Vegetative Plant Propagation and Cuttings – Definitive Guide

Vegetative Propagation and Cuttings – Cloning is a common occurrence in the world of plants. Amateur gardeners may benefit from “vegetative propagation,” which refers to the practice of propagating plants from cuttings.

In this post you can learn about

What is Vegetative Propagation

The term “asexual propagation”  refers to vegetative propagation. Plant life can reproduce even if no seeds are generated during fertilization. Male pollen meets a female egg cell in conventional flowering plant reproduction via seeds, also called generative, sexual, or asexual reproduction.

Fertilization can occur and a plant can grow from the resulting seed if these two elements are compatible. While flowering, fertilization, and the development of a seed occur naturally in vegetative propagation, a new plant originates only from the dividing cells of the original plant.

As a result, the offspring share exactly the same genetic make-up as their mother. Clones are created as a result of vegetative propagation. Even in nature, plants do things that are deemed prohibited for animal species. Some species have evolved systems to reproduce vegetatively, eliminating the requirement to generate seeds to assure future generations.

What is Vegetative Propagation in Plants

This has numerous benefits for the gardener. You can utilize vegetative propagation to clone and multiply plants with certain traits, for example. Vegetatively propagated plants, on the other hand, typically take significantly less time to blossom or develop fruit than seed-propagated plants.

Vegetative propagation is a quick and easy solution if the plants don’t set seeds or germinate quickly enough. When sexual reproduction by sowing isn’t an option, persons in the horticulture industry frequently turn to this method of propagation as their only option.

Asexual plant propagation, on the other hand, typically results in substantially higher expenditures for the gardener than seed-based propagation.

Propagation Methods in Plants

Vegetative propagation takes several forms. Not all plants can be propagated vegetatively in some fashion. Also, not all varieties are found in nature, as humans have been known to exploit plants’ cloning ability. A quick review of vegetative propagation examples and when each type occurs is mentioned below,

Offshoots and lowering

Here, individual shoots are connected to the soil and either sunk entirely into the soil (offshoots) or just come into touch with the soil once, so that the shoot tip stands upright from the soil substrate (cuttings). A plant’s roots form on the soil-contact portion of the shoot. If you drop something, you’ll get a new plant from it. Even while offshoots don’t initially sprout, they do send up shoots from the ground, and one discarded shoot can produce numerous new plants.

Example: Hazelnuts, Haworthia


A plant’s shoot has been intentionally harmed. Cling film is used to contain the wet moss in the proper location. Injured roots form on the plant, and the plant might be severed below the newly created roots over time. Now that the shoot has learned to feed itself, it can survive on its own.

Example: as an alternative to cutting propagation when the shoots are overly woody.


Runners and stolons are both terms used to describe the same thing. Lateral shoots emerge from the mother plant. Each one culminates in a stand-alone plant that takes root. Both above and below ground can be used for side shoots.

Example: Strawberry (above ground)

Tubers and bulbs

Rather than being thin roots or underground shoots, tubers are thickened versions of those organs. Tubers have two purposes: one is to store vital nutrients, and the other is to allow a plant to grow from each individual one. This also applies to light bulbs. This is a low, thick-leaved, stubby plant, according to botany. Mother bulbs, which can sprout into new plants, form in the majority of bulbous plants.

Example: potato (tuber), kitchen onion (bulb).

In-vitro propagation

In-vitro propagation, as it’s known, is frequently employed in biotechnology by specialised firms. To grow plants, this technique uses cells or other tissues that divide rapidly. The term “in vitro” refers to the method of cultivating plants in a glass container.

A climate-controlled environment with precisely regulated settings is used to grow them on specialized substrates that contain any necessary ingredients for development. Despite the fact that this technology holds a lot of promise, it is prohibitively expensive for the average home gardener. In vitro culture can be used to propagate any species if the exact circumstances required by that species are understood.

Rhizome division

Rhizomes are the underground stems of some plants. These are ax-shooters for use in the dark. Rhizomes are frequently used in conjunction with roots. Because the underground stems have buds from which new shoots can emerge, a plant’s rhizome can be divided to produce numerous new, genetically identical plants.

Example: Raspberries


Plants can be harvested for their individual leaves, shoot tips, or even the shoot axis. Some of these cuttings will become self-sufficient if placed in the substrate. It’s worth repeating: not every way of cutting is suitable for every type of plant.

Among the several vegetative propagation methods, cuttings are by far the most essential. If a plant is available, cuttings can be used to swiftly and successfully propagate the species.

Examples: various herbs


Grafting is a method of asexual propagation as well. Grafting, in turn, can be broken down into a number of various types. The rootstock is used to graft a desirable plant portion that cannot be obtained well through other methods of propagation.

Rootstocks can be easily raised from seed or propagated from cuttings because of their ease of growth. Additionally, rootstocks may have growth qualities or disease resistance that a grafted variety does not. This is an advantage of using rootstocks.

Shoot portions (grafting) or merely individual buds inserted into the rootstock bark are examples of plant parts grafted over onto the rootstock.

Examples: Fruit trees, cucumbers, tomatoes.

