PLNTSdoctor banner


Did you know the easiest way to make more plants is with cuttings? Next time you're trimming or repotting your houseplants, save those extra bits. They're perfect for growing more green buddies for your urban jungle!

There are, however, many different types of cuttings to take, and each has its characteristics. In this article, we will explain all you need to know about propagating with cuttings. Let's grab our scissors and start making more plants!

What is a cutting?

A cutting is a piece of a plant (specifically a piece of stem, leaf, or root) capable of producing a new plant. In the wild, this is a very useful skill for plants: when they lose a branch because of a storm or because an animal broke it, the branch is not always lost. In time, it can grow into a new baby!

What houseplants can be propagated with cuttings?

Many houseplants can be propagated using cuttings. However, there are many different types of cuttings and depending on the species, some cuttings won’t work. For instance, you cannot propagate a Philodendron with a leaf cutting, but you can with a Begonia. It is best first to check what kind of cutting works for the species you have.

As a general indication, if your plant’s stem has small nodes or buds, these are potential growth points, making the plant suitable for stem-cutting propagation. Read here more about what houseplants are easy to propagate with cuttings.

What is the best time to take a cutting?

If you are going to take cuttings, it is best to do it during a period of growth, which is often spring and summer but not only, depending on the species and your set-up. The plant must be in a growing phase to ensure a higher chance of success.

When a plant is dormant, or growing very slowly, it indicates that it may not have the necessary conditions to produce healthy growth. Creating new growth out of a cutting requires a lot of energy from the plant!

It is equally important that the plant you take cuttings from is healthy. If it’s weak, too young, diseased or has a nutrient deficiency, then the plant is not a good candidate.

Different types of cutting and how to collect them

As we mentioned, there are 3 categories of cuttings, which are each divided into sub-categories. The 3 types of cuttings are from the stem, from a leaf or from roots. However, cuttings from roots are mostly only used by professional growers for certain species of plants, so we won’t discuss it here.

Stem cuttings

A stem cutting is composed of part of the stem and may or may not include roots and leaves. It is the most common kind of cutting. You can take a stem cutting on the top, middle or bottom part of a plant, and whether it has roots, leaves, or none, it will work slightly differently. Different parts also have different chances of success.

How to grow from a top-cutting

A top cutting is a part that is taken from the end of a branch or the top of the mother plant, where the plant is actively producing new growth. It's the easiest, even for beginners! These cuttings are best cut straight, 1 cm above a node. The cutting must be big enough, meaning it has at least 1 or 2 fully developed leaves and a bare node at the bottom. If you don’t have a bare node, you can remove the leaves on the last node, but check that you still have 1 or 2 mature leaves left on your cutting. Plant it directly in soil if you have a high level of humidity or prop it in the medium of your choice (water, perlite, pon, sphagnum moss…). Once it has several roots, you can transfer it to soil.

How to grow from a mid-cutting

The principle is similar to a top cutting, except that you don't use the end of the stem but an intermediate piece, between the top and the bottom of the plant. This is commonly referred to as mid-cut. Make sure that the cutting has at least one leaf and one node. The preferred amount of nodes and the preferred length of the cutting depends on plant species. However, it’s always true that a cutting shouldn’t have too many leaves (5 and above is too many). This is because leaves create energy for the plant, but they also cost energy to keep alive. A balance has to be reached between the need to create energy and the cost of maintaining the leaves. If too much energy is spent on leaves, then too little will be given to forming new roots. Finally, the part of the stem under the leaves should be longer than above it. Just like a top-cutting, you can plant it directly in soil if you have a high level of humidity or prop it in the medium of your choice (water, perlite, pon, sphagnum moss…). Once it has several roots, you can transfer it to soil.

How to grow from a wet stick

A wet stick is a piece of stem with a node that has not sprouted yet (if it has sprouted, it is sometimes said to be “spent” as some species are unable to sprout twice from the same node) and which has no leaf or roots attached to it. In essence, it’s a bare piece of stem with a node. It is considered to be one of the hardest cutting to manage as there are no roots or leaves to give energy to the node. That means that the node will only be able to rely on the stored energy within the wet stick, which might not be enough to sprout a whole new leaf or roots. It’s not impossible, but it’s risky and takes lots of patience! The wetstick should be placed on a moist medium with high humidity and good light.

How to grow from a butt cut

A butt cut or base cut is a common term used to describe a cutting made from the low end of the stem, usually without leaves but with at least one or several nodes and a whole set of roots. If you were to cut your plant at the level of the pot, you’d be left with a butt cut. This is especially common with Anthuriums. It’s not a difficult cutting if the roots are plentiful and healthy, but it will still need some time before it sprouts a new leaf. Be careful, however, because a base cut will require much less watering than the plant used to receive before being cut. The best is to make sure the soil is dry on the top 2 cm before watering again.

Leaf cuttings

This cutting includes only the leaf with or without the petiole, but it is limited to very specific plants, such as Begonia’s, Zamioculcas and Pileas. You can take leaf cuttings in different ways, depending on the plant you want to propagate. In any case, the leaf serves as a starting point for your new cutting! From the leaf, a root will start growing again, and the cutting can develop.

How to grow from a leaf with petiole

This is the easiest form of leaf-cutting! Cut a leaf, including the petiole, with a sharp knife and place it in a pot with cutting soil. Make sure the cutting is placed in the pot at a slight angle, and the petiole is completely in the soil. The leaf will stick out a bit. Pay attention to the leaf itself and try to damage it as little as possible. This works for Pileas.

How to grow from a leaf without petiole

This is appropriate for plants such as the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas). Pick a healthy leaf, cut it without the petiole and prop it in water or in soil (if you have high humidity around it).

How to grow from pieces of leaves

This method is often used with Begonia’s. Take a leaf of a healthy plant that is fully developed and undamaged. Lay the leaf face up on a cutting board and cut off the leaf edges. Then, cut the leaf up into 2-by-2-centimetre pieces and place them top-side up on the medium of your choice. Give them a little water and lots of humidity and you will see that after about one and a half to two months, new plants will start growing!

Expert tip! It's important for the cutting that the upper edge remains facing upwards. Otherwise, it won't grow roots.

You now possess all the necessary knowledge to successfully propagate your plants with the cutting method. If you’d like to propagate your plant another way, check out our other articles regarding propagation!

Lisa G
Lisa G

Lisa is a true plant enthusiast at heart, and her passion for greenery knows no bounds! Her apartment is a lush oasis, filled with the most unusual and exotic plants. So, if you're ever in need of plant-related guidance, she's your girl!

Hi, I'm Emma, your guide!

Hi, I’m Emma, your guide!