Softwood - Hardwood - Semi-Hardwood - Root - Leaf

One of the things that used to be unique to plants was that you could produce a whole new plant from a piece of the original plant. Of course, in recent years, it has been discovered that even animals can be reproduced this way. Oh, well.

Perhaps the most common method of propagating landscape plants is by taking cuttings. It can be as simple as lopping a leaf off a plant, sticking it into a moist media and, presto, roots appear. However, all (perhaps most) plants don't respond so easily. That is why several different types of cuttings have been developed.

The key challenge to success with cuttings is to keep them from drying out. Care must be taken to keep them in a moist environment at all times during the process. This can be easy in some cases but more difficult (and expensive) in others.

Roots form on stems, leaves and other plant parts as a result of hormone activity. Again, there is a wide range of responses in the plant world. Some cuttings will take root just by being stuck in a moist media. Others will need to be supplemented by the application of one of many different plant hormones used to stimulate root growth. In tough cases, varies mixtures and strengths of rooting hormones must be devised for successful rooting to occur. For more on rooting hormones used in propagation...

Taking cuttings is an asexual method of reproduction. Therefore, the plants produced by this method are genetically exactly the same as the original plant, also known as a clone. This is why such plants, if they are a named cultivar, will be "true to type" and may keep the same name. When you buy a Phlox 'White Admiral' that was reproduced by root cuttings, you can be assured that it will have exactly the same characteristics as the mother plant.

1. Softwood (Herbaceous) Cuttings - This is a type of stem cutting in which plant growth from the current season are used. These stems are soft and lush tissue which will usually result in quick rooting. Generally, no rooting hormones are needed in this process.

2. Hardwood (Dormant) Cuttings - In this case, the term "hardwood" applies to deciduous plants during the time when they do not have leaves. Such cuttings are taken during the winter months. Generally, these will require the use of rooting hormones. However, it has been discovered over time that certain species respond best to this type of cutting.

3. Semi-Hardwood (Evergreen) Cuttings - Millions of new yews (Taxus) are created every year through this type of cutting. Since they must have foliage i.e. needles attached, this type of cutting usually requires an automated misting system to prevent them from drying out before roots develop.

4. Root Cuttings - Phlox and a number of other perennials may be started from root cuttings. The key to this type of propagation is to keep the cuttings in their proper orientation. That is, the top of the root needs to be up and the bottom of the root needs to be down when placed in the media.

5. Leaf Cuttings - This is most commonly done with plants such as Rex Begonias or Sanseverias where a part of the leaf tissue is kept in contact with moist media. Eventually, roots develop and new plants emerge.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


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