What is stem cutting?

Stem cuttings can be applied to a wide variety of plants, including heather, chrysanthemums, ferns and various shrubs and trees. However, some species are trickier to reproduce successfully, such as holly, camellia and yew.

We recommend using a light substrate for your cuttings. This method varies according to the type of stems used, and involves specific periods for taking them.

The stems of herbaceous plants, which remain non-woody, are generally cuttings taken in late summer or early autumn. This includes plants such as geraniums, pelargoniums, hybrid verbenas, clematis, asters and bellflowers, mainly summer or spring perennials after they have flowered.

The softwood stems, still green but slightly lignified, are taken and planted between May and July, mainly for softwoods.

Semi-arched stems, where the base is already woody while the tip remains green, are used for conifers, evergreen shrubs and climbing plants. Cutting is done between mid-July and mid-September, depending on the plant.

August stems, which are partly woody but with a tender tip, are cut between late August and late autumn. For these types of cuttings, it is best to wait until the following spring to transplant the resulting plant, if necessary.

The dry wood cuttings are taken in winter or early spring when the deciduous tree or shrub is dormant. They are then placed in pots under a cold frame or in a trench dug along a north-facing wall.
For a successful cutting, it is important to take a stem end of around 15 cm, under a node and with 2 or 3 other nodes, then bury two-thirds of it in a damp mixture of compost and sand. The cutting should be placed in a bright spot, but not in direct sunlight, in a warm, humid environment for a variable length of time, depending on the plants being cut.

To maximise your chances of success:

  • Prevent the stems from drying out by placing them quickly in a pot after harvesting, except for cacti and succulents where a callus should form on the cut.
  • Preferably use terracotta pots and place the stems close to the rim to take advantage of the stored heat.
  • Remove some of the leaves from the stem to reduce water loss, and remove any flower or fruit buds.


What is the difference between cuttings and layering?

Cutting involves taking a section of stem from an established plant, which is then planted in a pot where it will develop roots. Layering, which is particularly suited to small shrubs, relies on their propensity to produce stems close to the ground, which then emit secondary roots.


When is the best time to take cuttings?

The ideal time to take cuttings depends on the type of plant you wish to propagate. In general, the best time to take cuttings is in spring or early summer, when plants are in full growth and growing conditions are optimal. However, this can vary depending on the type of cuttings you wish to take.

For herbaceous plants such as geraniums, pelargoniums, hybrid verbenas, clematis, fuchsias and campanulas, we recommend taking cuttings in late summer or early autumn, after they have flowered. This is when the plants are most active and have the potential to produce roots quickly.

For softwood plants, such as conifers, the best time to take cuttings is between May and July, when the new shoots are still green but slightly lignified.

Plants with semi-arched stems, such as conifers, evergreen shrubs and climbers like hydrangeas, fusains, bignones and oleanders, are best cut between mid-July and mid-September.

August stems, which have already begun to turn into wood but whose tips are still tender, can be cut between the end of August and the end of autumn.

Finally, dry wood shoots should be taken in winter or early spring, when the deciduous tree or shrub is dormant.

To sum up, the time for taking cuttings varies according to the type of plant and the stage of growth of its stems. So it's important to know the specific characteristics of each plant you want to take cuttings from, so that you can choose the best time to take them successfully.


How can I make cuttings without using a cutting hormone?


  • Cutting with honey

Thanks to its antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties, honey is an invaluable ally in the plant cutting process. It helps cuttings to heal by forming a protective layer and keeping them moist. Some research even suggests that the sugar contained in honey can be assimilated by the plant, speeding up root production. Although this method has not been backed up by in-depth studies, it is advisable to apply it with care to avoid any risk of mould. To use it, simply dip the end of the cutting in honey, leave to drain, then plant.


  • Cutting with aspirin

Aspirin, often used by florists to extend the life of cut flowers, can also be beneficial for plant cuttings. Containing acetylsalicylic acid, a derivative of salicylic acid found naturally in willow bark, aspirin acts as a natural anticoagulant. By blocking the effect of abscisic acid, released in the event of water stress or injury, acetylsalicylic acid encourages the formation of new roots on cuttings. To use this method, simply dissolve a few aspirin tablets in water to obtain a whitish paste. Then soak the base of the cuttings in this solution for a few hours before planting them.


  • Cuttings with grain

An ancient and effective technique for stimulating plant cuttings is to use a grain, such as wheat, barley or oats. By making a small incision at the base of the cutting and inserting a grain, it releases hormones (auxins) that encourage root formation. This method is particularly suitable for woody cuttings, such as roses and pelargoniums. During the first few days of germination, the seed stimulates root growth without the risk of damaging the cutting. Some gardeners even go so far as to recommend throwing a few seeds into the planting hole of bare-root roses to encourage them to take root, although this practice still needs to be confirmed by empirical observation.


Why cut the leaves on a cutting?

The practice of 'dressing' the cutting, i.e. removing the lower leaves and keeping only the two uppermost ones, or even just one, serves several crucial purposes in the process of cutting plants.
Firstly, by eliminating the lower leaves, air circulation around the cutting is improved, reducing the risk of rotting and the development of disease.

Secondly, by leaving only a few leaves on the cutting, you also limit water loss through transpiration, which is essential for keeping the cutting hydrated and encouraging it to take root.
In addition, if the remaining leaves are too large, it is advisable to cut them back, as this will further reduce water loss and provide the cutting with an optimum balance between photosynthesis and energy production to develop new roots.

Finally, cutting the stem just below a node, taking care not to make the cutting too large or too small, is crucial to the success of the cutting process. This operation encourages the growth of new roots from the node, which is an active growth zone for the plant.

All these precautions are designed to maximise the chances of success by providing the plant with the best conditions for developing healthy roots. If the parts taken are too large, it is also possible to take several cuttings from a single stem, which further increases the chances of a successful cutting.