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Best way to root cuttings?

17 years ago

I know you can plunk some tomato cuttings into water & they will root. Is this the best way? I don't have a misting system or anything but it seems like there may be a better way than just sitting in water. Anyone?


Comments (33)

  • 17 years ago

    I've stuck them in ordinary soil in my greenhouse and kept them well-watered. They might wilt a little but bounce back. Provide some shade if needed. If the cutting is large, you can remove some leaves to lessen the water requirements and plant deeper.

    Nothing wrong with rooting in water for that matter.


  • 17 years ago

    I've had very good results just putting them in soil. Remember the more area you get buried in soil the more area for root growth and you want strong roots, good luck :)

  • 17 years ago

    I've had good luck with a cutting and a cup of water.
    After a few days roots appear, and then I plant em out.

    But like above, I have just cut off suckers and planted em... Either way works really ...

    ~ Tom

  • 17 years ago

    A few months ago there was some discussion in another forum and a point was brought up about the different types of roots that plants produce when stems are propagated. The point was made that roots formed in water function differently than roots formed in soil. Roots formed in water may not adapt well to a function of taking nutrients from soil. I have never been able to verify the claim. However, rooting cuttings directly in media sure does simplify the process and my sucesses doing sucker propagation in potting media have been almost 100% with more than a thousand starts.

    A misting system isn't really necessary for propagation in media. I've misted grafted plants where the early stage humidity is very important but for rooting tomato cuttings I just water and hold in a dark area for the first 24hrs, then move into indirect sunlight for a few days and usually you can see the cuttings perk up and start new growth.

    A few hundred of my rooted cuttings from this spring have been planted for a month and are already setting fruit now. They appear only a few weeks behind the plants from which the suckers were harvested. The warmer weather has made a big difference in closing that time gap.

    I think that propagating cuttings in media is fairly fast and simple. I usually spend as much time with flat variety identification as in the procedure of inserting suckers into cells. I usually don't break lower branches off of cuttings but now I have many plants which have healthy lower branches that originate from the stem section below the soil line. You might want to refresh the cut end and remove a set of lower branches at the time of propagation.

  • 17 years ago

    I don't start tomatoes from cuttings often, but I've had good luck getting them rooting deeply in damp vermiculite in indirect sunlight and then moving them to real soil after roots are about 1/2" long. If the roots start in vermiculite, they seem to develop normally in real soil afterwards.

    I have dipped cuttings in root hormone sometimes, but I often forget I have it and I'm not really sure it makes any difference with tomatoes (it does with woody shrub cuttings). Soft cuttings like tomatoes seem willing to root on their own.

  • 17 years ago

    Another thing I tried (without much success) was to make a moist wrap of some sort that I'd apply directly to a large branch of a living plant, in order to form roots right on the stem. My plan was to cut it off and plant it after it had roots showing. The main plant would keep the stem strong till I cut it off.

    Sorta like a sucker, but almost a full-grown plant on its own.

    Great idea, but I never got the wrap method down and roots didn't form.


  • 17 years ago

    A few months ago there was some discussion in another forum and a point was brought up about the different types of roots that plants produce when stems are propagated. The point was made that roots formed in water function differently than roots formed in soil. Roots formed in water may not adapt well to a function of taking nutrients from soil. I have never been able to verify the claim. However, rooting cuttings directly in media sure does simplify the process and my sucesses doing sucker propagation in potting media have been almost 100% with more than a thousand starts.


    This is something I would have and have said online but I don't know if you're referring to me or not/

    Yes, the function of root uptake in water and in solid media is different, no adaptation is necessary if you use solid media to start with, and how I wish I could give you a link to that info but I can't. It was one of the many links I had back in the early 90's that referred to basic work done on tomatoes in the 20's and 30's, and all but one of those links disappeared with time.

    The only one I still have and have posted many times is the superb article on root structure re direct seeding leading to a tap root struture as opposed to tranplnting seedlings when the more desirable fibrous structure develops.

