Is It Better To Root Cuttings In Water

Is It Better To Root Cuttings In Water Or Soilless Mix?

In Propagation by Ana M

Plants can propagate, it’s a process of growing a new plant, in two ways: sexual and asexual. When propagating plants sexually, you need to use floral parts of the plant. Pollen of the male plant unites with the egg of the female plant producing seed. It is going to be a new plant with the features from both parental plants.

To propagate asexually, you need to take a section of the vegetative part of a plant like stem, root or leave. That way you can produce a completely identical plant. In order to propagate successfully, you need to choose an appropriate rooting medium. It can be anything from coarse river sand, vermiculite, soil, water, coconut coir, perlite or peat moss.

A good soilless potting mix is a mixture of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and fine barks whilst it doesn’t contain any soil. This is due to a fact that soil can be contaminated with bacteria or fungi. So, what makes a perfect rooting medium?

Optimal rooting medium is:

  1. Sterile
  2. Low in fertility
  3. Well-drained
  4. Moist

Based on these requirements, is it better to root cuttings in water or soilless mix?

Soilless potting mix drains well to provide oxygen to plants and is moist but not too wet to avoid root rot. Nevertheless, some plant cuttings will still root better in water. However, when rooting in soilless mix, cuttings develop a good root system and won’t encounter a shock when being transplanted into soil after rooting in water.

What plants can be rooted in water?

Almost any plant can be rooted in water, just some of them do root well in water while other drown. Also, when rooting cuttings in water, formed roots are extremely fibrous and stringy. That makes it very difficult to transfer them into soil. Most of the flowering plant cuttings like to root in water. Here is a list of plants that root well in water:

Flowering plants: African violet, Coleus, Impatiens, Geraniums, Fuchsia, Hydrangeas, Begonia, Spider Plant.

Houseplants: Wandering Jew, Purple Heart, Lucky Bamboo, Sweet Potato Vine.

Arums: Pothos, Philodendrons, Anthurium, Monsteras, ZZ plants, Aglaonemas, English Ivy, Peace Lily.

what plants can be rooted in water

The reason why Arums can be rooted well in water is that they originate from the ancestor that grew in bog withstanding flooding conditions. That makes these varieties to grow in water as well, but to thrive they should be transplanted to soil.

Herbs: Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Chives, Balm, Mint, Stevia, Lavender.

Vegetables: Horseradish, Roman Lettuce, Cabbage, Celery, Green Onions, Leeks, Lemongrass.

There are some plants that are not going to root in water at all and can be rooted only in soil or other rooting media. For example, woody plants like Hibiscus and Citrus can’t be rooted in water because these cuttings are likely to rot before rooting.

Can Plumeria be rooted in water?

Plumeria cuttings can be rooted in water as well as in soilless mix. Although the success rate is roughly the same, the roots that form in water are fragile and when transferring them to soil can break easily. Take the cuttings from Plumeria plant stem in spring and place them in water jars. For the best results you can keep the jars in a warm spot or you can use a seedling mat which increases soil temperature.

Can you root Dogwood cuttings in water?

Can you root Dogwood cuttings in water?

The best way to root Dogwood cuttings is in rooting medium and not in water. Dogwood is a tree, so you can take hardwood cuttings during the dormant season in winter or softwood cuttings (soft and green new growth) in spring and summer. Both types of cuttings will do well in soilless medium, half of peat moss and half of perlite.

How do you root a plant cutting in water?

Step 1 – Choose the plant that you want to propagate. It should be healthy and big enough. Generally, aim to take a cutting so the half of it will be in water and another half sticks up above it. Usually, a 4 – 6 inches long cutting does well. You need to choose the top stem, which is growing above the other branches. Don’t go for a bottom one with many leaves. It is better to leave it at the base to support the existing plant.

Step 2 – Prepare your equipment. Scissors should be sterile, you can use a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water and wipe the blades with it. Alternatively, you can use an alcohol rub. That way you can make sure that disease spores are not going to transfer to a new plant.

Step 3 – Take the cutting. Take the scissors and cut approximately 4 – 6 inches of a healthy stem before the root node at a 45-degree angle. Make sure that your cutting has at least one or two root nodes because that is where the new growth will develop. If the cutting has flowers or leaves, trim them off as we don’t want the plant to spend energy on them instead of developing roots.

