Can’t Move With Your Plants? Try Plant Cuttings!

Jon Fesmire |

Houseplants or a garden can really make a house feel like a home. But when it comes time to move, you may wonder what to do with your bushes and herbs. Do you pack your potted plants in the moving truck and hope for the best? This may work if you’re just moving across town, but what if you’re traveling to a new state? And what about your outdoor garden plants?

Fortunately, many plants grow well from cuttings from parent plants. Gardeners use this technique all the time to propagate certain types of plants, and you can, too. Instead of transporting an entire rose or hibiscus bush, you can take a cutting, bring it to your new home with you, and replant it. It takes about half the time to start a new plant this way than from a seed.

The process is relatively simple. We suggest you follow these steps for the plants you want to regrow a week or so before your move.

First, Your Old Plants

Just because it’s difficult to bring a large potted plant with you doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Before you move, ask your local friends if they’d like it for their home. With a new home figured out, you can take a few cuttings to transport with you.

Tools

You’ll need pruning shears or a sharp knife, potting containers (these are small pots three or so inches tall with holes in the bottom to let excess water escape), potting mix, and perhaps rooting hormone.

Know Your Cuttings

There are four types of cuttings. Softwood cuttings are new growth, and taken in spring or early summer. Greenwood cuttings are taken from young stems in their first year, in early summer to midsummer. Semi-ripe cuttings come from more mature plants, and are taken from midsummer to fall. Finally, hardwood cuttings are from dormant stems, and you take those from late fall through winter.

How to Take Cuttings

Cut off a four to six inch stem from the base. Young, thin branches with new shoots work best, from near the top of the plant. Make a sharp cut, as this is best for regrowth. Then, cut off the leaves and branches on the lower two thirds of the branch. If the stem needs to feed them, this can halt root growth. Oh yes, the best time of day to take cuttings is early in the morning, when the plants are at their most moist.

Gently shave off a bit of the top layer of bark from the bottom area of the steam; this is where new root growth will occur. While not necessary, it can be helpful to dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone.

Next, fill one of your small pots with potting mix. The reason we use potting mix instead of soil is that the former is looser and will allow root growth, while the latter is tighter and can inhibit it.

Push the base of the stem into the soil a couple of inches deep. Then, water it liberally. The water can even go above the potting soil line. If it drains quickly, you’ll know that the mix is loose enough. You may want to take a few cuttings from each plant to increase your chances of successful regrowth.

Encouraging Growth

Water your cuttings every day or two. You can also place a clear plastic bag over each plant to keep it humid, encouraging growth. Though it may seem counterintuitive, keep your cuttings out of direct sunlight.

Transporting Your Cuttings

On the day of your move, put the small pots in the bottom of a plastic bin or two and use packing paper to keep them in place. We suggest plastic bins so the water won’t leak out the bottom of the box. Take them out of the box and dump out the water in the morning and evening, water again, and replace the packing paper. This should keep your plants in good shape during a long move across the country or several states.

A Note on Short Moves

If you’re just moving across town, do you have to do all of the above before you leave? Actually, no. Instead of moving your large plants, you can instead do this. Take your cuttings on the morning of your move. Wrap the clippings in wet paper towels, and use rubber bands to keep them on each stem. Put them in a plastic box, bring them to your new place, and follow the instructions above to start them growing in their small pots.

Replanting

At your new home, put your cuttings somewhere safe and continue to take care of them for a few weeks. After two to three weeks, they should have roots. Gently feel in the potting mix for roots, and when they’re present, you can transfer the cuttings to your garden or larger pots, and into proper gardening soil.

A Few Plants that Grow from Cuttings

Many, but not all, plants can grow from cuttings. A few that do include the African violet, basil, Chinese evergreen, coleus, English Ivy, geranium, impatiens, mint, philodendron, red and yellow dogwood, rose, rosemary, and tomato.

This technique is not guaranteed to work, but when done right, works most of the time. We hope this helps you continue to enjoy the plants you love, even when it’s time to move.