by Leaf Cuttings:
the Home Gardener
by Katarina Eriksson,
Owner of Kat Eriksson’s
Landscaping & High End Garden Maintenance
Why use vegetative propagation? VP.
The new plants are clones – Genetically identical to
parent plant, not sexual propagation with 2 parents, as in seeds.
VP. Preserves unusual and valuable plant traits that may
not pass with seed.
VP. Used to reproduce plants that seldom flower or are
VP. Can be much faster than growing an equivalent plant
by seed. Some like african violet will bloom faster than seedlings.
And it's fun!!!!
WHAT YOU NEED, Types of Media used for propagation:
(All equipment should be clean and sterile at all times,
Use rubbing alcohol or mouthwash on the blades and hard surfaces).
Sterile soil, and a clean bucket or container to mix in.
Sterile pots, 3 to 4 inch is good.
Sharp knife or scissors/pruner or snips.
Rooting hormone or willow water (see last page) paper
towel or clean rags.
Hair pins or thin wire.
Container to act like a mini greenhouse, like clear
plastic shoe box. Can re-use clean plastic food containers with lids.
Watering can with soft nozzle, spray bottle, clear
filtered or rain water.
Personal safety: Wear mask
when mixing soils or handling chemicals that can irritate breathing.
I use medical gloves when mixing soil. Safety glasses are recommended
for contact wearers. I use a very sharp blade on my cutters and
knifes, keep them sterilized and always point away from you. Use
common sense and safety first!
CHOOSE FROM ONE OF THESE PROPAGATION SOIL MIXES.
⅓ clean sand with ⅓ perlite and ⅓ or less
vermiculite. (best for succulents, and plants that need very good
(cactus and succulents can be in straight clean sand)
MIX IN A CLEAN BIN OR BUCKET ADD WATER VERY SLOWLY. (The
propagation medium should be as sterile as you can make it and
moistened before use. Many organic materials, like coir or peat moss,
resists wetting at first. (Its aquaphobic).
Warm water helps.
Be sure to apply warm water
(Distilled or rain water is best) slowly
while mixing to obtain uniform distribution. This may require 2-3
applications a little at a time. It is not uncommon for a medium to
look wet on the surface but to be powdery dry in the middle. A well
moistened media will make it easier to stick in the cuttings later
on. But if it's too wet, it may rot your cuttings, it should be able
to be squeezed in a ball and not be soggy.
Non chlorinated or rain water is best, and a watering
can with a soft rain spout. MAKE SURE IT'S THOROUGHLY MIXED AND
LEAF CUTTINGS, Vegetative reproduction
Use with African Violet, Mother-in-law tongue, piggy
back plant, etc.
USE ONLY HEALTHY LEAVES, not too old or too young, if
spotted, diseased or damaged, you may have less than average chance
Few plants can be propagated from just a leaf or a
section of a leaf. (Not all plants can be propagated this way, they
usually just decay) Because leaf cuttings do not include an axillary
bud, they can be used only for plants that are capable of forming
Because leaf cuttings do not include an axillary
bud refers to structures that develop in
an unusual place) they can be used only for plants that are capable
of forming Adventitious buds.
Some leaves develop adventitious buds, which then form
adventitious roots, as part of vegetative reproduction; e.g.
Piggyback plant (Tolmiea
menziesii) and mother-of-thousands
The adventitious plantlets then drop off the parent plant and develop
as separate clones of the parent.
SOME EASY PLANTS THAT MAKE LEAF CUTTINGS
Leaf cuttings are used almost exclusively for
propagating of some indoor plants and succulents, these are common
easy plants to try, e.g. African Violet,
Gloxinias, Begonia - rhizome types, Peperomia, Episcia, ZZ plant,
and piggyback plant, which is a Calif native
Some succulents are usually propagated by leaf cuttings.
Genera typically propagated by leaf cuttings include but are not
limited to: Gasteria spp.
