Q. I have loved plumerias since I first saw them in Hawaii and brought home a few cuttings. My question is: Some of the plants I have were inherited, were not well cared for, and are extremely ‘leggy’. Can I cut some of the branches and re-root them? I wouldn’t mind sacrificing the ‘mother plant’ if it meant getting several off-spring and hopefully fuller plants. Please advise if this is possible, the best time to take the cuttings and the procedure for doing it.
A. The plumeria, Plumeria rubra, is a beautiful shrub or small tree that has colorful, exceptionally fragrant flowers. Although it is considered a tropical plant, it seems to grow very well outdoors in Southern California, whether planted in a pot or in the ground, as long as it is protected from hard frosts. Although the plumeria is usually a rather expensive plant to buy, it is a surprisingly easy plant to propagate from cuttings.
Plumeria cuttings will root best when the temperature is at least 60 degrees, so spring is a good time to start making your cuttings. Simply cut piece of a branch 12-18 inches long. The cutting may be a single length or branched, with the branched cuttings likely to make the bushiest plants. You will find that a milky sap will immediately start dripping from the cut surfaces. Avoid getting the sap on your skin as some people are sensitive to it and may develop a rash. Allow the cut ends of the branches to dry in a cool shady location for at least a few days. This drying time drastically reduces the chance of rot occurring.
Remove all but the top few small leaves from the cuttings (they will drop off eventually anyway). If you are making multiple cuttings from one very long branch, then be sure to keep track of which end is up. Plant each cutting about three inches deep in a one-gallon or larger pot filled with an artificial soil mix that will drain quickly. A general-purpose mix with almost an equal volume of perlite or vermiculite works well for me. There is no need to use a rooting hormone. Place the pots in a bright location but avoid direct sun, and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Depending upon the time of year, rooting will take one to three months. Once the cuttings develop roots you will notice top growth beginning, and you can gradually move the new plants to a location with brighter light and increase watering.
Don’t fertilize during the fall and winter to avoid promoting tender growth that could be damaged by cold weather. During the first winter, the young plants may require more protection from frost than the parent plant. Regardless of age, plumerias require little water during the winter; give them just enough to keep the branches from shriveling. When spring arrives, begin fertilization and increase watering. Before long, the colorful, fragrant flowers of the new plumeria plants will be ready to fill your garden with color and fragrance.
Q. Several years ago you told how to control the color on hydrangeas, but I’ve forgotten how to do it. Would you repeat the instructions?
A. The color of the hydrangea will vary according to the pH of the soil in which it is growing. Blue flowers are produced by adding aluminum sulfate to the soil to make the soil more acidic. Pink flowers can be assured by a heavy application of superphosphate to the soil to make the soil more alkaline. Either treatment must be begun well ahead of the blooming season to be effective so as soon as you notice spring growth, you should begin application. In our Southern California soils, untreated hydrangeas are likely to be pink, unless the soil is treated to produce blue flowers.
Ottillia “Toots” Bier has been a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener since 1980. Send comments and questions to [email protected]
Contact the writer: [email protected]
- Plumeria: Propagation from Cuttings1
- Basic Care
- Plumeria in Florida
- How to Plant a Plumeria Cutting
- What is the Simplest Way to Plant a Plumeria Cutting?
- What is the Best time of year to take a Plumeria Cutting?
- What is the proper pot to plant your Plumeria Cutting?
- Why is Perlite used with Plumerias?
- What is the Proper Watering for your Cutting?
- New! Comments
- #1 CLONE MACHINE
- Stem Cuttings
- ROOTING GEL
- Recipe: Soilless Mix for Rooting Cuttings
- STARTER CUBES
- Leaf Cuttings
- SEED STARTER KIT
- Root Cuttings
- Simple Layering
- RECYCLED POTS
- Tip Layering
- Compound (Serpentine) Layering
- Mound (Stool) Layering
- POTS YOU PLANT!
- Air Layering
- #1 MYCORRHIZAE
- Bulbs and Corms
- Ornamental Production
- Office Plant Propagation: Tips For Propagating Common Office Plants
- How to Propagate Office Plants
Plumeria: Propagation from Cuttings1
Andrew K. Koeser, Gitta Hasing, and Drew McLean2
Plumeria (Plumeria spp. L.) are flowering ornamentals native to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, and Colombia. Highly valued for their colorful flowers, plumeria are now grown in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. Plumeria, or frangipani, are members of the Apocynaceae family. Unless steps are taken to prevent frost damage, plumeria are generally limited to landscape uses in south Florida and protected regions of central Florida.
Plumeria range in size from shrubs (dwarf varieties) to medium trees up to 40 feet (13 meters) in height (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005). Plumeria can be used well as accent plants. Most species of plumeria are briefly deciduous in the winter months; however, Plumeria obtusa and its varieties (e.g. ‘Singapore White’) are predominantly evergreen (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005). Plumeria in Florida are leafless in the spring when the flowering season begins, and they continue to grow leaves as the flower season peaks and declines (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005; Menninger 1975). Most varieties grow rapidly, excluding those with a dwarf habit. Plumeria species and varieties can be identified by differences in leaf shape, form, and growth habit (Figure 1).
The underside of leaves from two different varieties, note the different vein colors.
