Propagate Plants With Stem Cuttings & A Mason Jar

One of the fastest and easiest ways to reproduce certain types of plants is by a method known as “stem cuttings”, “truncheon(s)” “striking” or “cloning”.
It is an asexual method of plant propagation that usually requires only a small leafy section of stem from one parent plant. When the stem section from a parent plant is properly prepared and subject to the right conditions, it will grow roots and becomes an independent plant and clone of the parent.

Plant propagation by stem cuttings is a foundation homestead skill that is fun, economical and very easy to learn. Once you acquire the art and skill to clone a plant from a stem cutting, a large part of the plant world becomes your playground. You might even find yourself carrying a pocket knife and a plastic bag everywhere you go.
What’s more, if you have a “green thumb” and are so inclined, the propagation of plants by stem cuttings can become the underpinning for a very lucrative home based business.
However a few words of caution. Some plants are patented protected so take care not to break patent laws by offering a patented plant for sale. If the patented plant is propagated for your own use and not for commercial gains there is usually not a patent protection problem or issue.

What follows below is a brief list of some of the herbs, flowers and shrubs that I have propagated by stem cutting.

Roses  (my favorite) Rosemary Rose of Sharon
English Ivy Mint African Violets
Chrysanthemums Lavender Poinsettia
Blueberry Scented Geraniums Gardenia
Elderberry Thyme Forsythia
Holly Yew Lemon Verbena
Wisteria Lilac Jasmine
Bay Laurel (not 100% successful) Mock Orange Rhododendron

The above list is by no means a complete list of what can be propagated by stem cutting. Hundreds of different varieties of plants, herbs, shrubs and trees can be propagated by the home gardener. I would encourage you to visit other gardening websites or forums to see the various types of plants that other people have reproduced in their gardens.

Here’s What You’ll Need To Get Started
When it comes to reproducing new plants from stem cuttings not too much is needed in the way of special equipment. Most of what is required can be found around the homestead or in a garden shed.
The method I use employs:

  • A Parent Plant
  • The Months of May, June, July, August & September
  • A Clean Pot
  • Sterile Potting Soil
  • A Wide-Mouth Canning Jar
  • A Small Knife
  • Garden Pruners
  • A Watering Can
  • A Semi-Shady Location
  • Honey
  • Patience

Choosing the Parent Plant
Basically there are 4 distinct types of cuttings or truncheons because there are many types of plants. The four different types are: herbaceous cuttings, soft wood cuttings, semi-hardwood cuttings and hardwood cuttings.
The type of cutting and the timing for the propagation depend upon the plant. That’s because not all plants have the same growing habits or needs.
A simple comparison for example: A spider plant (indoor herbaceous plant) will start to grow roots much faster than boxwood (semi-hardwood outdoor shrub). The spider plant doesn’t favor a certain season to be reproduced by cloning but the boxwood most certainly does. An understanding of the growth habits of the plant you want to reproduce helps to insure greater propagation success.
I have found that the very easiest plants to reproduce are usually herbaceous plants and soft wood shrubs. Many houseplants and some outdoor plants are quickly propagated by simply cutting a leaf or a branch and inserting it into a vase or jar of water on a bright or sunny window sill. African violets, pussy willow, mint, begonia, coleus, roses, philodendron, sweet basil and many more, can all be started this way. The down side of rooting a stem cutting in water is that the roots are often very brittle and will break or degrade when planted in soil.
A much better way to start stem cuttings is by properly preparing the stem cutting and planting it into sterile soil.

Here’ One Way To Root Stem Cuttings

I cloned a few “Yellow Submarine” rose bushes last summer by way of stem cuttings.The basic principle is the same for all soft wood cuttings – not just roses. I wanted roses but blueberry bushes, pussy willow, trumpet vines, boxwood, juniper, jasmine and hundreds of other plants can be started the way you’ll see below.

Very thorny modern landscape roses like “Yellow Submarine” or “Knockout”; or old-fashion roses or heritage roses like “Comte de Chambord “, “Zephirine Drouhin” or “Dorothy Perkins” will have a high success rate (I get about 70% -80%) when propagating by stem cuttings.
But not all roses or other plants will have the same success rate so it’s important to be prepared for failure and some losses. But also be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.  More than once I’ve had a 100% success rate. A lot depends upon the plant and weather conditions and a gardener’s attentiveness.

To begin the “Yellow Submarine” rose-bush propagation I collected and prepared ahead of time six clean plastic pots filled with sterile soil and six 2-quart Mason jars.  Stem cuttings need lots of humidity and moisture in order to grow roots. The Mason jars are placed over the cuttings and act like little green houses. The Mason jars are removed after the stem cutting has begun to grow its own roots and is well started.
I collected the stem pieces for the roses in the morning hours during the middle of June.

