A Guide to Taking Cuttings & Propagating Edible Plants

One of the most exciting things about starting your own home garden is the overwhelming sense of possibility. One small plant or seed has the ability to provide you and many others with so many amazing, life-giving benefits. Whether a plant grows to provide food for you and your family, shade, wildlife habitat, mulch and nutrients for the soil, or simply inspiration and joy, it adds value to the Earth. Learning how to take cuttings and how to propagate them opens up a whole new world of possibilities! You can clone your favourite plants to level up your garden or swap, gift and trade to share your outside space with others.

Multiplying plants from the ones you already have, or making cuttings from friends' gardens, can help you set up and grow a sustainable garden without all the costs involved. Learning how to take cuttings is so easy, and you will have the ability to produce an endless supply of plants. It is such a valuable skill to master!

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Why take cuttings?

There are many reasons you may want to take cuttings and reproduce plants. It could be because you are moving and want to take a special plant with you, add more to your garden, share successful plants with friends, trade or swap with others for new and exciting plants, or even sell to make a little extra profit from your garden.

What do I need? 

To get started, you will need a pair of Hoselink’s high-quality Secateurs and Handy Snippers. It is a good idea to have different pairs and sizes to ensure you can cut through each stem size and type with ease. The Hoselink Handy Snippers are great for taking cuttings from small shrubs such as herbs, flowers and succulents, while Hoselink’s Secateurs are better for larger stems or semi-hardwood, such as mulberries, rosemary and roses.

When is the best time to take cuttings?

It is best to take cuttings when you will not put any added stress on the main plant. The end of winter, early spring or the beginning of autumn is often the ideal time to take cuttings. The peak of summer and winter is often highly stressful for plants as they are under extra pressure from extreme temperatures and conditions. You don't want to add any additional stress to the plant and risk its health, so avoid taking cuttings during these peak periods.

It is also essential to only take cuttings when the plant is looking healthy and strong. The plant will also need to be established enough to withstand the extra stems being removed. For this reason, it is best to wait until the plants are at least one to two years old or have many branches and stems. Take your cuttings first thing in the morning when the plant is in its most hydrated state. 

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Selecting plants for cuttings

There are a few key factors to observe before selecting plants to take cuttings from:

  • Plant size- Is the plant established enough to handle losing a few stems?
  • Plant health- The plant needs to be healthy with no diseases or health concerns. Check the leaves for black spots, fungus or any other issues. The cutting will be a direct clone, so if the main plant has problems, it is highly likely the cutting will too.
  • Performance- Is this the best performing plant? Consider size, taste, colour etc. Choose only the best plants to take your cuttings.

 

Making the Cut

Selecting the right stems for cutting can depend on the type of plant you have chosen. This will come with experience, but don't be afraid to give it a go. If in doubt, take multiple cuttings at different stem points and diameter points to see what works best. As a general guide, take your cuttings from semi-hardwood stems. These are not the delicate tip of new growth and not the older hardwood; somewhere in the middle. 

 

Step 1: Using clean, sharp secateurs, make a cut on a slight angle just below a node. A node is a small ridge on the stem where the leaves grow. This is also where the roots will form. Any stem below the node may rot, so it is best to have the node at the bottom of the cutting.

Step 2:  Remove the leaves from the bottom three-quarters of the stem. 

Step 3: Place your stem in a jar of water to sprout roots or plant directly in a small to medium pot filled with potting mix and water well. 

Step 4: For cuttings in jars of water: change the water regularly to prevent bacteria from forming.

Step 5: Once the cuttings in water have sprouted roots (this will vary with each plant, they can take anywhere from one to eights weeks to sprout roots), plant them into a pot of soil or directly in the garden. The best time to plant out cuttings is in spring after the last frost to ensure your plant will be able to flourish with new growth. If you have planted your cuttings directly into the soil to start with, you can re-pot them into larger containers or plant them out into a garden bed during spring.

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Propagation and care

If using a jar, keep the water clean by replacing it every 4-5 days. This will reduce the risk of bacteria growing and inhibiting root growth. Keep your propagated cuttings somewhere that receives good airflow and diffused sunlight to promote growth.

Cuttings grown directly in soil should be kept well-watered for the first four weeks using your Hoselink Retractable Hose. Feed your propagated cuttings regularly every 2-4 weeks with a small amount of Hoselink’s Organic Seaweed Tonic. 

Key tips to successfully propagate cuttings

- Use clean secateurs to make your cuttings. Bacteria can be spread through your garden easily on the blade surfaces.

- Use sharp cutting tools. This will make a clean cut and leave the stem open to absorb water and produce roots. Blunt blades can squash the ends together and close the exposed stem.

- Make sure you identify the plants correctly before taking a cutting.

- Change the water in your cutting jars every few days, so it doesn't harbour bacteria.

- Take multiple cuttings to increase your chance of success.

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Which plants can I take cuttings from?

Not all plants can be successfully propagated from cuttings. Herbs are a great place to start for beginners, as many herbs can be grown from a cutting and will sprout roots quickly and easily. Here is a list of common edible plants that can be easily propagated from cuttings:

  • Tomatoes
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Mulberry
  • Sweet potato
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Raspberry
  • Basil
  • Rose
  • Lemon balm
  • Curry plant

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Once you start making cuttings and propagating your most successful plants, you will be amazed at how quickly you can grow and build a sustainable garden. 

Swapping and trading cuttings with friends and family is a great way to grow new varieties without the cost. You can also reach out and start conversations in your local community groups and offer to share and trade cuttings from your garden. This is a great way to get more variety in your garden for less and grow friendships with like-minded people in your local community.

Don't be afraid to fail. Not every cutting will strike and be successful, so keep trying, and you will be greatly rewarded. Learning to identify plants and how to propagate and regrow them will take your gardening to the next level.

Happy gardening!

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