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
Culturally, the wood of mature plumeria is used to create drums, bowls, trays, cabinets, and furniture (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005). Additionally, parts of the plant are used as folk medicine in India and elsewhere to create an anti-inflammatory compress (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005; Gupta et al. 2006).
While the above uses are noteworthy, flower production is arguably the use most commonly associated with the species. Plumeria flowers are used in decorations, arrangements, and for making leis or flower necklaces. The flowers are showy, fragrant, and found naturally in white, yellow, and red (Figure 2).
From Left to Right: ‘Royal Hawaiian,’ ‘Singapore,’ and ‘Key West Red’ plumeria
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
Hybrids have expanded the palette of colors to include shades of orange and pink as well (Figure 3; Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005). Flowers are most aromatic during the night or early morning. As plumeria flowers mature, they can differ in size or color (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005).
From Left to Right: ‘Nebels Rainbow’ and ‘Cerise’ plumeria
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
Plumeria require well-drained soils or potting soils. They will tolerate drought, but they grow best in moist—not wet—soil (Bunch 2010). Plumeria plants perform best in full sunlight. They tolerate a range of pH from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005).
The Florida-friendly Landscaping™ program Green Industries Best Management Practice (BMP) handbook suggests a basic maintenance nitrogen fertilization rate of 0–2 lb/1000 ft2 per year for ornamental landscape plants, including plumeria (Florida Department of Environmental Protection 2010). Applying a fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen may increase flowering by plumeria (Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005). However, the use of phosphorus fertilizers within areas planted in turfgrass is limited by regional ordinances because of water quality concerns. Therefore, the use of high-phosphorus fertilizers should be limited to the area or bed where plumeria are grown. In addition, a soil test is recommended every two to three years to determine soil pH and nutrient levels before applying fertilizer or lime. If soil tests show increasing phosphorus levels over time, additional phosphorus applications are not needed to improve plant performance.
Plumeria in Florida
Florida has hardiness zones ranging from 8a–11b (Figure 4). As a tropical tree species, plumeria do not tolerate temperatures at or below freezing. Florida’s subtropical climate is ideal during the warm summer months; however, plumeria may succumb to occasional cold snaps in the northern and central parts of Florida (Zones 8a-10a). In these zones, plants should be protected or brought indoors to avoid freezing temperatures. (Plumeria plants grow well in pots.) In south Florida (zones 10b–11b) or coastal areas buffered by warm waters, the risk of freeze damage is greatly reduced. Some popular cultivars in Florida include ‘Celadine,’ ‘Maile,’ ‘Singapore,’ and ‘ScottPratt.’
Florida has hardiness zones ranging from 8a-11b.
Plumeria can be easily propagated by cutting the stem without using specialized equipment (e.g. misting bench) or materials (e.g. rooting hormones or sphagnum moss). This makes plumeria an ideal plant for the novice horticulturalist looking to expand his or her gardening skills. Once you have successfully mastered the techniques detailed below, you can easily expand your collection of plumeria or introduce this showy ornamental to your friends’ landscapes.
Patented Plumeria: When taking cuttings or propagating a plant, you need to know if the plant is patented or trademarked. Plant patents, which protect the plant originator or patent holder’s investment, last for 17 years. The patent holder controls the propagation, sale, distribution, and royalty agreements associated with that particular plant (genetics). Trademarks are associated with the name of a plant, rather than the genetic makeup. If renewed every 10 years, trademarks can last indefinitely.
Plumeria currently protected by a patent cannot be propagated without the direct consent of the patent holder. You may legally take cuttings of trademarked plants if they were never patented or the patent has expired. However, you cannot sell the plant under the trademarked name (Chatfield and Quigley 2003).
Plumeria can be propagated through rooted cuttings, seeds, grafting, or air layering, though the former two options are the easiest and most common methods employed. Because of genetic variation associated with sexual reproduction, plumeria started from seed do not hold true to the parent plants. Plumeria originating from seeds often take three to four years to flower (Eggenberger 2005). As such, the use of cuttings is typically the preferred commercial-propagation method because it is fast and easy, and it preserves desirable plant characteristics. Plumeria cuttings should be taken from mature wood and should include the stem tip (Figure 5; Eggenberger 2005). Mature stems will have a grayish hue, which differentiates them from newer, green growth. Cuttings should be 12–15 inches long and approximately a ½ inch wide (Figure 6 and Figure 7). If leaves are present on the cutting, you can remove some or all of them to reduce transpiration (Figure 8). Allow the cutting to dry for three to five days, so a callus forms on the cut end (Figure 9). Sink the cutting base about 3 inches into a potting soil-filled container that is pre-moistened. Do not water for the first five to six weeks, while the cutting is developing roots (Bunch 2010). Since plumeria do not tolerate saturated soil conditions, the potting soil selected should drain well (Figure 10; Eggenberger and Eggenberger 2005). Water lightly when new leaves begin to develop (Bunch 2010). As new leaves become fully developed, resume normal watering. The potting soil in the container should stay moist but not wet.
A cutting should be taken from mature wood that is grey and firm.
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
A cutting should be around 1ft. in length and a ½ inch in diameter.
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
Making the cut.
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
All or some of the leaves can be removed to reduce transpiration.
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
Let the base of the cutting air dry before planting into a pot (3–5 days) to prevent rotting.
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
Choose a medium that allows good drainage.
Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS
Bunch, Alan. 2010. The Exotic Plumeria, The World’s Number One Plumeria Catalog.
