t have trays enough to lay underneath for bottom watering. I also have no good places to keep them, so with me luck!

    Reply to Miranda's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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