Budget Living

How To Grow Garden Plants From Cuttings For Free

Growing a garden is hard work. Sure, this is coming from someone who struggles to keep a cactus alive, but it doesn’t seem to matter how strictly you follow the care instructions or how much love you give it, sometimes your plant just won’t grow. Fortunately, there are ways even the most horticulturally-impaired of us can grow a stunning garden – all you need is a head start.

We showed you how to grow your own fruit and vegetables from scraps; now it’s time to get a bit more decorative!

Why should I grow plants from cuttings?

There are a few reasons growing plants from cuttings is a great way to go about starting a garden. First and foremost, it’s free, but as well as that, if you’re taking a cutting from a plant you know is already healthy and doing well, it stands a better chance of succeeding when you root it in your own garden. No more slaving over seed trays!

Now, we’re absolutely not suggesting you start sneaking around in the dead of night hacking chunks out of your neighbour’s prize winning rose bushes. You should always ask permission from the owner of the plant before you take a cutting. Not doing so is technically theft, which means taking cuttings from plants in parks, public gardens or National Trust properties is off the cards, too. We suggest starting with green-fingered friends and family, who will hopefully be on hand to help you along your gardening journey to make sure your first foray is a successful one.

What kind of plants grow well from cuttings?

Geraniums in a garden

kuarmungadd/Adobe Stock

Some plants will grow from a cutting much more easily than others. There are plenty of easy choices out there: African violets and geraniums are almost impossible to fail at growing and make for vibrantly colourful pot or bedding plants. If you’re looking for something a little greener, spider plants, Chinese evergreens, dumb cane plants and various types of ivy are among the easiest to grow.

You can also grow herbs, fruit and vegetables from cuttings (as well as from scraps!). Rosemary, mint, basil and blackcurrants will all do well when grown from a cutting.

However, as well as the plant you want to grow, you ought to consider the time of year you take the cutting, too, to give it its best chance at success. Most plants will root well from what’s known as a “softwood cutting” – a cutting taken in the spring or early summer from a plant’s new growth. The later in the year you leave it to take a cutting, the more mature the plant will be. The more mature a plant gets, the woodier its stems become, and the harder it’ll be to successfully grow another from a cutting, although there are some plants that do better if you take cuttings from them when they’re more mature.

How to root a plant from a cutting

Let’s start with taking the cutting itself. You don’t necessarily need any specialist equipment – a sharp knife will do. In fact, the sharper, the better, as this will make for a cleaner cut and avoid causing damage to the parent plant. No gardener will thank you for massacring their shrubbery just to take a cutting! Your knife will also need to be very clean so that no germs can get into either the parent plant or the cutting and affect how healthy it is.

Now you’ve got your tools, you’re ready to take your cutting. You’ll need to cut off a section of stem about 3-6 inches long (that’s 7 to 15 centimetres or so in new money). Then, carefully clip off the leaves from the lower half of the stem so you have a good section of bare stem to plant.

Most of the plants we’ve mentioned will start to grow roots in a couple of weeks if you just leave them in a glass of water, then you can pot them on once the roots are established. Alternatively, you can pot your cutting straight into a soilless mixture. Sand is probably the cheapest option here, but you could splash out on a specialist potting mixture – and transfer it to soil once it has enough roots.

Cutting growing in a garden

SkyLine/Adobe Stock

Our top tips

  • Early in the morning is the best time to take cuttings from plants, as this is when they are most moist, and so most likely to root into a new plant
  • In fact, moisture is key to growing plants successfully from cuttings! Once you’ve potted up your cutting, place plastic bag over it to keep the air around the plant damp. Just remember to open the bag once a day to keep the air fresh!
  • Keep your baby plants indoors at room temperature while you’re waiting for them to root
  • They’ll also like being kept in bright areas, but out of direct sunlight
  • Be patient! Some plants will root from cuttings much more quickly than others. It can take a couple of months for a plant to grow good enough roots that you can transfer it to normal compost or a flower bed

Have you ever grown a plant from a cutting? Which varieties do you recommend? Let us know in the comments!