Chatfield, J. and M. Quigley. 2003. “A Plant by Any Other Name” in Tree Selection and Planting: A Collection of CEU Articles. International Society of Arboriculture, Champaign, IL.
Eggenberger, R. and Eggenberger, M. The Handbook on Plumeria Culture, Fourth Rev. ed. and Expanded. Golden Bridge Publications, 2005.
Menninger, Edwin A. Color in the Sky. Horticultural Books, Inc. New York, 1975.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Alan Bunch, owner of The Exotic Plumeria, Seffner, FL, for plant identification and review.
This document is ENH1228, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2013. Reviewed December 2016. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor; Gitta Hasing, former senior biological scientist; and Drew McLean, biological scientist; Environmental Horticulture Department, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, UF/IFAS Extension, Wimauma, FL 33598.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
How to Plant a Plumeria Cutting
Please keep in mind…. different people have different methods because they have found what works for them. You may have to try different things to see what works best for not only you but for where you live.
1) Dry the cutting: If the plumeria cutting is fresh, you may want to dry it out. This should take any where from 1-2 weeks. You will know when it is ready to plant by the color of the base. If the base is still white, the cutting is very fresh and not ready to plant. When the base has turned brown, it has dried out enough and is ready for planting. Make sure you leave these cuttings in an area that is shaded.
TIP: I have left plumeria cuttings in my back porch for months without planting and they have turned out fine.
Personally, I have a better success rate if I skip the drying out part and go straight to dipping the fresh cut into water and then root hormone.
2) Prepare the soil: Prepare the soil mixture in the pot. Your local garden store will have bags of soil already mixed with perlite. If you want to mix your own soil, follow this mixture = 2/3rd perlite to 1/3rd soil) The soil should fill the pot leaving 1 inch from the rim.
Hint: If this is confusing this is my simple method. I use 2 bags of miracle grow potting soil which already contains a small amount of perlite. I pour the potting soil into a larger container and mix in 1 full bag of miracle grow perlite. Mix the two evenly together. Remember Plumerias need well drained soil to prevent rot.
3) Prepare the cutting: This step is best done with freshly cut plumeria cuttings.
Once the plumeria cutting is ready, you will take the cutting and dip the base into water and then into a container of root hormone solution. You should add a generous amount of the root hormone to your plumeria cuttings base. After applying the root hormone, the base should be completely white.
TIP: Most root hormone contains fungicide which prevents the bottom of the plumeria from rotting. Rotting is the leading cause of death in plumeria cuttings.
A good size for a cutting is about 12 inches.The larger the cutting is the easier to plant and root.
4) Planting the cutting:Place the cutting into the container filled with the mixed soil, planting them at a depth of 2-3 inches. I usually add some water to the mixture so that the soil is moist.
Warning: Some may suggest to place gravel or dark stones on top of the soil to attract the sun. Be very careful with that, especially if you already live in a hot hot climate. Adding these rocks may cause the plumeria cutting to overheat and die. However, these plants do love the heat and grow faster.
5) Secure the cutting:If you haven’t added the top layer of gravel, install a stake to anchor the cutting. This will secure the new plant in place. If the plant is not secured, you risk root damage due to wind induced movement.
HINT: Broken roots may cause the plumeria to have a slower growth rate.
6) Watering tips:Your planted plumeria cutting is ready to be watered. I have included the proper watering guidelines for your cuttings below.
7) Placement of cutting: Place in a sunny area and let nature take its course.
What is the Simplest Way to Plant a Plumeria Cutting?
This method has worked for my family for years. Not only is it easy, but it’s by far the
cheapest way to plant your plumeria cutting. Take the cutting and place it in the pot or out in the yard. You may need to secure your cutting if it is a large cutting or if you want the tropical plant to have more support while the roots begin to grow. Once planted add water to your cutting. Place the potted plant in an area that receives full sun, or majority of sun throughout the day. This rule should also go for the cuttings that are buried in the yard.
Then leave it alone and let nature do its thing. These exotic tropical plants do better when they are left alone.
What is the Best time of year to take a Plumeria Cutting?
The best time of the year to get plumeria cuttings, is spring and early summer. The tropical plants are just waking up from the winter months and are preparing to do most of their growing during the next couple months. Taking a cutting at this time, gives the roots enough time to establish themselves before the fall season. It is possible to grow cuttings during the winter months however, the success rate isn’t as high.
Before taking a clipping, you want to make sure that your sheers are clean. Dirty sheers can spread fungi and disease from other plants. Simply spray or submerge your sheers in rubbing alcohol or peroxide prior to use. As you make your cut, you will want to make sure that you clip at an angle. The angle cut will help the water run off the new cutting and prevent pooling at the cut location.
Personally when I take a clipping I make sure to plant it as soon as possible whether in a pot or in the ground.
Warning: Be very careful with the milky liquid that comes out after cutting the plumeria. It is poisonous.
What is the proper pot to plant your Plumeria Cutting?
There is one simple rule when choosing a pot for your cutting. Make sure that the base of the pot contains holes. The holes will help with water drainage after each watering
session. The pot itself can be made out of any material as long as you keep that rule in
mind. I usually use either a clay or black plastic pot. The black containers attract the sun,
which help keep the soil well drained. Perlite should also be added to the soil mix to
insure proper drainage. If you get the clear plastic containers, you can keep an eye on the roots and their growth. One last piece of advice, make sure the pot isn’t too large for the cutting. A good size pot for the average cutting is 6 inches
in diameter. Once the plant has grown enough, you may transplant it into a larger pot..
