Cutting Propagation

Course CodeBHT211
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to effectively propagate plants from cuttings.

Many garden plants are commonly grown by cuttings. Some strike roots fast and easily; but others are either slow, or can give very low success rates unless everything is done "just right".

  • Develop a well rounded understanding of what affects the success of cutting propagation
  • Learn how to improve your plants propagated by cuttings

Course developed by John Mason -author of "Propagating plants by Cuttings" (Kangaroo Press) and "Nursery Management" (Landlinks/CSIRO) together with our team of both UK & Australian horticulturists.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • The principles of propagating plants by cuttings.:Importance of cuttings
    • Phenotype vs genotype
    • Why choose cutting propagation
    • Where to get cuttings from
    • Basic cutting technique.
  2. Stem cuttings
    • Ease with which tissue forms roots
    • Types of stem cuttings (softwood, hardwood, semi hardwood, herbaceous, tip, heel, nodal, cane etc)
    • Treatments (eg. basal heat, mist, tent, etc)
    • Testing rooting, etc.
  3. Non-stem cuttings
    • Leaf cuttings
    • Root cuttings (natural suckering with or without division, Induced suckering, In situ whole root cuttings; ex situ detached root cuttings)
    • Bulb cuttings, scaling and twin scaling, sectioning, basal cuttage.
  4. Materials and Equipment
    • Stock plant Quality
    • Criteria for Selecting Plant Material
    • Planting Out Stock Plants
    • Care of Stock Plants
    • Stock Plants for Root Cuttings
    • Disinfecting cutting material
    • Sources of Hypochlorite
    • Plant Containers
    • Tools and Equipment
  5. Growing Media
    • Propagation media
    • Biological, chemical and physical characteristics of propagation and potting media
    • Testing for toxins
    • Air filled porosity
    • Nutrition Management
    • Potting up cuttings
    • Soil-less mixes, rockwool, etc.
  6. Factors affecting Rooting
    • Juvenility
    • Cutting Treatments
    • Hormones & their application; auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins
    • Applying Hormone
    • Anti transparents, acid/base treatments, disinfectants etc
    • Callusing
    • Mycorrhizae
    • Carbon Dioxide Enrichment, etc.
  7. Setting up a Propagation Area
    • Creating and managing an appropriate cutting environment in terms of: Water; Disease; Temperature; Light and Air Quality.
    • Greenhouses and other structures, cloches, cold frames, greenhouses, etc
    • Watering methods (mist, fog, capillary etc)
    • Heating, etc.
    • The Nursery Site
  8. Management of Cutting Crops
    • Estimating cost of production
    • Efficiencies in Cutting Propagation
    • Keeping records
    • Management


  • Discuss the principles of propagating plants by cuttings
  • Explain how to propagate plants from stem cuttings
  • Describe how to propagate plants from non-stem cuttings
  • Describe the materials and equipment used for propagating plants from stems
  • Explain the principles of growing media in relation to cutting propagation
  • Discuss how and why cuttings form roots.
  • Manipulate the formation of roots on cuttings
  • Establish successful plant propagation areas
  • Demonstrate nursery crop scheduling

What You Will Do

  • Establish an area near where you live that can be used for the raising of cuttings. It doesn’t need to be a greenhouse, just a sheltered place where you can raise the cuttings you will be asked to grow for this course.
  • Select ten different plants that can be grown by stem cuttings. Practice preparing different types of cuttings until you feel you can do this well.
  • Place samples of your cuttings in a propagating mix and place in the propagation area. Keep the mix moist and observe the behaviour of the cuttings. (eg. does it put on new leaves? Do changes in temperature effect growth? Do any cuttings die? etc. ) Make notes of your observations. You will be asked questions about your results later in the course.
  • Prepare leaf cuttings for five different plant species. Practice doing this until you feel you can do this well.
  • Prepare root cuttings for five different plant species. Practice doing this until you feel you can do this well.
  • Prepare bulb cuttings for five different plant species. Practice doing this until you feel you can do this well.
  • Place samples of cuttings in a propagating mix.
  • Visit three plant propagation nurseries and see if you can find out where they obtain their propagation material.
  • Test soil samples and name them.
  • Go to your local nursery and/or garden supply and find out what rooting hormones they sell. See if you can discover what chemicals the products contain.
  • Visit three different commercial greenhouses.
  • Prepare a pot of cuttings and estimate the cost of production for each cutting produced.

Where Can You Get Your Cuttings From?

You may take cuttings from plants growing in gardens, pots, parks or in the wild; and you may successfully produce new plants from cuttings taken from any source; however, you will always get much better results if you carefully choose your source of cuttings.

  • If you know the cultivar name of the plant, you can be more certain of how to propagate it, and be confident of the characteristics that will be demonstrated by the new plants.
  • If you take cuttings from healthy plants; they are more likely to develop roots faster, and produce healthier plants quicker.

Genotype versus Phenotype

Genotype is the genetic makeup or 'blue print' of an organism. When a plant is propagated by asexual means the genotype of the newly propagated plants, or progeny, will be identical to that of the parent plant. The phenotype of a plant is it's actual appearance and behaviour. The phenotype of a plant arises from the interaction between the genotype of the plant and the environment in which the plant is growing. Factors such as soil conditions, exposure to light, moisture levels, pollutants, pests and diseases, and nutrition will all have an impact on how a particular plant will grow. This means that a batch of cuttings, propagated from the same parent will have an identical genetic makeup, but once planted out there may be some differences between them in outward appearance and performance, such as foliage colour or height, as a result of environmental conditions.

If a plant is propagated due to its appearance and growth habit in a particular district, the resultant plants may not be identical to the parent when it is grown in a different locality. For example, a plant that grows to 2m in one locality is propagated and promoted with those attributes, but may grow up to 4m in a different locality due to factors such as different climate and soil type.

This highlights the importance of selecting plant material with desired traits for use in a specific locality only, or that the progeny is grown (tested) in a variety of environmental conditions (i.e. soil types, climates) before its attributes are described in promotional materials.


  • Trainee plant propagators
  • Horticulture graduates with limited knowledge or experience in plant propagation.
  • CPD for Nurserymen, gardeners, farmers, horticulturists, botanists, environmentalists, etc
  • Passionate amateurs wanting to expand and deepen their knowledge of propagation
  • Anyone starting up a small nursery - even growing at home and selling in markets



More from ACS