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Free Plants from Easy Cuttings – How to Snip ‘n’ Stick

Cuttings are Free!

Leyland cypress semi-ripe cuttings taken the summer before.
Leyland cypress semi-ripe cuttings taken the summer before.

Once you realize a little snip off a plant can create a whole new one, your garden possibilities are limitless – and free!

Whether you’ve seen a plant you love in your neighbor’s garden or want to buy only one and grow many, knowing when and how to snip can be the key to creating paradise. When I began gardening, I’d wished all books were written in simple language. Why not have codes like cookbooks, with the degree of difficulty stated? Well, this is just such an article. No Cupressocyparis leylandii (Latin/Greek names) here.

Although most plants can be propagated using various methods, cuttings are from the “easy” category. Raising trees from seed or layering is slow, grafting is better, and root division guarantees a new plant, but you might need to help your neighbor dig and divide.

With this in mind, I’ve snipped for simplicity and give you everything you need to know here!

Easy Pickin's!

How to Start a Plant With Leaves and Vines

  • Whole leaf cuttings can be taken any season. Cut healthy, mature leaves from the parent plant close to the base of the leaf stalk. Slightly nick the veins at intervals since the new plantlets form at the cut surfaces of large leaf veins.
  • For African violets and succulents like aloe, snip ‘n’ stick on equal parts peat and coarse sand so each cut just touches the surface.
  • For begonias, geraniums, and vines, snip ‘n’ stick on same as above, adding a bit of nutrients and soil.

Whole Leaf Cutting Process

Starting With Stem Cuttings

  • Start softwood cuttings in spring to early summer from new growth. Use stem tip cuttings from healthy, close-noded shoots about 4–6 in/10-15 cm long. Should be soft and almost succulent—if bent they will snap or squash if pressed.
  • Trim each cutting just below a node; remove its lower leaves. It will root within two weeks on average.
  • For basil, boxwood, carnation/pink, coleus, dogwood, geranium, ginkgo, hop (from female tips), hyssop, ivy, Japonica/flowering quince (lateral shoots), mulberry, sage, spider plants, plum/cherry/ peach (Prunus), thyme, and witch hazel: Snip ‘n’ stick in water with a piece of wire netting over the jar and the stem about 1 – 2 “ deep.
  • Note: With all herbs, the more you use, prune, or divide them, the quicker they grow. Once you let the flowers mature and go to seed, they stop.

Softwood Cutting Process

Pruning: How to Get Your Neighbor to Say Yes to Clippings

For anise tree, bay laurel, boxwood, camphor tree/cinnamon, clematis, frankincense, gardenia, grape, honeysuckle, jasmine, lavender, lemon, lemon balm, leyland cypress – and in late summer, magnolia, mint, morning glory, myrtle, nightshade, olive, oregano, passionflower, pepper tree, periwinkle, pistachio, rosemary, sage, thyme, wax myrtle, plum/cherry/peach, and shrubs:

Greenwood Cuttings: early to mid-summer from slightly more mature wood (when growth begins to slow). These cuttings root less readily but survive better than softwood cuttings for gardenia.

Semi-Ripe Cuttings: take the shoots or ripened stems (thickened and harder) mid to late summer through fall. These are less prone to wilting since the stems are firmer and woody. Cuttings will bend without snapping and not crush. Have your pot ready with holes poked in the soil for transplanting. Be very careful not to leave the little shoots exposed to drying or the sun – retaining their moisture is important.

Snip, Trim, Dip ‘n’ Stick in Earth: trim off a few of the bottom leaves and dip in rooting compound which protects the new plant from disease.

Where to Cut a Stem

Showing "Heel"

Hardwood Cuttings: Take these at the end of the growing season from fall through spring when the tissues are fully ripened/fully mature. They are easiest to maintain in a healthy condition but are often slow to root and best if taken with a heel. Snip, trim, dip, ‘n’ stick in earth with added perlite, sphagnum moss, or peat and sand for caper bush, currant, elder, grape, honeysuckle, jojoba, mulberry, nutmeg, poplar, roses, fig, willows, or leafless deciduous and broad-leaved or glossy-leaved evergreens such as holly and rhododendrons (waxy leaves develop slowly and wilt easily when younger).

Hardwood Cutting Process

Root Cuttings

Take these mid to late autumn or in early spring. They'll work best if taken from a plant when it is most dormant. While it is easier for a root cutting to develop shoots than a stem cutting to form roots, not all root cuttings develop as readily. Root cuttings from variegated plants will have only plain green leaves.