Why is Perlite used with Plumerias?
Perlite is a volcanic rock that has many useful benefits. In this particular case it speeds up the plumeria’s rooting process and assists with the water drainage. You can purchase perlite at your local Home Depot, Lowes or nursery. It may be premixed in the soil, or sold in bulk.
What is the Proper Watering for your Cutting?
Once you have planted your cutting, you will have to water it. Watering your cuttings should take place before the hottest time of day. Water the plumeria until the water drains from the holes on the base of the pot. Keep in mind, when it comes to
these exotic plants, you want to use water sparingly, especially when they are young.
These exotic tropical flowers do best when you leave them alone.
Be careful when watering, because the cutting can be damaged if over watered. Over watering may hinder the development of new roots, decrease the plumeria’s development and cause flowers to drop sooner than planned. The worst case scenario is that the plant will die. I usually water my plants once a week during the growing period (spring/summer). However, if you live in hotter climates, you may find that you need to water your cutting more often. Since I live in sunny south Florida we tend to get afternoon showers so I will hold off on watering. If that week there was no rain then I water. Use your best judgement!
If you notice the leaves turning yellow and dropping quickly you may need to add more water. When adding more water don’t go overboard, add an extra day to your existing watering pattern.
Growing Plumeria’s In Hawaii and Around the World is one of my personal top picks. Not only is the book easy to read but the author included some exquisite photos of plumerias. Even after years of growing these tropical plants, I find myself referring back to the book.
Plus….. I learn something new every time I open the pages!
Leave me any questions and comments in the box below.Propagating plants is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. This asexual means of reproduction produces a plant that is genetically identical to its parent.
There are a variety of plant propagation tools and methods; from taking cuttings to layering to dividing and more. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.
One of the most amazing things about plants is that every cell has the ability to duplicate all parts and functions of the plant. By taking a cutting of a leaf or stem and creating the right conditions, you can create an entirely new plant (see Plant Anatomy Basics).
Start with a stock or “mother” plant that is in great health and has plenty of stems, so that if one is removed, it will not harm the plant.
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Propagation by stem cuttings is the most popular plant propagation method for woody shrubs and ornamental plants. This is also a good technique for houseplants. (Learn about Indoor Plant Care here.)
Houseplants are often quite easy to propagate. Look for a healthy stem absent of flower buds, disease and insects. Using a sharp, sterile knife make a clean cut at a 45° angle to maximize the rooting area. Cuttings should be about 3-6 inches long (shorter if the plant is small) and include the tip of the stem, and at least two or three sets of leaves attached.
Remove the bottom set of leaves (new roots will often develop from this area) and dip the end you just cut into rooting gel. This will help seal the cut plant tissue and promote new root growth (optional). Then place the cutting into a small pot with moist vermiculite, perlite or other soilless potting mix. Be sure to poke a small hole in the growing medium before placing the cutting into it. This way the rooting solution won’t rub off of the stem.
Keep your new plants warm and in bright light, but out of direct sunlight. Many cuttings will also benefit from added humidity. To increase moisture and create a mini-greenhouse effect, place the pots in a clear plastic bag. Do not let the plastic you use to cover the pots touch the cuttings. Mayonnaise jars, milk cartons, and plastic soda bottles can also be used to cover cuttings.
Once the cuttings have developed roots — this can take a few days or a few months — replant them in another container with moist, but not wet, potting soil. (To identify whether roots have formed or not, pull lightly on the plants. If they pop right out, they are not ready. If you feel some resistance, go ahead and repot.)
Until the new plants have become fully established, carefully monitor the amount of moisture and light they get. Remove dropped leaves and diseased plants from the area as soon as they are noticed to keep fungus from spreading to healthy plants.
Softwood stem cuttings are taken from new branches of shrubs that have not yet become woody (see Propagate Your Shrubs from Softwood Cuttings). The term “softwood” describes the stage of growth on a deciduous woody plant that isn’t brand new (green), nor is it fully mature (woody). It is somewhere in between the two. (Try bending the branch. If it snaps easily, it is ready to go. If it is very flexible and just bends, it is too young and will most likely rot before rooting. If there is no flexibility at all, it is too old and will be very slow to root.)
A high performance rooting compound! Clonex® Gel will remain in contact around the stem, sealing the cut tissue instantly and supplying the hormones needed to promote root cell development, and vitamins to protect the delicate new root tissue.
The best time to take softwood cuttings is from April thru June after it has rained (or you’ve watered). Look for healthy shoots that aren’t too thick or too thin. Using a sharp knife or pruning shears, cut a 2 to 10 inch section of stem at least 1 inch below a leaf node, and including 2 or 3 pairs of leaves. Make a diagonal cut; the larger the cut, the more surface area for roots to develop.
Tip: Dip pruning tools in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to prevent transmitting diseases from infected plants to healthy ones.
Place the cuttings in a container with wet paper towels to keep them moist until you can get to the house (or your potting bench) to plant them. Be sure to take more cuttings than you think you’ll need, as they likely will not all root.