    The only time I would take cuttings is if there was critter or weather damage and then I would place the cutting right next to the damaged one, build a wee moat around it and keep that moat filled with water until I saw new foliage.

    Where I live one wouldn't take cuttings for a fall crop. And for me personally I'd never do that anyway b'c I'd want to seed new varieties for a Fall crop and not grow the same ones I'd already grown. But that's b'c I was always looking for the best tomato variety and that's how I ended up growing out about 2000 different varieties.


  • 17 years ago

    Caroline, I surely do not feel like any kind of an authority on rooting cuttings, in fact I only got my first successful cuttings rooted recently. Perhaps I was lucky, or it was easy.

    I cut suckers off two plants that were doing well and producing well, had some moist potting soil ready in a cup and immediately stuck the cutting into the potting soil. I kept them very moist and in deep shade for several days, one did not even wilt, the other one wilted some a few times, but perked up when watered and put back in the shade.

    In this

    , the one in the foreground is a Large Red Cherry and the one in the back is a Big Beefsteak. (which did wilt a little).

    It did not take long before they did not wilt when I took them out of the shade, so I started leaving them out in high mottled shade, then on into the sun. I was pleasantly surprised when I planted them into the ground and dumped them out of the cups, they had a very good root system that was looking for a way out of the cups.

    are looking good in the ground and are
    . I may cut the longer, lower leaves off this last one when it gets more growth on top.

    Give it a try, if this ol dawg can do it, you can, I feel sure. ":^)
    Bill P.

  • 17 years ago

    Great idea dcarch, I am going to try it with a hybrid plant for which I have no more seeds...and the seeds that I did have had an extremely poor germination rate (1 seed germinated out of 14, 2 different varieties of 7 seeds each). Hopefully I will not have too much genetic drift over the years...probably cannot get more seeds, and even if I could they were extremely expensive.

  • 17 years ago

    The idea of root cutting is familiar to me. But the way Dcarch does is air layering. Dcarch please tell me how you cut the plastic? with a knife or with a pair of scissors? Thanks, Kim

  • 17 years ago

    Depends on the thickless of the plastic bottle. the ones i have used are thin enough that i was able to use regular shears to cut.

    P.S. use very transluscent bottles. You can actually see new root growth before you transplant.


  • 17 years ago

    dcarch, that is amazing I never saw something like that before do you know if this be done to other plants also like woody plants? Nice artwork too, btw :)

  • 17 years ago

    "dcarch, that is amazing I never saw something like that before do you know if this be done to other plants also like woody plants? Nice artwork too, btw :) "

    Anything you can root I can root better, I can root anything better than you -------- Yes I can, Yes I can ----.
    (Sorry, couldn't help it :-D )
    I don't have an answer for you. I haven't tried it with anything else. I don't see why not.


  • 17 years ago

    dcarch Quote:
    "Anything you can root I can root better, I can root anything better than you -------- Yes I can, Yes I can ----."

    Then imma, "rooting" for ya dcarch lol Sorry you asked for it :P

    I inagine all sorts of berry plants can be rooted this way since they have that habit anyway but this is so off topic so back to tomatoes, take it away, dcarch! :D

  • 17 years ago

    My way is easy and works great! I take a styrofoam cup, with potting soil at the ready. I clip off a growing sprout (aka "sucker") of between 3 to 5 inches long, and take off the bottom leaves. I put it in the cup, add soil until about an inch of sprout is sticking out. I poke a hole in the bottom, put it in a saucer, and fill up the cup and saucer until the cup is sitting in water of at least 2 inches. I leave it sitting in water in the shade for about 4 days, and then in the sun about 4 days, always making sure the saucer is filled with water. Then I wean it off the water a few hours more every day.
    This method results in a little plant that never even wilts, stays green, is very happy and quickly grows roots.
    Carla in Sac

  • 17 years ago

    dcarch: your method is perfect. for instance ficus is rooted this way though you would not use soil but some kind of sterile moss. i've never done it but i will try it now (looking at my ficus lyrata ...). before plastic bottles plastic bags were used ...

    regards to all

  • 16 years ago

    This is all very interesting. And thank you for the drawing, dcarch!