Christmas cactus, Haworthia, Hoya, Sansevieria, Kalanchoe,
There are several types of leaf cuttings:
Figure 1. LEAF CUTTING
LEAF CUTTING - LEAF-PETIOLE
The knife must be very clean, or you risk infecting the
leaf. Remove a leaf and include up to 1 1/2 inches of the petiole
(The stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem or crown base). Or
carefully pull down and off mother plant. Allow to dry a little to
develop a callus bud.
Leave the leaf some place protected from sun and kept
warm, long enough for a film (callus)
to form over the cut part. This can take as little a few days to as
long as two weeks, depending on type of plant. This film will help
keep the cut part from getting infected by the soil, or rotting.
Hold the leaf gently and dip the cut end of the petiole
into a rooting hormone.
(Figure 1). Insert the
petiole of the leaf into an appropriate medium at a 45 degree angle.
Since new plants develop at the base of the leaf it is important
that the leaf does not shade the new plants or touching anything
moist that might cause mold or rot.
Keep leafy cuttings soil moist and humid at all times.
Don't keep leaves below soil line. Remove fallen leaves and diseased
cuttings or parts regularly.
Increase the humidity around the cuttings. For a
single pot use a clear plastic bag propped up with chopsticks. When
using a standard black seedling tray, a clear plastic humidity dome
works well. Bottom heat of about 65-75 degrees F should be provided
if possible. Keep in a protected area that is like a mini greenhouse
or terrarium. I like a covered clear plastic storage bin/container,
or you can also use clean recycled clear food containers, like salad
Keep moist by misting often in warm weather and lightly
misted in cool weather. Never let dry out.
Once the new plants have formed, (Figure
1) in approximately 8 weeks, carefully
each new plant from the parent. (Chopsticks or tweezers can be used)
Avoid damaging the delicate roots. It is these new plantlets which
form around the stem which are used to transplant. The old leaf can
be discarded. Sometimes is a mass of clusters of plantlets, so
Transplant each new plant into a 2 ½ -4 inch pot,
using a lightweight, pre-wetted, potting soil and water thoroughly.
I still keep them in a greenhouse like environment in a
shady, bright area to help them get stronger, you can also use
indoors under grow lights. And then pot up each stage to the size
you want. Slowly add diluted fertilizer -I prefer organic houseplant
It's a slow process, but I hope you enjoy how new plants
are made asexually, and hopefully appreciate their will to survive
and the way plants create a way to clone themselves without sexual
Figure 2. Take a healthy leaf. Cut the leaf into sections,
each with a main vein.
LEAF CUTTING - LEAF WITHOUT A PETIOLE
This method is used for plants with thick, fleshy
(Monocot seedlings typically have one cotyledon seed-leaf, like a
blade of grass) The Mother-in-law or Snake
Plant (Sansevieria), and ZZ
zamiifolia) can be propagated by
cutting the long leaves into 3- to 4-inch pieces. Insert the
cuttings vertically into the medium. (Figure 2. see
(a group of flowering plants whose seed typically has two embryonic
leaves or cotyledons as seedlings.) like a African
violet, or Begonia it can also be propagated
from the leaf blade itself.
Like the last instructions: take a leaf of
Mother-in-law-tongue, (Sansevieria) cut
a leaf from a plant and remove the petiole. Make sure you keep the
tops at a slant and bottom straight. Let it callus, dip in rooting
hormone, Insert the leaf vertically into the medium making sure that
the midvein is buried in the rooting medium. You can cut many pieces
from one leaf blade.
(Figure 2). New plant(s) will
form from the midvein. Remember if cuttings
are stuck upside down they will not root.
Leaf cuttings can be literally crowded together, almost shoulder to
shoulder. This crowding will not harm them, and once the root systems
have been developed they can be separated for transplanting into
Other plants: Some Cactus
(particularly varieties producing "pads" like Bunnies
Ears), Crassula (Jade Plant), Kalanchoe, Peperomia, Sedum and many
other succulents. Some
Aloes (Difficult, has too high moisture content),
Figure 3. Split leaf cuts and (2) new plantlets forming
LEAF CUTTING - Split-vein and leaf wedge
I usually use clean, plastic storage boxes like little
greenhouses. Begonias especially like high humidity.