Remove the lower set of leaves, and if you are extra motivated, scrape a little bark from the end of the cutting. Dip the cutting into water and then into rooting hormone, being sure to cover the wounds left by the removal of the leaves.
Note: Using rooting hormone is more important with softwoods than with houseplant cuttings.
Plant cuttings into pots filled with a soilless potting media just deep enough to support the stems and hold them upright. Do NOT use garden soil as it will remain too wet, causing the cutting to rot before rooting.
Recipe: Soilless Mix for Rooting Cuttings
This soilless mix is ideal for rooting cuttings, but should be replaced with a richer potting mix once they show signs of growth.
- One part coconut coir, peat moss or vermiculite
- One part perlite or sterile builders sand
Combine all ingredients with a small amount of water and mix thoroughly until evenly moist. A light solution of organic starter fertilizer or seaweed extract can be added to this recipe.
After the cuttings are planted, you can trim the leaves to about half their size. They’ll still be able to photosynthesize light, but won’t lose so much water through transpiration.
Place the containers in a plastic bag to raise the humidity level around the cuttings, or purchase a misting system to keep your new plants adequately moist. After about 6 weeks check to see if roots have formed. If the containers you are planting in are small you may notice roots protruding through the drainage holes. Otherwise, give the plant a gentle tug. If the plant pulls right out it isn’t ready — replant it. It you feel resistance, it’s ready to be repotted.
Note: Because soft stem cuttings are taken from young plant tissue they form roots relatively quickly. However, they require high humidity levels to keep from drying out.
Germinate seeds or start plant cuttings — fast! General Hydroponics® Rapid Rooter contains a superior matrix of composted organic material bound together by plant-derived polymers. Ideal for ALL soil and hydroponics applications.
Transplant your tiny new shrubs into larger pots with a mixture of 80% organic potting soil and 20% perlite. Water with an organic liquid fertilizer that is seaweed or kelp-based. Slowly “harden off” plants before transplanting outside. Learn how to harden off plants here.
Hardwood stem cuttings are taken after the plant tissue has grown woody and when the plant is dormant. The best time to take hardwood cuttings is late fall — after a killing frost — or anytime during the winter months.
Look for healthy, vigorous stock plants growing in full sunlight. Again, stems that are not too thin or too thick work best. A minimum girth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch and a length of 4-8 inches is recommended. Cuttings should be taken a few inches below the terminal bud. Use a straight cut on the top end of the stem, slightly above a bud, and an angled cut at the bottom end, just below a bud. Discard the tip of the shoot. Always take more cuttings than you think you’ll need as they may not all take root.
Note: There are three types of hardwood cuts: the straight cut, the heel and the mallet. (For a diagram of each see Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings – Figure 3.) A straight, or simple cut, is used most often. The heel cut includes a small section of older wood and the mallet cutting includes an entire section of older stem.
Dip the cut ends in rooting powder and place the stems 2-6 inches apart in a container filled with a moist soilless potting mix. Plant the stems deep in the mix, so that only the top one or two buds are showing above the surface.
Tip: Make sure that the stems are planted upwards by burying the angled cut into the pot (the straight cut should be on top).
Water, cover with a plastic bag and place the cuttings in indirect sunlight. Rooting will occur more quickly if they are misted on a regular basis. Once plenty of roots and some top growth have developed, remove the plastic covering and transplant the young plants into a larger container or a protected bed. Do not plant directly in the landscape, yet, rather wait until early the following season when your plants are much larger and stronger.
Several herbaceous or woody plants, including many indoor houseplants, can be propagated from leaf cuttings. With this method, a leaf and its stem (petiole) or sometimes just a piece of the leaf are used to create an entirely new plant. The directions for propagation by leaf cuttings are basically the same as for softwood or hardwood stem cuttings and can be performed any time of year.
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Select a healthy, full grown leaf from a vigorously growing plant and remove it along with about 1-1/2 inches of its stem. Dip the cut portion in rooting hormone and plant the entire stem (up to the bottom of the leaf) at an angle in a moist soilless rooting medium. After planting water thoroughly to settle the potting mix around the plant.
As with the other cutting techniques, place the container in a plastic bag to increase humidity and keep it in a cool place (about 70°F) out of direct sunlight. After 4-6 weeks new roots will form and the plant can be moved to a larger container.
Note: Many times several plants will grow from the same leaf cutting. Carefully separate these young plants from the “parent” leaf and transplant them into their own container.
Root cuttings are best taken when the plant is dormant and the roots are chock-full of carbohydrates.
Take 1 to 4-inch long cuttings from younger root growth that is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut straight through the end of the root nearest to the stem and cut the other end at an angle. This way you will remember which end is the top (the straight cut) and which is the bottom (the diagonal cut). Roots will not grow if you plant them upside down.
Store cuttings in a moist rooting medium at 40°F. After three weeks, remove the cuttings from storage and bury them upright under 2-3 inches of soilless potting mix. Place the container in a plastic bag and put the whole thing somewhere with bright, indirect sunlight. When roots become established and weather permits, harden the new plants off and transplant them outside. Learn more about transplanting and handling plants here.
Tip: If cuttings are from fine or small roots, simply scatter them over the surface of the potting mix and cover them lightly.
Layering is a way to grow new plants from existing plants without having to take any cuttings. In a nutshell, bury part of a stem or branch in the soil and new roots and shoots will form. This method is often more successful than propagating from cuttings, because the new plant can get water and food from the stock plant. Once the new plant is established, it can be moved to another spot in the garden.
