How I root cuttings

October 6, 2009

As far as I know there isn't a thread that describes step by step how to root Passiflora cuttings with lots of pictures. Since that's probably in the top 5 questions that people have on this forum I thought I'd give it a shot.

I'm hoping to get lots of feedback on this. It certainly isn't the only way to do things. It may have mistakes. I would encourage people to read farther down the posts to see if I or others have corrected mistakes.

My idea here is to follow some cuttings from beginning to end (rooted).

For those who like to propagate things, finally getting something difficult to root is a real achievement and a relief. Sometimes you feel as if there were something lacking in your abilities.

Recently I got first roots on a couple things generally thought to be difficult:

So how does one get from a vine to rooted cutting?

First, getting started. Like anything there are a whole lot of variables that may or may not matter. It's always best to start with a healthy parent and cut from vine of the right age. Generally this means not too soft and not too mature. In practice this varies from plant to plant.

Look for bugs.

Look for buds. It can be frustrating if you cut off your first bud ever.

However before one cuts up any plants it's useful to have everything else set up. I root most things in perlite in clear plastic cups. I use 10 oz cups, which are available at most grocery stores.

For each rooting chamber I use 3 clear plastic cups. One has holes punched in the bottom--the medium and the cuttings go there. Below that will go another a plastic cup, with peanuts in the bottom. This collects water that drains though the container above. It's important to check every few days and make sure water hasn't accumulated at the bottom. Finally, an inverted cup will go on the top to maintain high humidity.

Here are the components of the rooting chamber:

And here are 4 sets of cups with different kinds of media, perlite, and a perilte peat mixture on the right.

The perlite and the perlite:peat are moist of course. You can either moisten it before or after putting it in the cup. Either way, make sure it's thoroughly moist and discard any water that comes through the drainage holes.

Actually peat is hard to moisten. What I would do is put the mix in a plastic bag, add water, and gently and carefully shake it up.

Time to prepare the cuttings:

Here are pieces I cut off of three of my plants. P. 'Mission Dolores' is P. parritae x antioquiensis. The P. 'Sunburst' piece is pretty beat up, which is why I turned it into a cutting. I cut material from each plant up with a separate sterile razor blade:

I generally make 2 and 3 node cuttings. In my experience and that of others short cuttings tend to root better. Plus, one can try more conditions, and the chances are greater you will succeed. Most of us have grown vines before and realize that once they start growing they often go fast. An extra long cutting does not make a positive difference.

I generally cut about 1/4 inch below the bottom node, about the same above the top node. I remove all but the uppermost leaf, and often tear or cut off half or more of the remaining leaf. Tendrils and buds should also go. Depending on a number of factors I often cut or tear some of that off.

Here's the result:

I left the pieces so you could see what was removed. If one removed the pieces that are not attached one gets the following cuttings:

Here are all 3 of the previous pictures all at once. Notice how much of the original material has been discarded:

Next I typically "dip" my cuttings in rooting hormone. This may or may not make a difference. The hormone seems to come in quantities that will last a lifetime. Do not dip the cutting into the container. It will contaminate it, which can lead to all sorts of problems. Plus if the cutting has a short stem it may not make it all the way down.

Gently pour out a very small amount of hormone onto something clean (a piece of paper, for example). Tip the container on its side and tap it with your hand so just a small amount comes out. After using this very small amount toss what's left.

I just touch the tip of the cutting to the hormone. You just want a tiny amount:

Push the appropriate number of holes into the moist media (for example using a pen). Insert the cutting and push the medium around it. This has been done to the one on the right:

Put the inverted cup on the top, tape that cup to the one containing the cuttings and the medium.

Put the cups in the appropriate locations. I put the P. sanguinolenta in the perlite:peat mixture and put it on bottom heat. All of the others can be put at room temperature, in a bright area, but out of any sun. A bright windowsill or under lights is appropriate.

Here are the cuttings--I split the P.'Mission Dolores' between 2 cups, the other types each went into one cup.

Now all that's necessary is to wait. I'll post pictures of the above cuttings once a week.

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