How to Cut and Layer Plants

While the subject of cloning can be touchy in some circles, it's a common occurrence in the plant world. Instead of starting out as a seed, certain plants need to be cloned, or vegetatively propagated, from stem cuttings or root cuttings of a mother plant. Other plants require layering, which involves growing a new branch or stem out of an existing one.

How to go about propagating depends on the type of plant you're working with. For example, you're best bet with a lilac bush is to take a stem cutting. On the other hand, horseradish plants are propagated using their root cuttings. Azaleas and shrubs with creeping branches require the layering process to establish new growth.

Learn more about what types of plants require the technique you want to use in this article. We'll give you helpful step-by-step instructions along with color photos and illustrations to help you in your propagating efforts of cutting and layering plants. To make things easier, the article is broken down into the following sections:

  • Cutting Stems and Roots

    Learn how to grow new plants from stem cuttings for such species as geraniums, asters, chrysanthemums, and bellflowers. Cutting stems involves trimming a growth tip from a mature plant and then placing the cutting in a container filled with a rooting medium. By following the care tips you'll find here, that stem cutting will soon turn into a new plant ready to transplant and thrive on its own.

    This section also addresses why other plants, such as Oriental poppies, are best cloned by using cuttings from their roots. Cutting roots will involve digging out the root before the shoots begin to show. We'll teach you about the best time of year for taking root cuttings, and we'll also show you how to properly care for the cutting, as well as the parent plant.

  • Layering and Transplanting

    Understand the technique of layering to propagate shrubs that are difficult to root, such as creeping rosemary and other shrubs with low-growing branches. Layering involves nicking the bark of an existing plant and dusting the exposed area with a rooting hormone. If all goes according to the plan, soon a new branch tip will grow from the nick in the bark, and voila -- you'll have a new plant to bring life to your garden.

    This section will also give you tips on how -- and when -- to transplant that new plant you've grown. Since transplanting new growth can be quite a delicate process, you'll want to gather as much information as you can to ensure that your new seedling or cutting will continue to grow, even in the hardest of conditions.

It would almost be a shame not to propagate the healthy, hardy plants in your garden, especially once you understand the ease of cutting and layering. Whether you want to duplicate your favorite Oriental poppy, or simply multiply your azaleas so they fill out your garden, cutting and layering are the techniques for healthy plant propagation. So, get "growing" with the helpful tips and techniques outlined in this article.