Most plants with low growing branches or stems, such as vines and woody shrubs, take well to simple layering. Use a dormant branch in early spring or a mature branch in late summer.
Bend a flexible, low-growing branch to the ground and place it in a small hole about 4-inches deep. Remove leaves and side-shoots from the portion of the branch that will be buried and cover it with soil. You may need to place a rock on top of the soil to hold the branch underground. It is important to leave at least 6-12 inches of the branch tip out of the soil and stake it upright to keep it growing straight — this will be the top portion of your new plant!
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Usually, the bend in the buried portion of the branch is enough to encourage rooting, but by scraping, or wounding, the bark on its underside, you can help speed rooting along. Keep the layered area moist and free of weeds and within a season or two a root mass will have developed. Cut the layered section from the plant and it’s ready for transplanting.
Ideal for blackberries and raspberries, tip layering should be done in late summer and is a lot like simple layering. However, instead of keeping the tip of the plant above ground, you bury it in a hole 3-4 inches deep. At first, the tip will grow downward, but then it will make a sharp turn and grow upwards toward the sun.
In late fall or early spring, after roots have developed and new shoots appear, tip layers can be cut from the original plant and moved to a new area in the garden.
Compound (Serpentine) Layering
Compound layering involves burying several parts of one stem and works well with vining plants or plants with pliable branches. Bend the stem towards the ground as you would if simple layering, but alternately cover and expose sections of the stem. The end result should look like your stem is snaking its way through the soil.
Each section of the compound layer should have one bud exposed and another bud buried. Wound or scrape the bottom side of each covered section to promote rooting. Cut plants apart when they have developed roots and replant them early in the growing season.
Mound (Stool) Layering
If you have closely branched or heavy-stemmed shrubs and rootstock of tree fruits that you’d like to propagate, try mound layering. During the dormant season, prune the plant back to approximately 1-inch above the soil surface.
The following spring, the trimmed plant will produce new shoots. Cover these shoots with soil, creating a 7 to 9-inch mound around the stock plant. Roots will grow at the bases of the new, buried shoots. In the fall or following spring, carefully separate and transplant the newly developed plants.
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Air layering can be used on many larger houseplants, as well as woody ornamental plants, such as holly, rhododendron and lilac. For best results, start air layers in the spring on stems from the previous year’s growth or during the summer months on the current season’s growth.
Using an upper branch or stem, select a site just below a leaf node and remove the leaves and twigs both below and above that point for 3-4 inches. Scrape away a small area of bark, or make a cut about 1-1/2 inches long and 1/3 of the way through the stem. Apply a rooting compound, such as Clonex® to the exposed area to promote root production. Use roughly a handful of moist sphagnum moss to surround the wound and wrap the moss with black plastic. Seal the plastic on all sides with tape or twisty ties, making sure that the moss does not extend beyond the cover.
Once the roots are well formed (usually 1-3 months for houseplants; 1-2 seasons for outdoor plants) cut the stem just below the bag and pot the new plant as you would any seedling. After a couple of months the young plant should be hardy enough to transplant outside. .
Propagation by division is cutting or breaking up a group of suckers or a crown or clump into smaller segments. It is important that each plant segment has a bud or it will not propagate. Most perennials benefit from division as they get older and begin to lose vigor, plus you get more plants to spread around the garden or share with friends. While there are different techniques for dividing perennials, the general rules are the same.
Divide fall-flowering perennials in spring and spring-and summer-flowering perennials in fall. For fall division, plan to do it early in the season as the plants will need 4-6 weeks to become established before the ground freezes. In the spring, divide early. Plants will benefit from the cool, wet weather and be well established before the heat of the summer kicks in.
Two or three days before dividing a plant, water it thoroughly — this will help reduce the stress of division — then cut the plant back so it doesn’t lose too much moisture.
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Dig all the way around the perimeter of the plant and gently pull it out of the ground. If you find a huge root ball that you can’t lift, go ahead and cut it through the middle with your shovel. If the plant has a spreading root system, you can probably just pull it apart. Plants that have rhizomes (horizontal, underground stems), can be divided with a sharp knife.
Place the plant segments into a bucket of water right away so there isn’t a chance for them to dry out. While the plants are soaking, dig a hole at least as deep as the plant was originally set. Add peat moss, organic compost or aged chicken manure to give the plant a little edge as it gets established.
Settle the plant segment into the hole and fill with amended soil. Water well. Adding a thick layer of mulch will help the new plant through its first winter, but be sure to pull away some of the mulch in the spring to allow the soil to warm.
Bulbs and Corms
Plants that grow from bulbs can be propagated by taking small offsets or bulblets from the base of the parent bulb. Place the bulblets in light, rich soil and let develop for 2 or 3 years. The same procedure used for propagating bulbs works for plants with corms (see “What is a Plant Corm?“).
Another method that is popular for propagating non tunicate bulbs, such as lilies, is known as scaling. Pick a healthy bulb and trim off the old roots to prevent rot. Be careful not to damage the tough base of the bulb where the roots emerge called the basal plate.
Gently peel several of the outside scales away from the main bulb. Each segment should have part of the basal plate so new roots can grow. Toss out any pieces that do not have a basal plate.
