Taking plant cuttings is a rewarding and simple way to propagate many plants. However, there are a few common mistakes that can prevent your cuttings from rooting successfully. These mistakes include using unclean tools, using the wrong type of potting soil, providing too much or too little water or sun, and using offcuts from sick or flowering plants. By learning about these mistakes, you can avoid them and successfully take cuttings to grow new plants for free.
Propagating outdoor plants through cuttings is a reliable and easy method that can be done throughout the year. However, to ensure successful rooting and growth, it’s essential to avoid the most common mistakes.
Here are some of the common errors to avoid:
1. Taking cuttings at the wrong time of year
Cuttings need to be taken when plants are actively growing, otherwise, they won’t root properly. Spring, summer, and fall are the three main times of the year for taking cuttings.
In spring, take softwood cuttings from the new growth of the year. These cuttings root and grow quickly, and may even provide new plants for the garden by the end of summer.
In summer, take semi-ripe cuttings from the current year’s growth that has started to ripen or harden off. These cuttings take longer to grow than softwood cuttings and may need to be overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse or a cool, bright room.
In fall, take hardwood cuttings from healthy ripened new wood that has grown throughout the spring and summer. These cuttings take time to grow and may not be ready to pot on until the following fall, but they are worth the wait.
Choosing the wrong time of year for taking cuttings is also a common houseplant propagation mistake to avoid.
2. Using dirty and blunt tools
If you want to take cuttings successfully, make sure to use clean and sharp tools and the right compost. Dirty and blunt tools may damage the plant material and cause it to rot, while unsuitable compost may not provide the right environment for rooting.
Blunt tools can crush the plant material and increase the chances of rotting. Dirty tools can transfer diseases that can harm the cuttings. Always clean and sharpen your pruning shears, garden knife, or scissors before taking cuttings. And don’t forget to clean them thoroughly after use.
To sharpen your tools, use a sharpening stone like this double-sided sharpener available on Amazon. You can also disinfect your tools by wiping the blades with a general household disinfectant. By using clean and sharp tools and taking proper care of them, you can increase your chances of success when taking plant cuttings.
3. Cutting the wrong bit of plant
A common error when taking plant cuttings is choosing the wrong part of the plant to use. Simply cutting the plant wherever you like won’t produce the best results. Instead, you should remove a length of plant material just below a leaf node where the hormones are concentrated to encourage strong root growth.
However, it’s important to strip away the lowest leaves to prevent them from rotting when in contact with damp compost. Even with the leaves removed, the hormones will still be present to aid healthy growth.
4. Using the wrong compost
Ensuring the right soil for your cuttings is crucial, as it can make or break their growth. Delicate, thin roots form when cuttings begin to take root. If the potting soil is too strong, it can damage these roots, stunting their growth or even killing them.
For best results, use a seed potting soil like Hoffman Seed Starter Planting and Potting Mix, available on Amazon. This specialized soil provides emerging roots with just the right balance of nutrients. When it’s time to pot your growing cuttings, this soil is also a great option.
To promote strong root development, mix seed potting soil with perlite or vermiculite, both of which can be found on Amazon. These granular materials help to improve drainage and airflow around the roots, preventing waterlogging and promoting healthy growth.