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How to Grow Free Plants From Easy Cuttings: Snip and Stick

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I like to write about helpful details for snip ‘n’ stick and how to start your garden with seeds.

Propagate your plants to grow new ones—for free! Learn about this easy method.

Propagate your plants to grow new ones—for free! Learn about this easy method.

Propagate Your Plants With a Little Snip

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.

It's Easy, Even for New Gardeners

When I began gardening, I 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!

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 some nutrients and soil.
This diagram shows the whole leaf cutting process.

This diagram shows the 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.
This diagram shows the softwood cutting process.

This diagram shows the softwood cutting process.

Instructions for Specific Plant Types

The following is 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.

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 the 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).

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This diagram shows the hardwood cutting process.

This diagram shows the 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 the 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.

Depiction of root division.

Depiction of root division.

Divide and Multiply

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

  • 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.
Here are some Leyland cypress semi-ripe cuttings taken the summer before.

Here are some Leyland cypress semi-ripe cuttings taken the summer before.

It was amazing to watch as the cuttings of my Leyland Cypress grew . . .

It was amazing to watch 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!

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


SEM Pro (author) from North America on January 27, 2011:

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

infoels1 on January 17, 2011:

good hub and very beneficial.

daisy on October 18, 2010:

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.

SEM Pro (author) from North America on August 19, 2010:

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

websclubs on August 19, 2010:

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 (author) from North America on July 18, 2009:

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 :)

Dori S Matte from Hillsborough on July 18, 2009:

Sem Pro,

Can I do my azaleas this way?

SEM Pro (author) from North America on July 18, 2009:

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!

SEM Pro (author) from North America on July 18, 2009:

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!

Jerilee Wei from United States on July 18, 2009:

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.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 18, 2009:

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!!!

SEM Pro (author) from North America on July 08, 2009:

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 :)

Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on July 08, 2009:

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

SEM Pro (author) from North America on June 05, 2009:

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!

Ivorwen from Hither and Yonder on June 05, 2009:

Just the kind of information I have been looking for!

SEM Pro (author) from North America on June 05, 2009:

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

Rob Welsh from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time. on June 05, 2009:

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 (author) from North America on May 31, 2009:

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...

Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on May 31, 2009:

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

SEM Pro (author) from North America on May 21, 2009:

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

Dori S Matte from Hillsborough on May 21, 2009:

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

SEM Pro (author) from North America on May 21, 2009:

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 :)

K.D. Clement from USA on May 20, 2009:

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

SEM Pro (author) from North America on May 11, 2009:

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...

dllhubpages from Southeastern US on May 11, 2009:

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

SEM Pro (author) from North America on May 06, 2009:

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!

ajcor from NSW. Australia on May 06, 2009:

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

SEM Pro (author) from North America on April 08, 2009:

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.

oscarmecp4 from South Africa on April 08, 2009:

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

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