Put the scales into a bag of moist, but not wet, vermiculite. Use a ratio of 4 parts vermiculite per scale. Leaving some air in the bag, seal it up and put it somewhere with a temperature of about 70°F. If you choose to use a fungicide, dust the scales before inserting them into the bag.
Check regularly for rot, and after 8-10 weeks tiny bulblets should be noticed at the base of the scales. Plant the scales 1/2-inch deep in a container filled with organic potting soil. Keep the plants in a warm, bright spot and make sure the soil stays moist. New leaves will shoot up in the spring. When these leaves die back at the end of the growing season, separate and replant the new bulbs.
A good propagation medium is made up of components that provide optimum aeration, drainage and moisture holding characteristics. These are usually made up from combinations of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, sand or similar materials. The primary role of a propagation medium is to provide support and moisture while the plant is developing. These requirements are quite different from those of a potting medium, which may have to sustain a mature or growing plant over a long period of time. Generally speaking, potting media are not recommended for plant propagation purposes.
Many plants will easily root in water. However, the roots that form can be extremely fibrous and stringy. Plants rooted in water often have a difficult time becoming established after they are transplanted to a container.
The propagation medium should be thoroughly moistened before use. Many organic materials, like peat moss, have a waxy outer coating that resists wetting. Be sure to apply water slowly to obtain uniform distribution. This may require 2-3 applications. It is not uncommon for a medium to look wet on the surface but to be powdery dry in the middle. A well moistened media will make it easier to stick cuttings later on.
Light is an important environmental factor in plant propagation. Generally speaking, low light levels cause plants to root slowly. However, high light intensities can stress cuttings, causing them to burn or drop leaves. Diffused sunlight generally provides enough light for optimum rooting without causing injury to the cuttings.
Since cuttings do not have roots, they cannot replace the water lost through transpiration. Therefore it is important to maintain high humidity around the cuttings to cut down on the amount of moisture lost to the atmosphere.
These conditions can be provided by placing a clear piece of plastic over the propagation area. This causes condensation to form on the underside of the plastic that provides the necessary humidity.
Adequate ventilation is also required to avoid disease problems. The plastic covering should be placed such that air can flow freely around the cuttings as they root.
For best results, maintain day temperatures at 70 degrees F. During winter months, soil can be as much as 10-20 degrees less than air temperature, so provide bottom heat when possible. Ideal rootzone temperatures for most plants are approximately 70-75 degrees F.
Rooting hormones are often used to promote root formation. These materials provide supplemental auxin, a naturally occurring plant hormone that is responsible for root development. The basal end of the cutting is dipped into the chemical prior to sticking it into the propagation medium. These products come in different strengths and will vary according to the type of plant being propagated.
Stem and Section Cuttings:
There are two types of stem cuttings: tip cuttings, which include the apex or plant tip and a small portion of the stem; and section cuttings, which include a 2- to 3-inch section of stem (not including the apex or plant tip> and leaf joint.
To take a tip cutting, select a section of stem with a healthy crown of leaves at the end. Carefully remove the lower foliage to leave a section of bare stem to insert into the propagation media. Bottom heat, provided by a heating cable, will encourage rooting. Generally, cuttings do best with a media temperature of approximately 75 degrees F.
Plants Propagated from Stem Cuttings:
Plants which can be propagated from stem cuttings include the following:
- African Violet – tip cutting
- Acalypha (Red-hot cat tail) – stem cuttings
- Aglaeonema (Chinese evergreen) – tip cuttings*
- Begonia – tip and stem cuttings*
- Beloperone (Shrimp Plant) – tip cuttings
- Brassaia actinophylla (Schefflera) tip cuttings
- Christmas cactus – tip cuttings
- Cissus (Grape Ivy) – tip cuttings or stem cuttings
- Citrus – tip cuttings
- Coleus – tip cuttings*
- Crassula (Jade Plant) – tip cuttings*
- Croton – tip cuttings
- Cordyline terminalis – tip cuttings*
- Dieffenbachia – tip cuttings*
- Dracaena (Ti Plant) – stem and tip cuttings*
- Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant) – tip cuttings
- Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig) – tip cuttings
- Fittonia – tip cuttings
- Geranium – tip cuttings*
- Hedera (Ivy) – stem cuttings*
- Helxine (Baby’s Tears) – stem cuttings
- Hoya carnosa (Was Plant) – tip cuttings
- Impatiens – tip cuttings*
- Maranta (Prayer Plant) – tip cuttings
- Monstera – tip cuttings
- Nepthitis – tip and stem
- Peperomia – tip cuttings
- Philodendron – tip and stem cuttings*
- Pothos – tip and stem cuttings*
- Pilea cadierea (Aluminum Plant) – tip cuttings*
- Plectranthus (Swedish Ivy) – tip cuttings and stem cuttings*
- Podocarpus – tip cuttings
- Poinsettia – stem cuttings
- Selaginella (Resurrection Plant) – tip cuttings
Asterisk* indicates these are particularly easy to propagate.