    I'm still working on my white-belt in Cutting-Jitsu. It is incredibly easy to do this with some plants (e.g. Martha Washingtons), but I haven't had such luck with the tomato cuttings I tried this summer. It may be incompetence on my part, or systemic disease in the cuttings. Probably the former.

    Of the several cuttings that I took from my tomato plants, only one of them has survived, for about six weeks now, and it is so puny that I don't think it will ever go in the ground. The rest all looked healthy for some period and then died. I tried cuttings of various lengths.

    Some went directly into the ground, shaded behind strategically placed boxes, with extra daily watering around the base in addition to the soaker hose. Others went into glasses of water for 48 hours, and then into styrofoam cups filled with 50/50 potting soil/vermiculite.

    One in a styrofoam cup has generated leaves at the juncture where a sucker should form. All other leaves on it wilted and then eventually died. I have kept it sprayed with mancozeb and daconil. The leaves show no signs of disease, but the stem has become progressively more blotched with gray lesions, the same as were on the mother plant.

    At this point I'm keeping it alive just for curiosity's sake. In the same time that I have had this thing sitting in its cup, I have had time to grow nine cells of cherry tomatoes, two of which I have already planted. (Snow White and Sungold).

    I can see where Carolyn comes from on this, because after getting over my initial weepy melancholy over losing my precious Burgundy Traveler, I am juiced about getting to grow Snow White for the first time.

    As for the ones that went directly into the soil... I didn't know how long to make the cuttings, so some of them were very long, stripped of their lower leaves. One was a whip about four feet long. It seemed to last a very long time before it just finally one day croaked. I was very hopeful about it for a while. I only speculate that perhaps the long buried stem length gave it a longer-lasting water/nutrient supply, and that after that was gone it just gave up rather than developing roots.

    What are the optimal sizes for cuttings? What kind of potting medium works best for this? Creamy or chunky? Does soaking overnight help or hinder? Does honey at the cutting point help?

  • 16 years ago

    Nothing fancy here. I had a branch hanging over the side from my Mortgage Lifter that is growing in a pot. Since it got in the way when walking past it I cut it off but didn't want to just throw it away. After reading here that you can just stick it in the ground and it will sprout roots and grow and since i was building an earth box that day I just stuck it in the corner of the box.

    It looked fine for a day or two.

    Then it got really sad looking and got worse for about a week.

    On the day that I was going to pull it out and toss it I noticed one of the branches was actually coming back to life. Anyway, here it is a month later happy as a clam

  • 16 years ago

    The very best way that I have ever found to root tomato cuttings-or indeed any cuttings of most other plants, is to place the cuttings in a five inch pot filled with regular potting compost, then thoroughly wet it and leave to stand for a couple of minutes, puch the cutting into compost to within an inch of the bottom of pot, place a clear polythene sandwich bag over the pot and twist round the bottom end a few times to seal it-then place on a shelf in the greenhouse or in a warm place for a period of ten full days- you get absolutley no wilting of the leaves and at the end of ten days a healthy root system has formed, then take off the polythene bag and let it grow on in the air- the five inch pot is just roomy enough to allow good root growth and a healthy plant before final planting out somewhere.

  • 16 years ago

    Once you root the cuttings can they be over wintered say like here in CT so they are ready for next year? If so what kind of requirements would they need?

    Thanks in advance,


  • 16 years ago

    Probably light, water and temperatures within reason, Rich. A little bit of fertilizer if they look like they need it. They might have tomatoes on them by time to put them into the garden next year though. If the plant is getting too big, you could take another cutting from that plant an start another one, or do several if you wanted to.
    Bill P.

  • 16 years ago

    What I should ask is should I start them in a 5 gallon bucket or keep repotting the cuttings? Also do any of you currently do this in the same zone as me successfully? TIA-Rich

  • 15 years ago

    I have been rooting cuttings in a clear glass of water for a long time now, and wait for the roots to get quite healthy before potting in soil. They never seem to wilt in this process and I haven't lost any yet.

