How to Root Plants: Tips that Really Work

Do you want to free plants? Rooting plants can be a satisfying and it can save you money. Rooting your own plants can provide a low-cost gift that friends and loved ones will appreciate! Learn how to root your own plants!

How to Root Plants

If you’re super frugal like me, there’s nothing more satisfying than getting something of quality for free. For a gardener, there’s nothing better than free plants. Gardeners have a long history of pass along plants. Pass along plants are plants that are created or propagated from mature plants. In this article, we’ll share how to make new plants for free.

Plants can be propagated in a number of ways. Each type of plant or species has a different method or methods for propagation. For the home gardener, rooting plant cuttings is one of the easiest ways to propagate plants.

How to start plants from cuttings

The process of starting plant cuttings is not very complicated. It just requires a few tools and some patience.

What you need to get started

  • A good growing medium (this is “stuff” that your plants will grow in)
    • You may want to dampen the growing medium before you get started.
  • Clean and sharp cutting implement (or your fingers to pinch cuttings!)
  • Rooting hormone to help jump start root growth (optional)
  • A pencil or stick (to make a hole in the planting medium for the cutting)
  • Indirect light (from a sunny window) and a warm (indoor) environment
  • Pots to hold your plants

Types of cuttings

Softwood cutting: This is relatively new growth. It hasn’t had time to become woody. The cells are very active and are generally easy to reproduce.

Hardwood cutting: These are more mature plant material and generally woody and tough.

A cutting can be a single leaf or a small length of stem with several leaves on it.

Of course, you want to take the cutting from a healthy plant. This will help the “mother” plant heal from the cutting and will help ensure the cutting takes root and grows into a new plant.

How to root baby plants (aka propagation)

  • Using a sharp knife (or pruners) cut just below where a leaf attaches to the stem (the node). Roots grow easiest from this location. If you leave a section of stem below the node, it often rots.
  • Remove lower leaves but leave the top leaves. Make sure that the part of the cutting that will be buried below the surface of the rooting medium does not have leaves.
  • Remove any flowers from the cutting. The flowers may try to develop into seed and use the food reserved in the cutting that could be better used for rooting. Dying flowers may rot in the moist rooting environment.
  • If you are using rooting hormone, put a little of the rooting hormone in a small plastic cup (like a disposable “spit” cup or a recycled small yogurt cup). Move the cutting around in the rooting hormone so that it covers the stem. Throw the cup away when you’re done. Reusing the rooting hormone can contaminate plants. Also if you dip the cutting in the container of rooting hormone, you can contaminate the whole container or rooting hormone (that’s why we put in in a separate container).
  • Use the pencil or stick to make a hole in the rooting medium or potting soil. You want the hole to be large enough that the cutting will easily fit in the hole you made.
  • Put the cutting in the hole and be careful not to knock off the rooting hormone from the stem. Gently press the soil mix to hold the stem in place.
  • Water: You probably don’t have to water if you pre-moistened the potting mix. When you do water, do so sparingly. The cuttings just need to be moist not waterlogged or wet.
  • Place the whole pot in a plastic bag. This will help to keep it from drying out.
  • If you inflate the bag (blow in it a bit) this will keep the leaves from touching the bag and will help the leaves from rotting.
  • Close off the bag but close it in a way that you’ll be able to reopen it to water it as needed.
  • Keep the cutting in an area that’s between 55 to 75 degrees F with indirect sunlight. I’ve found it helpful to put the cuttings in a place where I’ll see them every day. That way I’ll notice if they need water and will be able to check on their progress.
  • Check for roots in about two weeks or so. You can very gently tug on one of the cuttings. If you get resistance, then roots are growing. In a month or so, you could re-pot the cutting into normal potting soil if you used a rooting mix initially for the cuttings.

A video success story!  I rooted my own plants from cuttings!


Make your plants into gifts

Now that you have some baby plants you can make them into gifts. Many people appreciate a potted plant as a gift. That’s why you see them in gift shops, florist shops, and in hospital gift shops. The lively green leaves of a healthy potted plant can cheer up a sad disposition or a dark day.

green succulents plants rooting cutting gifts gift

These small succulents have been rooted in small jars and tied with lavender picot edged ribbon. The delicate ornamental loops accent the edges of these satin ribbons. This dainty and feminine ribbon is the ideal complement to these small plant gifts. It would be a great gift for a Garden Club meeting, a Women’s Club meeting, a book club meeting, or a bridal or baby shower.

Another idea would to put several rooted stems or ivy or another training plant in a small pot. Add some tissue paper and a nice bow and you have a nice hostess gift that would be appreciated at any dinner party. Consider including care instructions for the plant. A gift that you’ve grown yourself is a gift from the heart and will be a heartwarming touch.

Extra Florist Secret Tip

For flat leaf plants (not succulents), I like to use a leaf shine product to help the leaves look their very best. I like Green Glo Leaf Polish. Green Glo plant Polish adds an instant natural gloss to leaves of plants. It removes water spots and calcium deposits (white spots) and it gives a protective shiny layer which keeps dust away. It’s convenient because it is a ready to use spray and dries quickly. A little goes a long way! I’ve had the same can for several years now. When you initially spray the plant it loots really glossy and wet. Don’t worry because it will tone down in a few hours/day. Just don’t spray down the plant right before you give it to someone. It’ll look slick!

That’s the whole idea of pass along plants. Pass along  plants  are ones that have survived in gardens for decades by being handed from one person to another. These botanical heirlooms, such as flowering almond, blackberry lily, and night-blooming cereus which usually can’t be found in neighborhood garden centers. Just about the only way to obtain a pass along plant is to beg a cutting from the fortunate gardener who has one!


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