Rooting Plants in Water:
Some plants root so readily from stem or tip cuttings they can be started in plain tap water. The water must be kept clean and well aerated for best results. A bright location out of direct sunlight is best. After roots are formed plants should be transferred to individual pots, or grouped together in a hanging basket. The following plants are among the easiest to root in plain water:
- African violet (Saintpaulia)
- Cissus (Grape Ivy)
- Cordyline terminalis (Ti Plant)
- Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig)
- Hedera (English Ivy)
- Helxine (Baby’s Tears)
- Philodendron oxycardium (Heart Leaf)
- Philodendron pandureaform (Fiddle Leaf)
- Plectranthus (Swedish Ivy)
- Scindapsus (Pothos)
- Syngonia (Tri-Leaf Wonder)
- Tradescantia (Wandering Jew)
- Zygocactus (Christmas Cactus)
Many plants with soft, fleshy foliage have developed the ability to reproduce themselves from leaves. Considering that some plants grow hundreds of leaves, you can appreciate the propagation potential for these species. In addition, leaf propagation is much faster and more reliable than propagating plants from seed.
The most widely practiced method of taking a leaf cutting is to snip off a healthy leaf, complete with a short piece of stem. The end of the leaf cutting is then dipped in a rooting hormone and the stalk is stuck in to a moist propagation media. Bottom heat of about 75 degrees F should be provided if possible. Adequate humidity levels are maintained by frequent water sprays, or by covering the propagating tray with clear plastic.
After about two or three weeks the leaves should be well rooted with a new plant forming at the base. It is these new plantlets which form around the stem which are used to transplant. The old leaf can be discarded.
Plants which root most readily from leaf cuttings include African Violets and Sansevieria.
Leaf cuttings of African violets root so readily, they can simply be suspended in a well aerated, jar of water. The suspended leaves can be supported by simply covering the mouth of a jar with foil or paper held in place with a rubber band. Holes are easily punched in this covering, and the leaf stems inserted so the bottom of each leaf stalk touches the water.
Sansevieria is another interesting plant that can be started from leaf cuttings. The leaves are long, leathery and sword-shaped. Just select a whole leaf and then cut it into 2-inch sections starting from the tip all the way down. Remember…if cuttings are stuck upside down they will not root.
Leaf cuttings can be literally crowded together, almost shoulder to shoulder. This crowding will not harm them, and once the root systems have been developed they can be separated for transplanting into individual pots.
Plants Propagated from Leaf Cuttings:
Plants which can be successfully propagated from leaf cuttings include the following:
- African violet
- Begonia rex
- Cactus (particularly varieties producing “pads” like Bunnies Ears)
- Crassula (Jade Plant)
- Plectranthus (Swedish Ivy)
Leaf Vein Cuttings:
Plants with prominent leaf veins can be propagated from leaf-vein cuttings in two ways:
- take a leaf and cut it into sections, each section with a vein. The bottom portion of the vein can then be pressed into the propagation medium with the leaf portion sticking up to root just like a leaf cutting. In this manner one leaf can produce up to a dozen new plants.
- choose a large leaf and slash the veins at 1 or 2 inch intervals on the underside of the leaf. Place the underside of the leaf in contact with the propagation medium and weight down the leaf to keep it in contact with the soil. New plants will spring to life at each cut in the leaf.
Common plants that can be propagated from leaf vein cuttings include:
- Rex begonia
- Smithianthas (Temple Bells)
Office Plant Propagation: Tips For Propagating Common Office Plants
Propagating plants in the office is no different than propagating houseplants, and simply involves enabling the newly propagated plant to develop roots so it can live on its own. Most office plant propagation is surprisingly easy. Read on and we’ll tell you the basics of how to propagate plants for the office.
How to Propagate Office Plants
There are several different methods of propagating plants in the office, and the best technique depends on the growth characteristics of the plant. Here are a few tips on propagating common office plants:
Division is the simplest propagation technique, and works beautifully for plants that produce offsets. In general, the plant is removed from the pot and a small section, which must have several healthy roots, is gently separated from the main plant. The main plant is returned to the pot and the division is planted in its own container.
Plants suitable for propagation via division include:
- Peace lily
- Dumb cane
- Spider plant
- Boston fern
Compound layering allows you to propagate a new plant from a long vine or stem attached to the original (parent) plant. Although it tends to be slower than other techniques, layering is an extremely easy means of office plant propagation.
Just select a long stem. Leave it attached to the parent plant and secure the stem to potting mix in a small pot, using a hairpin or bent paper clip. Snip the stem when the stem roots. Layering by this means is suitable for plants such as:
- Spider plant
Air layering is a somewhat more complex procedure that involves stripping the outer layer from a section of stem, then covering the stripped stem in damp sphagnum moss until roots develop. At that point, the stem is removed and planted in a separate pot. Air layering works well for:
- Rubber plant
Office plant propagation via stem cutting involves taking a 4- to 6-inch (10-16 cm.) stem from a healthy plant. The stem is planted in a pot filled with moist potting soil. Rooting hormone often speeds rooting. Many plants benefit from a plastic covering to keep the environment around the cutting warm and moist until rooting takes place.
In some cases, stem cuttings are rooted in water first. However, most plants root best when planted directly in potting mix. Stem cuttings work for a large number of plants, including:
- Jade plant
- Rubber plant
- Wandering jew
- Arrowhead plant
Propagation via leaf cuttings involves planting leaves in moist potting mix, although the specific means of taking leaf cuttings depends on the particular plant. For example, the large leaves of snake plant (Sansevieria) can be cut into pieces for propagation, while African violet is easy to propagate by planting a leaf into the soil.
Other plants suitable for leaf cuttings include:
- Jade plant
- Christmas cactus