  • 14 years ago

    I rooted out a red cherry tomato from a broken branch a couple of months back. I simply stuck it in a glass of tap water, and planted it in a sub-irrigated 5 gallon bucket filled with potting mix after the roots had grown out a couple of inches. I don't know the exact variety of that plant as it is a descendent of seeds given to me a few years back. I also have some extra tomato plants still in starter cells which were planted about five or so months ago. Those have basically stopped growing, but are alive. A few weeks back I took a couple of those, which were Roma Tomatoes, and put them into sub-irrigated 5 gallon bucket planters and they have started to grow out. I am thinking of combining these ideas and taking cuttings from my Sungold F1 plants this fall, and rooting them out in a starter tray, and try to keep them alive in those starter cells until about the beginning of March when I will put them in larger pots in preparation to plant out in May, that is unless anyone shoots down this idea.

  • 13 years ago

    All these ideas have worked for me in the past,I have been rooting my tomato plants for about 7 years now and the best way that I have found is:

    Around the last of June I pick lower branches from my tomato plants and bury it in a flat of vermiculite just about 5 inches from the tip,leaving it attached to the growing plant.I sometimes have to anchor the branch so it remains in the vermiculite but then all I do is keep it wet and the roots will form in a few days, but even then I leave it in the moist media still attached for several days so it will become hardier.
    With this method you never remove the rooting from the growing plant until you clip just below the new roots.
    I started 7 plants this growing season and all 7 are growing and making small fruit as of today 7/28

  • 13 years ago


    Recently the branch of one of my tomato plants broke down partially. By partially I mean that the branch as a deep cut but it is not rentirely removed.

    This annoys me because the plant was making tomatoes at a higher point.

    I am a beginner and I wonder what will happen with the fruit that is above th cut? Will it die?

    Should I cut the branch entirely and try to root it? If I do that, will the tomatoes that are formed already fell or die?



  • 13 years ago

    Can you root the part that holds a cluster of small tomatoes (what is this part of the tomato plant even called?)?

    Can you root a leaf itself to become a new plant?

  • 13 years ago

    Rooting cuttings with fruit on them seldom works as it is too stressful to try to support the fruit at the same time it is developing roots.

    New growth tips or sucker branches are what you need to root cuttings. Fruit clusters are end growth and so are leaf branches in that nothing grows from the end of them. Fruit on broken off branches is lost fruit. Leaf branches do not root and do not grow into tomato plants.

    I think it is fairly well explained in all the info above but if it is still isn't clear, if you Google 'anatomy of a tomato plant' you'll be able to see from the diagram clearly which part of the plant can be used to grow into cuttings.


  • 13 years ago

    Dave thanks I figured either of those 2 wouldn't root as I have tried and failed, where small stem plantings and growth tips worked fairly well as long as they didn't rot first.

  • 13 years ago

    Best way to root cuttings (including tomato) is to place
    cuttings in pint size containers in damp potting soil and
    place in large (20 to 50 qt) clear or frosty plastic
    container. Container will be upsidedown. Place the
    pots on the lid and snap the container down. Shade or
    bright light, not sun. Makes its own mist, plants do not
    wilt. After a couple of weeks start raising the lid a
    little at a time untile the plants are ready to make it
    on their own. Pratice will tell you when they are ready
    for ground or larger containers. I have seven 50 qt
    containers full of cuttings in a shady part of the
    greenhouse, approx 100 plants. I'm doing these for my
    daughter's plant sale this spring. So far have not found
    any plant that couldn't be rooted in this manner.
    Target & Walmart are the best places to get the containers.
    Good luck in 2011 from Houston, Tx. Andy T

  • 12 years ago

    I think you should root a part of the sucker stem normally in the soil as you grow a tree from a seed........It works..Trust me..

  • 12 years ago

    I think suckers are easy to root in soil. I don't use root tone. I use a 4" pot or a bigger one for several cutting. I wet the foliage of the plant daily with a gentle squirt from the hose. This has always worked great for me. Water roots are weaker than soil roots. They don't have to work to get to the the water.

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