Select plants with thick roots (about as thick as a regular pencil). You can use thinner cuttings but make them much longer than the ideal pencil width and 2-4 in/5-10cm in length. Thinner cuttings will do better if placed horizontally rather than upright for herbs.

Root Division

courtesy of the Victory Garden Essential Companion
courtesy of the Victory Garden Essential Companion

Divide and Multiply

Dividing the roots is the easiest method of all and most commonly used.

  • The secret of successful division is always to have more root than shoot, to cut away excess foliage, and to keep the divisions moist and sheltered until established.
  • Divide plants in late summer or early spring (when it's warm and mild) every 3-4 years, after flowering, when growth is minimal.
  • Don’t allow roots to dry out. New divisions should be replanted immediately. You can wash the roots to make it easier to disentangle them for complete division.
  • Snip, trim, dip, ‘n’ stick in same earth or add nutrients to starter soil with a little of the same earth it came from.
  • This method works for cardamom (seeds in autumn), cattail (subject to statutory control – Australia), comfrey, iris, goldenrod, fennel, French tarragon, ginger, hop (spring only), hostas, Jacob’s ladder, lemon balm, licorice, lovage, mint, oregano, periwinkle, rhubarb, sage, tansy, thyme, trillium (by seed can take up to 3 years!), valerian (remove flowers to encourage rhizome growth), and wasabi.

Watching Your Snips Grow Is Amazing!

As the cuttings of my Leyland Cypress grew....
As the cuttings of my Leyland Cypress grew....
...and grew...
...and grew...
...and grew! :)
...and grew! :)

Starting With Suckers

  1. Not all plants need lifting to separate them. Many produce new plantlets around the parent.
  2. Dig these up and remove in spring, which helps the parent retain its shape.
  3. Scrape back the soil, exposing the base of the plant and carefully pulling off the long suckering root where it joins the parent.
  4. Cut back its main root to just below the fibrous feeding roots. If there are several shoots on the sucker, divide the main root so that each shoot has its own roots. Cut back the top growth by about half, then pot each sucker in soil-based potting mix, and allow to root in high humidity – 59F/15C.
  5. Some (like strawberries) produce rooted runners, while other perennials produce mats of individual rosettes. Lift a mat and pull it apart gently or lift just a few from the edge, then replant. The absolute easiest I’ve found are herbs that have rhizomes or creeping roots.
  6. You can cut, snip, and stick pretty much anywhere, and if you keep them moist, they’re bound to grow.

The Latin/Greek terms do come in handy when looking for very specific plants. The little cuttings I planted of Cupressocyparis leylandii/Leyland Cypress are doing well. Cuttings really are easy and I wish you the best in creating your paradise!

Give your plants 24 hours notice - it helps :)

Of course, it would be better to converse with care and love :)
Of course, it would be better to converse with care and love :)

All Cutting Types and Additional Process photos

Cutting Types courtesy of "Plant Propagation"
Cutting Types courtesy of "Plant Propagation"
1 - Softwood cutting courtesy of "the complete Container Garden"
1 - Softwood cutting courtesy of "the complete Container Garden"
2 - Semi-ripe cutting. Please note VERY sharp knife/scissors - they make a difference
2 - Semi-ripe cutting. Please note VERY sharp knife/scissors - they make a difference

Comments 29 comments

oscarmecp4 profile image

oscarmecp4 7 years ago from South Africa

You got a good hub here and I going to try out your skills


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Oscarmecp4 - you'll love it I'm sure! It's so much fun to get lots of plants for free. These days, who wants to pay $4.00 for someone else to make a little snip?

Enjoy - and thanks for stopping by.


ajcor profile image

ajcor 7 years ago from NSW. Australia

a really informative hub SEM Pro - have bookmarked it for future reference....cheers


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks ajcor! I like being able to have all pertinent info in one spot so I've written some hubs where I too, don't have to keep looking through over a dozen books to figure out what's needed. Glad you like it and thanks for stopping by - and commenting. Appreciate it and look forward to reading yours too!


dllhubpages profile image

dllhubpages 7 years ago from Southeastern US

Great hub, I love propagating new plants, more for me and more to share.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks dll - glad you found time to stop by! Wish I still lived on a farm too. Looking for a new one and in the spot I'd like to find one right now :) Enjoy your new "babies" as you propogate...


K.D. Clement profile image

K.D. Clement 7 years ago from USA

Really useful hub with a lot of great illustrations. Thank you so much.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

So glad you enjoyed it K.D.! It was my pleasure to research and offer details so others could enjoy one of my favorite passions. No matter how many plants I watch grow, it always seems to instill a touch of the miraculous into life. Thanks for stopping by and for your expression of gratitude - it makes it all the more worthwhile :)


fortunerep profile image

fortunerep 7 years ago from North Carolina

Awsome!! I will definitely be bookmarking this one for my own good, thanks much valuable information.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Appreciate your comment fortunerep :) Enjoy your snipping and sticking propogation - it is a great way to brighten our world!


Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna Marie Bowman 7 years ago from Florida

After reading this, I totally want to roam my neighborhood, snipping off pieces of my neighbor's plants!! LOL!! Great hub!!!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Anna Marie! I bet your neighbors would be more than willing if you took a few mini cuttings as trade :) I used to gather truckloads by offering to dig and root divide for them. We gardeners are a sucker for appreciation and more than overjoyed to share! Glad you stopped by...


Pearldiver profile image

Pearldiver 7 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

Wow.. That's a lot of work that you've done here on a never ending subject. I have built some great gardens with these methods and used to always arrive home with pockets full of cuttings.. lol. Excellent Hub SEM pro .. Thanks for this. (Hope you got your pizza)


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for stopping by Pearldiver! Tremendously appreciate your comment and hopefully, thumbs up vote :)  Tickled pink to find out our new connection includes an additional mutually passionate enjoyment!

Yes, received the pizza. There's so much cheese on it, I can almost smell how delicious it would be but - do the ingredients include possum? lol


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 7 years ago from Hither and Yonder

Just the kind of information I have been looking for!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

So glad Ivorwen! If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to ask! It's human nature to love offering advice, I'm no exception :)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting - appreciate it! BTW - love the incredibly profound Mother Goose poem on your profile!


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

Very informative and well written hub. I love propagating all types of plants. Thanks for the tips. Thumbs up!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thank you so much Dorsi - glad you enjoyed it! As a fellow gardner and Hubber - I'll be sure to head in your direction first chance I get :)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

I also love sharing plants with neighbors and friends. I had no idea one could propagate basil from cuttings placed in water. Going to try it TODAY! Thanks!!!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Good tips! Most people don't realize that many of the botanical gardens across the U.S. will allow you to snip from the back of plants in moderation if you bring your own sterile tools, rubbing alcohol wipes, and baggies.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for coming by and commenting Peggy. Wish you were in my neighborhood. I discovered some boxwood basil that is absolutely delightful! Might just propagate some extra myself today - can't get enough of it! It's added deliciousness to a variety of dishes!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Great addition Jerilee! Thank you so much. I hadn't even thought of bringing tools when visiting botanical gardens and had no idea they'd allow that! Wonderful - appreciate it!


fortunerep profile image

fortunerep 7 years ago from North Carolina

Sem Pro,

Can I do my azaleas this way?


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Hi dori! Sure - Azaleas are in with Rhododendrons = softwood cuttings when new growth is only an inch or two long, often when the shrubs are still flowering. Apply hormone rooting compound. Cuttings are susceptible to scorch, so shade heavily on bright, hot days. Placing under mist works well. Rooting takes 8-10 weeks. The greater the root growth before autumn, the better "since overwintering small rooted cuttings of deciduous azaleas is notoriously difficult". You can put the cuttings under fluorescent lights to extend the daylength in colder climates if you keep them outside too dori. The evergreen ones root more easily.

If you have any large flowering hybrids, they would root better from semi-ripe nodal cuttings. (remove the tips, reduce larger leaves by up to half, wound, and then apply the rooting hormone). From semi-ripe they take about 10-15 weeks and it is easier if you provide some bottom heat of about 54-68 degrees.

Hope this helps! Glad you stopped by - always great to connect with you dear Lady :)


websclubs profile image

websclubs 6 years ago

Hi SEM Pro,

Details to Save Money! Cuttings really are easy. Cuttings are free! You can cut SNIP ‘n’ STICK pretty much anywhere – and if you keep them moist, they grow. Root Division, Carefully pull off the long suckering root where it joins the parent. Carefully divide the main root so that each shoot has its own roots survive better. The secret of successful division is always to have more root than shoot, to cut away excess foliage, and to keep the divisions moist it should be replanted immediately.

Very interesting hub is useful, Thank you.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 6 years ago from North America Author

Perfect addition websclubs :) Once familiar, I agree: intention is all that's needed to allow plants to thrive. Oh that we too could thrive as easily when fed just a little love and put in the right spot lol


daisy 6 years ago

Great article. My sisters and I share plants a lot. It's a great way to enlarge ones garden without a lot of expense. And thanks for mentioning the botanical gardens, I didn't know they would allow you to do that either.


infoels1 profile image

infoels1 5 years ago


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 5 years ago from North America Author

Glad you enjoyed infoels1 :) I will check your link when I can if you put it on there for my use.

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