Parent Bush For Stem Cuttings

Parent Bush – A Yellow Submarine Rose

That’s because I wanted stem cuttings that were actively growing soft wood. Early summer is perfect for that type of growth and the early morning hours will most often find plant stems turgid and well hydrated.
Active growing soft wood is very firm and will have mature opened leaves and leaves that are still immature.
When I take stem cuttings I try to find sections from the bush or plant that have branching off shoots or a “v” type notch in the stem. The section on the stem where the off shoot branch or “v” notch is located contains specialized cells or growth nodes that will readily root the stem section once it is properly prepared.

Stem Cutting With A Side Notch

A Stem Cutting With a Side Branch Notch

With roses I cut about a 6”-12” section from the parent plant. The section must have healthy leaves and no flowers or flower buds. That because the plant’s energy should go towards root formation and not to flower production.

When collecting the stem cuttings I place and hold them in a bucket of water in the shade while I work. It’s important that the stems don’t dry out or become stressed in any way.

When I’m ready to begin the preparation of the stem cuttings I work in the shade with a knife and a small bowl of honey.

Honey For Stem Cutting For Roses

Honey For Stem Cutting For Roses

Each rose stem cutting is stripped of about two-thirds of its leaves and all thorns along the stem are removed. With the knife about a 2” section of green is gently scrape away until the white part of the stem is exposed. I also pierce the stem with the knife. Where the stem has been scraped and pierced is where the roots will form.

Cutting Has Been Scraped First

The Stem Of A Rose Plant Cutting Is Pierced & Scraped To Expose The Cells Needed To Grow Roots

After the stem has been scraped, I dip or coat the entire exposed and scraped section of the stem in honey. Many people will use rooting hormone powder instead of honey. The rooting powder crowd insists that it works better than honey but I’ve never noticed any difference. If anything, I think the honey works better because it has antiseptic properties, sticks to the stem better and gives the stem cutting cells a little extra sugar.

Honey For Stem Cutting For Roses

Honey For Stem Cutting For Roses

Once the stem cutting has been scraped, pierced and dipped into honey it is inserted into very wet and sterile potting soil and gently tamped into place. The stem cutting is placed most of the way into the soil up with about a 1″- 4″ distance from the first remaining leaves.

The Stem Cutting Is Planted Into A Pot

The Stem Cutting Is Planted Into A Pot

After the cutting has been planted, a Mason jar is placed firmly over the cutting leaving plenty of head room. The pot is then flooded with water and  moved to a semi-shaded location for about 8-12 weeks.

Day 1 - A Newly Planted Stem Cutting with A Mason Jar

Day 1 – A Newly Planted Stem Cutting with A Mason Jar

I keep my stem cuttings on top of an old well with a hand pump for watering convenience. It is important that the soil around the cuttings stay moist but overly not wet. Don’t let them dry out too much or they may die.

It takes on average about 3 to 9 weeks for rose cutting to begin to grow roots. I will usually start to check for roots about week 4 or 5.

Small Roots Are Beginning To Grow On The Cutting

Small Roots Are Beginning To Grow On The Cutting

Once root growth has commenced I remove the Mason jar for a few hours during the day so that the baby plant can grow accustomed to normal air circulation. If at any time the newly developed plant starts to look stressed or wilted I will replaced the Mason jar for another week or so. Also if any flower buds begin to form I will remove them so the new plant conserves its energy and puts effort into growing leaves and roots.

Mason Jars Are Removed Once The Cuttings Become Established

Mason Jars Are Removed Once The Cuttings Become Established

With the “Yellow Submarine” rose stem cuttings I started last June, good sturdy roots were developed by the end of August.
By the end of October they had formed a respectable root mass and were transplanted from their pots into the garden next to their parents.

The Root System On A 12 Week Old Cutting

The Root System On A 12 Week Old Rose Stem Cutting

Out of the six stem cuttings that I made all but one grew roots. I lost three by continually digging them up by the roots to take pictures.
*** 2 years later ***
The cuttings all became beautiful and healthy landscape roses. They were dug up and given away when I decided to make my rose garden smaller.

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  2 comments for “Propagate Plants With Stem Cuttings & A Mason Jar

  1. January 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Regarding the location of the pots with the cuttings inside, I assume that indoor will work or outdoor in a shady location?

    • KMG
      January 31, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      I suppose it depends upon the plant and the grower 🙂 It’s been my experience that most garden shrubs (roses, blueberries, forsythia, etc.) won’t do well indoors. From the plant’s point of view – houses are dark. The only example I can think of that would be an exception is gardenia if the room is very bright, humid & warm.

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