Note: Everything needs to be sterile.
SPLIT-VEIN, Detach a leaf
from a Begonia - rhizome types
(Begonia sp.) and remove the petiole.
(stem) Make cuts on several prominent veins on the underside of the
leaf (Figure 3). Lay
the cutting, lower side down, on the medium. If the leaf curls up,
hold it in place by covering the margins with rooting medium or
staples (Hair bobby pins). New plants will form at each cut in about
6-8 weeks. (This method is more challenging.)
LEAF WEDGE, A variation of
this method is to cut the leaf into wedges,
You can get more plant Letts from one leaf. (Figure 3b)
so that each piece has a main vein. The leaf
wedge should be inserted into rooting
hormone and then into the media with the main vein partially
covered. (I prefer this method, it has a better chance of success.)
Figure 3b. Wedge cuts
Figure 4. The stem portion
produces roots, and a new shoot develops from the bud
LEAF CUTTING - LEAF-BUD CUTTINGS
Leaf-bud cuttings are used for many trailing vines and
when cutting material is limited. Each node on a stem can be treated
as a cutting. This type of cutting consists of a leaf blade, petiole,
and a short piece of stem with an attached axillary bud. Place
cuttings in the medium with the bud covered (1/2 to 1 inch) and the
leaf exposed (Figure 4). Examples
of plants that can be propagated in this manner include: Clematis,
camellia, jade plant, rubber plant, grape ivy, dracaena, blackberry,
mahonia, and heart-leaf philodendron, English Ivy, pothos,
Pelargoniums-Geraniums. Plant material
selected for leaf cuttings should be healthy, actively growing and
free of insect or disease problems. Large, mature leaves provide the
best source of propagation material. THIS IS A SLOWER WAY TO
PROPAGATE, BUT YOU GET MORE OF THE SAME KIND OF VARIETY FROM 1 STEM.
Many plants will easily root in water. However, the roots that form
can be extremely fibrous and stringy. Plants rooted in water often
have a difficult time becoming established after they are
transplanted into a container.)
CARE DURING AND AFTER ROOTING:
The propagation medium should be thoroughly moistened
before use. (SEE PAGE 1)
KEEP SOIL SLIGHTLY MOIST, (like a squeezed out sponge)
if too wet, plants will rot. Make sure you have holes in bottom of
pot and good drainage.
Misting everyday in warm weather and watering with a
soft nozzle till the plants are strong enough to hold up to regular
After you've potted up to next size, you can give them a
very low dose of liquid fertilizer, like sea kelp every 2 weeks.
When you get to the 4 inch size you can transplant into
good potting soil.
Light is an important environmental factor in plant
propagation. Generally speaking, low light levels cause plants to
root slowly. However, too high light intensities can stress cuttings,
causing them to burn or drop leaves. Diffused sunlight generally
provides enough light for optimum rooting without causing injury to
the cuttings. but still bright enough to read a book by.
Since cuttings do not have roots, they cannot replace
the water lost through transpiration.
Therefore it is important to maintain high humidity around the
cuttings to cut down on the amount of moisture lost to the
These conditions can be provided by placing a clear
piece of plastic over the propagation area. This causes condensation
to form on the underside of the plastic that provides the necessary
humidity. Adequate ventilation is also required to avoid disease
problems. The plastic covering should be placed such that air can
flow freely around the cuttings as they root. If the leaves are
touching the sides of the container they may rot.
For best results, maintain day temperatures at 70
degrees F. During winter months, soil can be as much as 10-20 degrees
less than air temperature, so provide bottom heat when possible.
Ideal rootzone temperatures for most plants are approximately 70-75
degrees F. If the hot sun hits the container it may cook the delicate
cuttings or young plants.
ON ROOTING HORMONES (Please follow safety directions
Rooting hormones are often used to promote root
formation. These materials provide supplemental auxin,
a naturally occurring plant hormone that is responsible for root
development. These products kill fungus and bacteria to prevent the
stem from rotting, and contain a growth hormone to speed the
formation of roots.
