Rooting Cuttings in Water
4-5" cut stems from most any plant,
especially with square or sturdy stems
Sharp scissors or X-acto knife |
small glass containers, perhaps colored
Optional: distilled or bottled water
| Sunny window spot
For those of us gardeners
who are DIRT CHEAP, there's nothing more enjoyable than cutting a little bit
off an existing plant, plunking it in water, and getting it to sprout new roots
so that it can be transplanted in the garden for free.
You can ask your
family, friends and neighbors if you can take cuttings from their plants to try
this. They will no doubt be delighted! Always offer to share your bounty with
them as a thank-you.
See the list of plants below for some ideas of the
huge variety of plant life that will propagate - pronounced PROP uh gate - or
grow anew, using this method, without hurting the host plant.
It really does appear
to be about as simple as sticking the cuttings in a small container of water in
a sunny spot, and waiting a few days or weeks 'til you can see about a 1"
rootball, then transplanting the new baby into a pot or the garden outside.
But, as with everything
in gardening, there is a WRONG way to root cuttings:
As an experiment, a kids garden club
some day-lily leaves into a vase of
hoping they would root. But they did
everything wrong - see below. That's
what experiments are for!
Learning from your mistakes is
sometimes more valuable
than doing things right the first
Here are the RIGHT
methods that should give you success:
Root plants that have an actual stem. Plants like day lilies, which
basically have leaves coming up from the ground, rather than coming off of
stems, are tougher to root than plants with stems.
of the leaves first. Try not to put much green matter into the water.
Pull off all leaves except the top 2 or 4 of your short cutting. Green leaves
will likely rot in the water. Then the roots can't grow.
cut very neat. With sharp scissors or an X-acto knife, cut the stem
about a quarter-inch above where it was first cut out of the host plant,
because bruised ends will rot. It's especially important with thin cuttings,
such as these day-lily leaves. Then slice upward vertically for a half-inch or
inch, to increase the water flow into the bottom of the cutting.
one cutting into each container. Clumping them into a
big vase, like these kids did, will render nothing but yucky algae; the roots
never have a chance to grow.
If you have a water softener, use distilled or bottled water. The
salts in water softener can impact this process. Ironically, some gardeners use
half distilled water, half cold, leftover coffee, to root plants. The organic
power of the coffee, which, after all, is a plant, inspires the rooting process
- just another example of good recycling!
often. You might add water daily or every other day. That keeps the oxygen
level up in the water and avoids rotting.
glass or a sunblock. You can use everything from a juice glass to a baby
food jar to a cleaned-out empty salsa jar, but if it's clear glass, you might
be happier with results if you tape some newspaper to the side of the container
that is facing the sun. That way, algae is lots less likely to form in the
too long to transplant. When the baby roots are 1" or 1¼" long, carefully
transplant outside in very loose, moist, lightweight garden soil. Don't handle
the cutting by the roots because they easily break off. Try to have really
loose soil to press around the roots, and water the transplant only slightly so
it doesn't get drowned. If you can start it in a shady spot for the first few
weeks, out of the blazing sun, you'll be better off. Then move it to its
pebbles, beads or marbles in the glass container where the roots will soon
touch them. The baby roots will touch these surfaces under the
water and be stimulated by them. This will inspire the roots to grow the little
hairs off to the side, that take up oxygen. Sticklers will say that it's best
to root cut stems in moist perlite, vermiculite or seed-starting medium so that
the roots can more easily be transplanted into real garden soil. They claim the
roots of plants started in water are "water roots," not as developed as roots
that start off in a medium other than water, and very easily broken off. But if
you put pebbles or other items in the water, you can avoid that.
Now here are some of the plants that are easily
philodendron, Swedish ivy, wandering jew, purple passion vine
Sweet potato vine
(ornamental and edible)
(mini-plants that come up on the sides and should be broken off, anyway)