Horticulturalist Claire Bickle shows us a simple way to garden on the cheap - instead of always buying new, try taking cuttings from your own plants, a neighbour or a friend.

One way to save money when it comes to gardening is to propagate your own plants. Whether propagating from a seed or a cutting, it is far more cost effective than buying established plants. Once you have some practice with simple propagation techniques it will be a lifelong skill.

Indoor plants, perennial shrubs, ground covers, trees – there’s so many plants that you can propagate via cutting.

Types of cutting/vegetative propagation

There are three types of cuttings:

  • Softwood cuttings – these will still bend and move.
  • Semi-hardwood cuttings – these stems will be slightly firmer and more rigid.
  • Hardwood cuttings – these are generally the stems of deciduous plants, taken when they’re completely dormant. They will be very firm with little to no bending.

When to cut?

When it comes to the timing of taking and striking soft wood and semi-hardwood cuttings there is no one rule that fits all, but generally throughout the warmer months is a good time. This is when plants are actively putting on new growth.

However, hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants are best taken in winter when they are most dormant.

What you’ll need

  • Cutting and striking mix or propagating sand, not potting mix.
  • Pots or trays to put cuttings in.
  • Sharp secateurs for taking plant-cutting material.
  • Plant cuttings
  • Cutting and striking gel, powder and liquid. Prefer to keep it organic? Use honey instead.

How to strike cuttings

  1. Fill up your tray or small pots with a propagation mix.
  2. Make holes with a dibber, about an inch deep. This ensures no damage occurs to the cutting base and that no rooting powder or gel is wiped off when inserted into the mix.
  3. Take your cuttings from active growing areas. Cut just below a node, this is located just under the leaf stem. Make the cuttings around 4 inches long. Strip off the lower leaves and reduce the size of any of the top leaves if they are large.
  4. Dip the end of the cutting in some rooting hormone powder or gel or even honey. This will help stimulate new roots.
  5. Plant your cuttings into the holes in your prepared in your tray or pot. Cover the holes with enough soil to hold the cutting upright and in place.
  6. Water and keep moist but not wet. Place cutting containers in a sheltered location out of the wind, rain or harsh sun.

Remember that:

  • Hardwood cuttings are best taken in winter.
  • Softwood cuttings can be taken sometimes as tip cuttings. This works well with rosemary, lavender and a variety of other perennials and native plants.

Once roots have set out

If you lightly tug on your cuttings after a few weeks you will be able to tell if they have set out roots. They will probably be actively growing new shoots and quite often, if you wait a little longer, you will see roots at the base of the pot’s drainage holes.

This will be a sign that your cuttings are ready to pot with a general potting mix and fertiliser. From here you can then plant it out into the garden or keep it in your pot.