How do you root a plant cutting in water?

Step 4 – Prepare the water for propagation. Fill up two thirds of the glass vessel with fresh, slightly warm water. Replace the water every few days or you can top up the vessel with fresh water when needed. However, do so if only the water isn’t murky and there is no fungal growth.

How long does it take to root a plant in water?

Generally, it takes from 3 to 4 weeks for a plant cutting to root in water. Some plants can root faster while others will take longer. As a rule of thumb, a cutting with roots that are 1 – 2 inches long is ready to be transferred to a potting medium. This on average takes from 4 to 6 weeks. Check the water vessel for the root growth every week.

Many growers prefer to root cutting in water because you can actually see that roots have developed from the node. Whereas when growing cutting in soilless mix it can be tricky to tell if cuttings have rooted. I came up with 3 sure ways how to check that your cutting has roots, so have a look at them!

How do I transfer a plant cutting from water to soil?

There are two ways to transfer a plant cutting from water to soil:

  • Gradually adding soilless mix to an existing water vessel;
  • Moving cuttings from water vessel to a pot with soilless mix.

I am going to talk a little bit more about these two techniques so you can decide which option works better for your plants.

Option 1 – Adding soilless mix to the water vessel 

Sometime when cuttings are rooting in water, the roots can become tangly and stringy making it stressful for a plant to take them out of water and plant directly into the soil.

On the other hand, if they remain in the standing water, cuttings can start suffering from lack of oxygen and minerals in water. So, in this case I would recommend waiting until roots reach 1 to 2 inches in length and you can gradually add soil to the glass jar. Here is a quick step by step guide:

Step 1 – Gently hold the cutting and pour a small amount of water from the top of the glass jar (no more than a tablespoon of water).

Step 2 – Moisten the potting mix with fresh water. Take a tablespoon and scoop potting mix, then add it to the glass jar with cutting in water. That way soil is not going to float and absorbs quicker. Make sure that you are using a sterile potting mix consisting of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite without fertilizer as it is going to be damaging for sensitive plants at this time. 

Step 3 – Continue adding a heaped tablespoon of soil everyday waiting for it to absorb until you fill up the glass jar completely. The aim is to replace the water with soilless mix. It might be necessary to adjust the cutting when adding soil. When doing so ensure that you hold the new growth or the existing stem without touching roots. 

Step 4 – Wait for at least a week, cutting should root in the soil. That is when you can transfer it into a bigger pot. To do so you need to pour the soilless mix into the pot leaving a small hole in the center for your cutting.

Choose an appropriate pot for your plant, a rule of thumb is that the diameter of the pot should be 10% bigger than the diameter of the cutting. So if your cutting is 3 inches in diameter then a pot should be at least 3.5 – 4 inches long in diameter. 

Option 2 – Transfer a plant cutting from water to soil

First of all, you need to make sure that the cuttings are ready to be transplanted to soil. The root growth has to be proportional to the plant. Ideally, the roots should be 3 to 4 inches before moving them into soil. Always take multiple cuttings when propagating them in water and then moving to soil, that way you will have a higher success rate.

Transfer a plant cutting from water to soil

Step 1 – Take the pot and fill two thirds with potting mix. You can make a potting mix yourself just take two parts all purpose potting soil with one part orchid barks and one part perlite. This mix will ensure that plants remain aerated when in soil and it is very important. Why?

When moving cuttings from water to potting soil there is going to a be a decrease in oxygen which can be stressful for plants. Also, this mix lets you water cuttings every day after moving them to soil. That way they can adjust gradually from being in the water to know growing in soil.

Step 2 – Create a little whole with your fingers in the middle of the potting mix. That is where a cutting is going to sit.

Step 3 – Take the cuttings (you can move one or two into the same pot) and carefully place them into the hole. Pour the soil on the roots carefully and fill up the pot completely.

Step 4 – Water the cutting with a little bit fresh water to keep the potting mix moist.

Step 5 – Put the cutting in a warm area but away from the direct sunlight.

It is debatable whether to add fertilizer at this point or not because it can burn sensitive cutting roots. However, if you are using an organic fertilizer and the roots are relatively long, it can be a good idea to add some fertilizer.

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