If I say the word clone you may think of sheep or something out of a science fiction novel. But cloning is the best way to reproduce your grandmother’s Christmas cactus or your cousin’s African Violets. Cloning is simply taking a piece of plant and coaxing it to grow into a brand new plant.
Most people don’t call the process cloning. It is more famously known as ‘taking cuttings to root.’ The process of taking and rooting cuttings is actually simple.
Sterilize Your Tools
Mix a solution using one part bleach and 9 parts water. This solution is strong enough to kill bacteria and germs on your tools. Wipe down your pruning shears and starter container with it. Fill the starter container with potting soil.
Take a Cutting
Next, take a cutting with your pruning shears. Various plants react better to different types of cuttings. You can take a cutting of a leaf, a stem or a piece of root to use as a cutting. For more information, North Carolina State University has a series of detailed fliers about taking cuttings.
For the purpose of this article, I will describe the process of taking a stem cutting. Select the end of a stem for a vine, tree or shrub branch. Count backward from the end until you have selected 3 separate points where a leaf emerges. These points are called nodes. A node can form both leaves and roots. Put the blades of your pruning shears below the third node from the end of your branch or vine. Snip off the end of the branch to make a cutting.
Root the Cutting
Remove all leaves from the lower 2/3 of the cutting. The plant won’t need them since this portion will be buried. Dip the end of the plant in rooting hormone. You can make a homemade rooting hormone using willow bark tea.
Protecting the Cutting
Until your cutting develops roots, it has no means to keep from drying out. But because it still has leaves, it is prone to losing moisture from transpiration. In order to protect the cutting, you will need to keep it from drying out. You can create a humid, mini-greenhouse environment around the plant by placing it in a plastic freezer bag like a Ziploc bag. Use this bag until the plant develops its own roots. When the plant shows signs of growing, it is safe to remove the bag.
Put the cutting in a sunny windowsill until you are ready to take it outside.