The end of the cutting is dipped into the chemical prior
to sticking it into the propagation medium. These products come in
different strengths and will vary according to the type of plant
IMPORTANT: To use rooting
hormone, place the amount needed in a separate container. Any
material that remains after treating the cuttings should be
discarded, not returned to the original container. These precautions
will prevent contamination of the entire bottle of rooting hormone.
Let the stem set for a minute.
Though some plants will root readily without treatment,
application of rooting hormone to the base of the cutting will often
improve your chance for success.
BUT there are always exceptions: Pelargoniums
- Geraniums, some Roses and Succulents. do
much better without root hormone.
Homemade organic rooting hormone
MAKE ROOTING HORMONE WITH WILLOW WATER!
The active ingredient of many commercial rooting
products is Indolebutyric Acid (IBA),
a natural plant hormone and and Salicylic acid
(SA) (which is a chemical similar to Aspirin)
is a plant hormone which is involved in signalling a plant’s
defences. (Do not use Aspirin, it's too strong and contains too many
When you make willow water, both salicylic acid and IBA
leach into the water, and both have a beneficial effect when used for
the propagation of cuttings. One of the biggest threats to newly
propagated cuttings is infection by bacteria and fungi. Salicylic
acid helps plants to fight off infection, and can thus give cuttings
a better chance of survival. Plants, when attacked by infectious
agents, often do not produce salicylic acid quickly enough to defend
themselves, so providing the acid in water can be particularly
Collect a handful of young first-year twigs and stems
of any of willow (Salix spp.) species, these have green or yellow
bark. Don’t use the
older growth that has brown or gray bark. Remove all the leaves,
these are not used.
Take the twigs and cut them up into short pieces around
1" (2.5cm) long.
The next step is to add the water. there are several
techniques to extract the natural plant rooting hormones:
Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover
with boiling water, just like making tea, and allow the “tea” to
Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover
with tap water (unheated), and let it soak for several days.
When finished, separate the liquid from the twigs by
carefully pouring out the liquid, or pouring it through a strainer
or sieve. The liquid is now ready to use for rooting cuttings. You
can keep the liquid for up to two months if you put it in a jar with
a tight fitting lid and keep the liquid in the refrigerator.
Remember to label the
jar so you and other people know what it is, and write down the date
you brewed it up, and to aid the memory, write down the date that it
should be used by, which is two months from the date it was made!
You can also freeze it for years of use.
To use, just pour some willow water into a small jar,
and place the cuttings in there like flowers in a vase, and leave
them there to soak for several hours so that they take up the plant
rooting hormone. Then prepare them as you would when propagating any
Now remember since this method isn't very exact, the
strength of the willow water can vary depending on the time of year,
the number of twigs, the concentration of hormones in the twigs, and
the amount of time that the twigs were soaked. You will, however,
still get a solution that will help your plants root.
WARNING: Latest FAD on the internet: Cinnamon as
I HAVE FOUND MANY UNPROVEN “FACTS” ON THE INTERNET,
“Cinnamon as a rooting agent is as useful as willow
water or hormone rooting powder. A single application to the stem
when you plant the cutting will stimulate root growth in almost
every plant variety.”. FALSE
“Give your cuttings a quick start with the help of
cinnamon powder. Pour a spoonful onto a paper towel and roll damp
stem ends in the cinnamon. Plant the stems in fresh potting soil.
The cinnamon will encourage the stem to produce more stems, while
helping to prevent the fungus that causes damping-off disease. FALSE
Whether or not the antibacterial properties pertain
specifically to real cinnamon or cassia (what's usually in the bottle
when you buy cinnamon at most grocery stores) is up in the air. I
also found these other claims, remember just because it's on the
internet doesn't make it true.
“To promote root growth, create a rooting solution by
dissolving an aspirin in water.” or “try mixing 1-3 Tbs of
honey per gallon of water” FALSE!
I am trying these as an experiment, but I am VERY
GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN MAKING NEW PLANTS FROM CUTTINGS, IT'S A GREAT
WAY TO GET FREE PLANTS!
by Katarina Eriksson,