Based on the plant species, several methods of vegetative propagation are available. Propagation from cuttings, on the other hand, is critical for home gardening. We’ll go deeper into asexual reproduction in the sections that follow.

What is Plant Cutting Propagation

The development of new plants from cuttings is perhaps the best type of vegetative propagation. Leaf cuttings, but also shoot cuttings, are frequently utilized in the production of new plants. When propagating a plant using leaf cuttings, separate the leaves and place them in a growing medium.

The leaf then sprouts several new plantlets. It is still necessary to distinguish between partial cuttings and shoot tip cuttings when reproducing via shoot cuttings. Cuttings from the shoot can be taken from anywhere in the latter case. The only prerequisite is that the cutting has at least one leaf bud, also known as a node.

Rooting is facilitated and leaf mass, as well as new shoots, are formed when rooting is complete when phytohormone levels are favorable.

The topmost five to ten centimeters of the shoot tip are referred to as shoot tip clippings. They may contain the first two or three pairs of leaves, depending on the plant species. Shortening the leaves reduces transpiration, which in turn reduces the amount of water needed for the cutting.

Despite this, leaves provide a valuable supply of carbohydrates throughout the laborious roots phase. Shortening the leaves also increases the danger of fungal infection. The size of the leaves from the cutting should be considered when deciding whether or not shortening appears more sensible.

Cuttings and Plant Propagation – Optimal Conditions

Cutting a plant portion for the purpose of propagation creates stress. As a result, optimum rooting conditions are critical to ensuring that the cut plant portions develop into self-sustaining plants. When it comes to optimal rooting circumstances, we can offer advice.

Do not store Cuttings

Keep cuttings as fresh as possible by storing them as briefly as possible. The more time you have in storage, the more difficult it will be to root your device. If cuttings are kept for an extended period of time, the rooting success will be reduced due to the decomposition of carbohydrates as well as other adverse impacts.

Procedure in case of Storage

If the cuttings must be kept, the refrigerator is the finest place to keep them. Make sure the clippings are moistened and then place them in a plastic bag containing holes before chopping them up. As a result, cutting-generated gases can still circulate.

Cuttings directly into Substrate

Pre-planting cuttings in a water glass is preferable to directly putting them in the substrate. The cuttings first produce water roots in a water glass. However, if they become trapped in the substrate, they’re useless since their roots are coarser and less branching, meaning they can’t take up water or nutrients from the soil or substrate.

Choosing the Perfect Substrate

Gardening stores sell specialized substrates for the propagation of cuttings and grafts. Due to their high water permeability, these are less prone to flooding. Furthermore, these substrates’ low nutrient content aids root growth in addition to their favorable air-water balance.

Watering after planting the Cuttings

After the cuttings have been placed in the substrate, make sure to water them thoroughly. Rainwater is preferable if it is available, as it has a lower salt content.

Ensure high humidity

Cuttings require water, yet lack the roots necessary to absorb it. Cuttings are helpless in this situation. As a result, the cuttings’ transpiration – or the amount of water they lose through evaporation – must be reduced. Increase the humidity in the area around the cuts to make this happen. An excellent way to achieve this is with a small greenhouse. This can also be placed on a windowsill of any size.

Plenty of light and heat

When the cuttings are first sprouting, they require a lot of light to root well. As a result, the optimal period to propagate cuttings is in the late spring or early summer. There’s no need for additional illumination when there’s ample natural light. The ideal temperature range is between 20°C and 25°C. Rooting is aided by a little warmer temperature in the root zone. There are heated mats specifically designed for this use.

Acclimatizing rooted cuttings

Checking on the cuttings to determine if the first roots have appeared should be done on a regular basis. If that’s the case, reintroduction to the natural environment should be gradual. To accomplish this, slowly lower the mini-greenhouse lid until it is completely down.

Fertilize Cuttings

To help the cuttings adapt, a common complete fertilizer will be applied to them during acclimatization. The cutting substrate is extremely deficient in nutrients, thus additional nutrients are required to support the young plantlets’ new growth.

Planting rooted cuttings

To pot the cuttings, use a larger pot and a more nutrient-rich medium once they are well-rooted and producing new growth. The young plants, on the other hand, can now be placed directly into the garden. After potting or planting, make sure to give it plenty of water.

Common Problems in Cuttings and Vegetative Propagation

You may simply make clones of a plant through vegetative propagation. However, issues can arise in this location as well.

Vegetative propagation is an option if seeds cannot be used to reproduce a plant species or if the plant’s features must be preserved at any cost. Asexual propagation or asexual reproduction is the term for this type of reproduction since it is done without the use of seeds.

Cuttings propagation is arguably the most well-known method. However, in nature, techniques for plant cloning have already evolved. Strawberry runners with children – miniature, self-sufficient plants – are an example of one of these. Onions and potatoes reproduce by producing tubers that look like their parents. These plant storage organs develop into their own plants if they are planted.

In other cases, humans purposefully interfere with the process in order to make identical plants. Included in this is the process of “mossing” woody stems. Vegetative forms of propagation include things like grafting, which is done on fruit trees, tomatoes, and cucumbers, amongst other plants. These propagations are, on the whole, trouble-free.

