Indoor plants respond to lengthening days by putting out new growth.
Once herbaceous plants, one with soft stems, have a few inches or centimetres of new growth it is possible to take cuttings and start new plants. The process is simple and has been used for centuries.
Start by collecting plants, small clean containers, sterilized potting mix, large clear plastic bags, fertilizer and a sharp cutting tool. Root stimulator will speed up the process but it is optional.
Choose plants that are healthy with a large amount of healthy, soft, new growth. Ignore straggly plants as they will likely produce similar plants.
Containers must be clean with holes in the bottom for drainage.
Washing a container is often enough but if there have been problems in the past with viruses or diseases dip all containers in a five per cent bleach solution.
Fertilizer is a must if plants are going to develop quickly. Use a fertilizer that has larger second and third numbers; phosphorus and potash assist in root development. Be sure to follow the instructions on the fertilizer container as more is not better.
Sterilized potting mixes have been treated to ensure they are free of viruses and diseases giving cuttings a better chance of survival.
Large clear plastic bags are to be placed over the pots and cuttings. This creates a greenhouse effect, keeping the surface around the cutting humid thus allowing the plant to put more energy into growing roots and less into replacing moisture lost to transpiration.
A sharp clean cutting tool makes a cut that does not have jagged edges which will heal quickly.
Root stimulant will speed up the rooting process. It is as simple as dipping the cutting in the compound but be sure to read and follow the directions on the container.
Taking a cutting is a simple process. Start at the top of the new growth and count down four leaves. Cut the stem just above the fourth leaf. Place the cutting to the side until all are cuttings are assembled. If a rooting stimulant is being used do so at this stage in taking cuttings.
Fill the containers with moist soil. Place the cuttings, bottom down in the soil and press the soil firmly around the stem to eliminate all air pockets.
Place the clear plastic bag over the cuttings to keep the air humid. If the condensation starts to drip inside the bag, open the bag to create air circulation.
The number of cuttings that goes into a pot depends on the size of pot and how the new plants are going to be used.
Pots under four inches (10 cm) in diameter should only hold one cutting or the plants will be competing for moisture and nutrients.
Use the smaller pots when plants are to be transplanted into different locations.
Larger pots can contain more cuttings taking up less room in the window or under the light. These plants can be transplanted when the pot becomes crowded.
Germaniums are one of the plants that are commonly associated with cuttings but most soft-stemmed plants can be propagated using this method. This includes houseplants and beddingplants. If in doubt try a few pieces.
To have success with cuttings be sure to use new growth, a few leaves, clean containers and equipment and sterilized soil.
For the most part, cuttings are a quick easy way to propagate new plants.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org