What are Root Cuttings?

Root cuttings (also known as seedlings) are small plants that have been grown from seeds. They may or may not be edible. A root cutting is a plant that has been rooted out of its original soil and transplanted into another medium such as potting soil, sand, peat moss, straw bale, etc.. These roots will eventually become new plants when they begin growing in their new environment.

When you take a rootling out of its original soil, it usually takes several months before the roots will start growing properly. If you wait too long, then the roots will die back and the plant won’t produce any new growth. You need to move quickly so that your rootling doesn’t get sick!

If you don’t do anything with your root cutting for a few years, then it will probably turn brown and rot away completely. If you let it rot away, then the plant will never come back to life again.

How To Take A Root Cutting Out Of Its Original Soil And Put It Into Another Medium

You can either dig up your root cutting and put it into a container where it can dry out for awhile, or you can just leave it in the ground until you’re ready to use it.

First, you need to pick out a good size cutting. For most plants, you want the cutting to be between 2-4 inches long.

Dig a small whole about 1 foot around. Then take your hands and gently pull up on the soil until you have enough room to remove the plant. You only need the top half of the plant, so you can leave the roots below in the ground.

Wash the dirt off the root plant in a basin of water.

Fill your container about 1/4 of the way with perlite or coarse sand. This will allow for better air flow and drainage. Then place your root cutting on top of the perlite (or sand).

You want to place your cutting somewhere that it will get plenty of sunlight, but where it is protected from strong winds. The best temperature range is between 65-80 degrees.

If you’re using a container, then your cutting will need water. A cutting should be watered when the top 1 inch of soil is dry. Water thoroughly until water comes out of the bottom of your pot.

Let the soil dry out a bit before watering again.

How To Root Cuttings In Water

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To root cuttings in water, you only need to place a cutting in a glass or jar that is partially filled with water.

Roots will start to develop about a month after you place the cutting in water. Make sure that you change the water every couple of days so that it doesn’t get stagnant.

When The Plant Has Enough Roots, You Can Transplant It Into A Potting Soil

After your plant has developed roots, it’s time to transplant it into a potting soil mix. However, you don’t want to put it in a container that is bigger than what it was in before.

Just make sure that your container has a good drainage system so that your cutting doesn’t drown.

From here, just continue to water on a regular schedule and make sure that your plant gets enough sunlight.

How To Take An In-Ground Cutting From A Friend’s Plant

This process is a little different than taking a cutting from your own plant. The main difference is that in-ground cuttings don’t need to be treated with hormones since they’re already detached from the original plant.

However, the cutting does need to go into a wet medium for a little while before you put it into soil. This will allow the moisture to soak up into the cutting and give it enough time for the roots to start forming.

With this method, you basically have two options – rooting hormone or no rooting hormone. If you use rooting hormone, it will cut down on the time it takes for your cutting to develop roots.

You can get a rooting hormone at most garden centers or home improvement stores. Follow the instructions on the package for how to use it.

Just like with your own in-ground cutting, you want to place your cutting somewhere that gets plenty of sunlight, but is protected from strong winds.

If you plan on taking many cuttings from your friend’s plants, you might want to consider buying your own garden tools such as clippers and shovels.

Making A Root Cutting

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To make a root cutting, first you need to get a shovel and a container. The container needs to be big enough to hold the roots of your plant, but small enough that you can still easily move it around when full of soil.

Dig an area around the base of the plant that is about 4 inches in diameter and at least 6 inches deep. Be careful not to damage any of the other roots while you’re digging.

After you’ve dug the hole, use the shovel to carefully remove most of the soil from the container and place in the hole. Now carefully pull the plant out of the ground. Don’t worry if some of the soil sticks to the roots.

Now place your container in the hole and fill it with a mixture of half compost and half sand. Gently place the plant in the hole making sure that the roots stay in the mixture.

After it’s all in the container, fill the rest of the container with more soil mixture until the plant is covered. Pat the soil down around the sides to secure it.

Now you can water it and move it to a location where it will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Keep an eye on it for a few weeks to see if it needs more watering.

It Could Take Weeks For Your Root Cutting To Develop New Leaves

If you don’t see any new growth within two months, the cutting probably wasn’t very strong to begin with and you can throw it away. On the other hand, if you see new leaves starting to form, your cutting will most likely survive.

If you’re successful with your root cutting, you can move it to a larger planter and give it the same treatment as an in-ground plant.

Feed it with a general purpose fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and keep an eye on it to make sure it’s getting enough water.

