My general impression of taking cuttings has always been that to make it work you had to cut a bit off a plant, stick it in water on a windowsill until it grew roots and then chuck it in a pot. Except that never, EVER worked for me (except with succulents, which you have to be seriously trying to sabotage for them not to grow). So I decided that growing things from cuttings is a skill that only magicians can do, and every time I wanted a cutting from a plant I got my personal magician (Grandma) to do it for me. My Grandma is 84, and I am 25. I decided it was high time I learnt how to do this myself. Plus, who doesn’t love FREE PLANTS.
You will need:
Secateurs or scissors
A chopstick (trust me)
[**From Catherine: Some plants will strike from cuttings much more easily than others. Good ones to try are pentas, plectranthus, geranium (properly called pelargonium), begonia and salvia. Cuttings will also strike more easily during warmer weather]
Water the plants you intend on using the day before
Fill your pots with potting mix and water the mix so it’s really moist
1. Once you have picked your plant, take a good chunk off it (roughly 20 centimetres) with your secateurs. Try to take the healthiest, happiest looking bit of the plant.
Getting the next bit right is all about the knobbly bits, otherwise known as leaf nodes. No matter what kind of plant you are using they will all have knobbly bits and this is what you use as the guide on how to shape your cutting.
2. Make your first cut UNDERNEATH a knobbly bit as shown.
This will become the base of your plant where the roots will come from.
3. To help the roots to sprout, take your secateurs and slice diagonally along the side of the cutting at the bottom.
This works because…….[Catherine: Just under the surface of the leaf node is a layer of cells called cambium. Cambium cells are a bit like human stem cells in that they can turn into other types of cells, like roots, in different environments. If you gently scrape the bottom of the cutting next to the leaf node, you expose more cambium so that it will more easily grow into roots]
4. Trim your cutting. If your cutting has a flower, chop it off (devastating I know, but at least you can put it in a vase).
Cut the leaves back so there are only a few sets remaining. Make sure you leave at least two or three knobbly bits, and chop the rest. Your cutting will now be about half its original size.
[Catherine: you need to chop of some of the leaves so your cutting doesn’t lose too much moisture. Plants lose water from their leaves, and it hasn’t got any roots yet to suck up more]
5. Using the chopstick, make a small hole in the potting mix about 5 centimetres deep and pop the base of your cutting into the hole. Use the chopstick to press the potting mix around the base of the cutting so that it is firmly wedged in the soil.
6. WATER, WATER, WATER. This, as I am slowly learning, is the key to keeping things alive. Water your cuttings as soon as they’re in and position somewhere in part sun and part shade.
7. Keep an eye on them. Cuttings are like newborns – they need constant attention. You need to water them and check them every day. They may need less sun. Or, like mine, they may get slugs on them (eeeeeeew)! Slugs like dark, damp places, so move them into a lighter, brighter area. They also hate caffeine, so putting used coffee grounds around the base of your cutting will help to get rid of them (thanks Elizabeth Swane for that cheap and natural trick!).
8. Get excited….if you are patient and dedicated enough you will end up with beautiful free plants! The jury’s still out on whether I will ‘make the cut’ (ha!) – stay tuned.