Propagate Cuttings

Propagation from cuttings, on the other hand, is rather different. This is the most common method of asexual reproduction, and it’s also the simplest to perform on your own. Rooting substrate Soil is used to cut the unwoody tip of the shoot or another herbaceous area of the shoot and place it in. When cloning plants, there are a few considerations to bear in mind. Otherwise, problems with rooting the cuttings may emerge.

Problems while Propagating Cuttings

Lack of Hygiene

Plant diseases can spread from one parent plant to another or to the cuttings if cuttings are obtained from many plants and if the knife is not sanitized during this process.

Long Storage

Rooting success may be harmed if cuttings are kept for an extended period of time. The cuttings’ energy stores, which are required for roots, deplete as storage time increases. As soon as the cuttings are made, they should be staked. When not in use, store in the refrigerator at 40°F or less.

Low Humidity

Because they don’t yet have roots, cuttings can’t take in any water. As a result, water evaporation must be minimized. You can do this by putting the clippings in a window-sill mini-greenhouse.

Fungal infestation

Fungal assault on cuttings is a common problem when propagating plants from cuttings. Pathogens can easily enter through the incision. To save water, the cuttings’ leaves are sometimes trimmed short to prevent transpiration. This is also conducive to the growth of fungi. The leaves will decay if the humidity is kept too high.

Poor root formation

What could be causing the lack of root formation on the cutting? It’s possible that this is the result of the wrong planning. There needs to be enough light and warmth in the room. As a result, trying to propagate plants in the fall or winter will almost certainly fail. Late spring or early summer is the best time to start propagating cuttings. A greater rooting chamber temperature might hasten root development. A specific heating pad is ideal for this use. To warm up the root region, set the trays or cutting trays on top of this.

Poor growth

Cuttings that have been successfully rooted in soil may eventually stop growing due to environmental conditions such as drought.  A larger container and more nutrient-rich fresh substrate help the young plants grow faster. Cutting propagation substrates are purposefully deficient in nutrients to enhance roots.

How to Propagate Cuttings of Hydrangea, Rose, and other plants

Take the first 5-10 cm of a plant and place it in a good substrate for head cuttings. Organic soil, for example, is ideal for cuttings because it’s rich in organic matter. So-called partial cuts include trimming a portion of a shoot in the middle to the appropriate size and inserting it into the pot.

  1. There must be at least one leaf node on drift cuttings for propagation to be successful, regardless of whether they are partial or head cuttings.
  2. The cut on the cutting shot should not be too hard nor too soft.
  3. To prune properly, use a sharp knife and clean it thoroughly before each cut.
  4. Use cutting substrates that are both permeable and low in nutrients.
  5. To keep cuttings from drying while they are rooted, maintain high humidity levels.
  6. Once the first roots appear, reduce humidity gradually to prevent a fungal infection.

There must, however, be at least one “node” in the cutting for it to be considered successful. Pay great attention to the degree of woodiness in partial cuttings, especially. The tissue shouldn’t be too soft or the cuttings should be too woody. Rooting is more difficult for woody cuttings, and the softer tissues are more susceptible to fungal infection.

If the cuttings are clipped, make certain they have two leaves that are nearly fully formed. For the cutting to really be able to produce the energy required for roots, the leaf area is critical. The leaves, on the other hand, present a disadvantage to the cuttings. The more the leaf surface area, the greater the cutting’s tendency to transpire in dry air, high temperatures, or bright light.

As a result, more water will need to be replenished during the cutting process. However, a fresh cutting lacks roots and hence cannot absorb any water at this time. High humidity in the cuttings’ habitat is therefore essential for good cuttings propagation. A thin spray in the greenhouse, for example, meets this need in large nurseries.

A mini-greenhouse on the windowsill can already provide the requisite high humidity at home. Cut a PET bottle in half and place it over the cuttings as an alternative. The cutting, on the other hand, can be gradually weaned after the first roots appear.

In order to maintain a high level of humidity, the hood is removed intermittently for increasingly long periods of time. Airing allows the cuttings to become more genuinely acclimated to their new surroundings. If the high humidity is maintained, the likelihood of hazardous plant fungus attacking the cutting will increase.

How to Propagate Herbs by Cuttings

Herbs can be propagated on the windowsill with the help of someone with gardening knowledge and sensibility. Cuttings make this process simple. It’s important, though, to choose the perfect moment: Temperatures and light are best in the late spring or early summer.

In particular, the shoots are normally devoid of any blooms or buds at this point in their development. A lot of force is required to develop new roots on cuttings, which is bad for the cutting’s health.

As long as the cutting is submerged until the roots grow, it can be left in a glass of water. We, on the other hand, strongly advise against it. After that, new water roots will form. The root systems in soil or substrate are finely branching and hairy, whereas these are not.

However, those roots are of no use at first because they must be removed before replanting the cutting in a pot. After potting, it’s not uncommon for the water roots to become infected with fungus and die. Instead of using a mini-greenhouse on the windowsill, place the cuttings straight into an appropriate substrate and maintain a high level of humidity.