Some Types Of Succulents Are Harder To Propagate

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It’s important to remember that not all succulents are easy to propagate through cuttings. Some succulents have a lower yield from cuttings, which means that not many of them will survive.

You can take your chances and try anyway, or you can choose a different type of succulent to propagate if you’re only successful with a small number of cuttings.

The most difficult succulents to root are the ones that form structures with a single stem rather than multiple stem. These types of succulents include echeverias and a few varieties of sedums.

Other succulents will have a higher success rate, depending on their growth structure. Sempervivum, for example, is a popular type of succulent that you can easily take cuttings from since they form large clumps.

You can also take a single cutting from a sempervivum and end up with several new plants. Other succulents that are known to be easy to root include jades and even some of the larger cacti varieties.

You Can Also Take Stem Cuttings From Some Succulents

If you have a succulent that forms multiple stems, you can potentially take cuttings from those stems as well. All you have to do is take a sharp knife or pair of scissors and cut off a 4-inch length of stem.

After you’ve taken the cutting, you need to treat the cut end in some way so that it won’t rot. You can dip the cut end in a rooting hormone, then pot it in a small container of coarse sand.

Keep the container out of direct sunlight and keep it watered as you would with other succulent cuttings. You can also prop the stem cutting upright in a glass of water so that it takes on a candelabra-like shape. Keep it watered and in bright light and it should develop roots.

This method can be used on multiple stems to create a small candelabra of succulents. You can also do this with some cacti, though the results may not be ideal if the cacti has large teeth or other sharp projections.

Cacti Can Be Grown In Various Ways

You can carve your cactus into any shape you like and grow it in a container rather than letting it take its natural form. If you do this, it’s important to remember to only water the cactus once it starts to turn soft.

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Cacti naturally store water in their body so you don’t want to over water them, but you also don’t want them to become shriveled and dry. It takes a bit of practice to find the happy medium between under watering and over watering your cactus.

One easy way to make sure your cactus has the water it needs is to invest in a timed watering can. These are typically used for house plants, but work equally well for cacti. They come in a variety of designs and are relatively inexpensive.

As a general rule, if you pick up a cacti and it feels light for its size, then it needs water. The heavier it feels, the moister it is.

Don’t Over Water Or Under Water Your Cacti

It’s also important that you don’t expose your cacti to cold drafts or extreme temperatures. The difference between a sunny window and a cold draft can be enough to kill your cactus. Be sure to move it away from any windows that would subject it to temperature changes.

There are also liquid mixes you can use to give your cacti a drink. You can either use water with a very small amount of fertilizer in it or cactus soil, which is typically very rich in nutrients. Use only as directed since too much could burn the roots.

If you’re growing a large cacti, such as an saguaro that can grow to be 15 feet tall and weigh hundreds of pounds, you’ll need to use a special container or make your own pot from a material that can easily support the weight of the plant.

You may also want to place it on a sturdy table, deck, or other surface that can support the weight.

That’s it! Now that you know how easy it is to grow your own cacti and succulents, you’ll never have to worry about whether or not they get the right kind of sunlight.

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Most of these plants can survive just about anywhere, but they really thrive when you take a little extra time to care for them.

Happy Planting!

Sources & references used in this article:

The New England Wild Flower Society guide to growing and propagating wildflowers of the United States and Canada by W Cullina – 2000 – books.google.com

Maximum rooting depth of vegetation types at the global scale by J Canadell, RB Jackson, JB Ehleringer, HA Mooney… – Oecologia, 1996 – Springer

Native trees, shrubs, & vines: a guide to using, growing, and propagating North American woody plants by W Cullina – 2002 – books.google.com

The commercial use of conifer rooted cuttings in forestry: a world overview by GA Ritchie – New Forests, 1991 – Springer

What makes adventitious roots? by M Gonin, V Bergougnoux, TD Nguyen, P Gantet… – Plants, 2019 – mdpi.com

When stress and development go hand in hand: main hormonal controls of adventitious rooting in cuttings by CT Da Costa, MR De Almeida, CM Ruedell… – Frontiers in plant …, 2013 – frontiersin.org

A Complex Experiment in The Propagation of Plum Rootstocks from Root Cuttings Season 1931-1932 by TN Hoblyn, RC Palmer – Journal of Pomology and Horticultural …, 1934 – Taylor & Francis

Dynamics of adventitious rooting in mini-cuttings of Eucalyptus benthamii x Eucalyptus dunnii by GE Brondani, I Wendling, AE Brondani… – Acta Scientiarum …, 2012 – SciELO Brasil

Native plants for coastal restoration: what, when, and how for Florida. by MJ Williams – 2007 – tamug-ir.tdl.org

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