What are Cuttings?

by Brooke Tolman
(last updated January 25, 2017)

The simplest way to define what cuttings are is to say that they are pieces of an existing plant that can be used to grow a new plant. It is a useful technique for growing new plants. There are four main types of plant cuttings. These are stem cutting, leaf cutting, leaf-bud cutting, and root cutting.

Just as its name implies, stem cutting involves taking a stem from the plant to make a clone. Stem cutting is perhaps the most popular cutting method for cloning plants. A stem cutting should be a couple inches in length and have a few healthy, large leaves to maximize photosynthesis. Make certain to keep the leaves of stem moist as it starts to take root.

In this type of cutting, the leaf blade itself is used to create a new plant. Usually, the cut leaf doesn't become a part of the new plant. If the plant you are growing has particularly thick leaves, you can cut open the veins of the leaf and plant it flat into the growing medium, making sure to keep the cut leaf exposed to light and moisture. After a short period of time, new plants may begin to form where the leaf was cut open. The cut leaf will eventually dry up and rot away, even as the young plants thrive. Another technique sometimes used is to take older, larger leaves and cut them into triangles, making sure each piece contains a large vein. The edges of the leaf, which usually contains no veins, should be thrown away. The triangles are then planted in the medium with the pointy side down. A new plant can then develop from the vein. Be aware, however, that leaf cutting is very delicate, and only works with plants that are easily cloned.

This type of cutting is made up of a leaf blade, petiole, and a short piece of the stem with an attached bud. Leaf bud cuttings are best of species that are able to create roots but not shoots from cut leaves. This method works best when you have a healthy plant, but have very little cloning material to work with because it maximizes the propagating material.

And lastly, propagation by cutting a parent's plant's roots is very simple, because there is less concern of the roots taking hold. However, it is not as popular because many gardeners don't want to harm the roots of their plants. Obviously, the thicker and healthier the root, the greater the chance of success. Roots should be two or three inches in length, and planted right side up in the growing medium. Many growers choose to cut the side that is supposed to face upwards with a straight cut and the side that is supposed to face downwards with a diagonal cut so that they do not accidentally plant it wrong.

No matter what kind of cutting you choose for cloning plants, make certain to use a quality rooting gel to stimulate the formation of new roots.

Author Bio

Brooke Tolman

Brooke is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Exercise Science. She currently resides in Seattle where she works as a freelance data analyst and personal trainer. She hopes to spend her life camping and traveling the world. ...

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