Propagating plants

Cuttings – Free and Easy Way to New Plants

There are so many great plants that can help give your gardens and borders continuity. They help the eye to flow easily across your yard and garden. They seem to tie everything together. How wonderful that lots of these plants can be cloned by stem cuttings that will root with little effort. Stem cuttings will provide you with an affordable and easy way to enhance the design of your gardens.

If you keep it simple like I do — propagating (reproducing) plants will be something that you will enjoy and come to do as easily as touring your gardens. Cuttings are especially easy.

Some Good Reasons to Propagate Plants

Plants like the larger Sedums and Powis Castle Artemisia can be used as a base and back drop for other plants in your gardens.  You can have a continual supply with cuttings.

Other plants like white Iberis (Candytuft) are beautiful blended throughout your spring borders with plants of color. I never seem to have enough and start more every year just in case some don’t make it through drought or severe cold.

Iberis (Candytuft) and Yellow Primrose. You can never have too many of these two beautiful spring blooming perennials. Iberis I propagate by stem cuttings; the primrose by root division.

Anthemis tinctoria (also known as Golden Marguerite and yellow chamomile) is one of the best perennial herbs you can have to attract almost every beneficial insect there is — including your bees. You can’t have too much of it.  Cuttings make it doable!  (I know — you want to know more.  Stay with me here at TMG. As soon as it flowers for me, I’ll put a post up showing you more.)

It’s a shame to just have one each of herbs like rosemary and thyme.

  • Large rosemary plants can be spectacular used in your perennial borders. And chopped rosemary makes a delicious gravy that can cause you to fly through a rosemary plant.
  • Thyme makes a wonderful edging plant as well as being great for cooking.  And the bees love it when it’s in bloom.

Thyme in bloom.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind Before You Begin

-A cloned plant started from the cutting will be like the parent plant.  So make sure the parent is in the peak of health.

April, May and June can be perfect for taking cuttings.  Plants are growing quickly and can make roots quickly as well.

Avoid moisture stress by:

  • Taking cuttings in the early morning when plants are filled with water from the evening.
  • Or take cuttings on a cloudy day.
  • Or take a little container of water with you to put your cuttings in until you can stick them in soil or grow mix.

Cut more than you need, because some will root and some won’t.

Preparing the Pots Before You Cut

If I plan on taking a variety of cuttings and starting them in pots, I like to get the pots all ready the day before. It just seems so much easier that way.

I clean the pots, fill them with grow mix, and then water thoroughly.  That’s it.  They’re ready.

Now – we need cuttings.

What to Cut

  • Cut a piece of stem 3 to 5 inches long

A cutting from a Thyme plant before it blooms. Within 2 weeks it was rooted and in bloom. See picture near the end.

  • Newer growth is easier to root, but in some cases your 3 to 5 inch piece will contain growth from last year and some new growth at the end.  For example – rosemary cuttings.

A cutting from a Rosemary Plant.

  • Avoid flower buds (you can remove them) because you want the energy to go to producing a root rather than flower

A cutting of Candytuft that does not have a bloom.


What to Remove from the Cutting

Remove the leaves from the lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the stem.

Cutting from Powis Castle Artemesia with lower leaves removed. Notice the nodes on the stem. They show just a bit darker than the stem.

A Node

The place on the stem where the leaf was attached is called a node.  Roots usually form at a node.

Put in the Pot

  • Stick the lower end of the stem into the moist medium (soil or grow mix).

Powis Castle cutting that has just been potted.

  • Make sure at least one node is under the medium.
  • Support the cutting by firming the medium in which it is planted.

Where to Put Them

  • If the weather is calm and mild I don’t do much else to them except put them together in an mesh flat. Then place that flat on top of another mesh flat that is turned upside down. This helps keep those roly poly bugs from getting into the pots. (Keep this in mind for other things too.)
  • I keep them in a place that gets a bit of morning sun and only dappled sunlight.  Direct sunlight can kill them especially if it gets real hot.
  • If the weather is windy they need a bit of shelter.  I like to use my makeshift coldframe to protect them.  I still put a rock under one end to make sure it’s open for plenty of air circulation. This keeps the plants from becoming dehydrated.  As soon as the wind dies down they don’t need the coldframe.

I put a brick or rock under the cold frame to make sure plenty of air circulates.

What Then?

Keep the medium moist but NOT soggy.  If it’s too wet the cutting will rot. Wet it well to begin with and don’t add water until it’s just about dry.

How Long Does It Take?

Rooting can take a few days or weeks.  If the plant stays fresh looking, you’re doing ok.

Rooted cuttings of Rosemary, Thyme, Santolina, Anthemis, and Iberis. (The Thyme was not blooming when I took the cutting.)

How You Know When it’s Rooted

When you gently pull on it and you feel a little resistance, you know that roots have formed.

After that you’re ready to plant in your borders or garden.

Here’s How Good it Can Be

A new plant grown from a cutting will sometimes grow very quickly.  The Anthemis in the picture below started with a cutting from a plant that had no buds only 2 1/2 weeks ago.  It has rooted, has 3 buds and will soon bloom.  By the end of the summer it will be a good sized plant.

Anthemis rooted cutting.


This is what the parent plant looked like when I took the cutting.

A Few Last Tips

Many perennials and annuals can be rooted from stem cuttings especially in the spring.  If you’re not sure, do a google search to find out if you can propagate your plant by stem cuttings.  Or — just go ahead and try.

One important word of caution:  Don’t get hung-up on all the complicated procedures you can hear and see.  And no, it’s not a requirement to buy Rootone to root plants.

If you want to start an even easier way — just stick a lot of cuttings in the ground where you think you’d want them.  Do this while we’re still having nice spring rains.  You’ll be surprised at how many new plants you get.

Just remember – Nature is pretty much user friendly.  It’s humans that try to make it complicated.


You might enjoy reviewing the following posts:

Sedum – A Top 10 Perennial

Sedum – Time for New Starts

Artemisia – Silver in Your Flower Garden

Planting Perennials – Is Bigger Better


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  • Theresa, I tried this – and it works – easily. I now have a lovely healthy batch of new baby Thyme plants after about 3 weeks. I’m thrilled.

  • Am I understanding correctly, Sandra, that you didn’t know you could start thyme this way until you read my post?

    Thyme is wonderful. It’s nice to have several around.

  • Right I didn’t know this. I’ve often started Rosemary, but I never thought Thyme would root so well, don’t know why!

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