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Steps for Taking a Cutting for Your Own Forest at Home

Keywords: media, rooting hormone, hardwood cutting, softwood cutting; Lesson Plan Grade Level: ninth through twelfth grade; Total Time Required for Lesson: 50 minutes; Setting: courtyard or area where trees or shrubs can be found, and classroom

Goals for the Lesson

  • Be able to take a proper hardwood cutting.
  • Learn what rooting hormones are and how they help generate roots.

Materials Needed

  • trees or shrubs you can take cuttings from
  • 1 percent rooting hormone (Rootone is a common name)
  • bag of either perlite, vermiculite, or sand
  • tongue depressors for labeling
  • 4-inch pots

State Standards Addressed: Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources (4.2); Agriculture and Society (4.4)

Subjects Covered: agricultural science, forestry, and biology 

Topics: Plant reproduction, forest regeneration, asexual reproduction

Methods

Taking of a cutting can be done for a number of reasons:

  1. The plant needs to be trimmed
  2. You would like more of that plant
  3. By taking cuttings from a plant or tree, you are giving the existing plant the ability to grow in thicker because usually where you take one cutting you will get two new shoots.

These are just a few common reasons for taking a cutting.

The most common reason is to mass multiply the plants you desire. This can be done by taking what is called a hardwood cutting. A hardwood cutting is a piece of plant material taken from the terminal end of a tree or shrub. The terminal end is a piece of material that has a bud at the end of it. Hardwood cutting are taken from plants and shrubs that have a barky texture to them. Hardwood cuttings are harder to start then softwood cutting which I will mention latter.

You can take cuttings from soft tissue plants as well. These are often times much easier. You will need to use a lower percentage of hormone then you would use for hardwood cuttings. Use a 0.1 to 0.3 percentage. These types of cuttings would be house plants or succulent tissue plants.

Steps for Taking a Hardwood Cutting

  1. Snip a piece of plant material off the parent plant that is about 3 to 5 inches long.
  2. If the cutting has any flowers or fruit on it, take them off. You want to take them off because you don't want the plant to put energy into making a flower at the moment you want it to produce roots.
  3. If the cut you made was not a clean cut and of a 45-degree angle make a new cut.
  4. Next dip the hardwood cutting into a 1.0 rooting hormone solution. This can be found at a local greenhouse or florist. Note: A powder form and a liquid form are available. The liquid form will be more expensive, but it will be more effective in the long run. A common name for it is Dip N Grow.
  5. After your cuttings have been dipped, place the cutting in soil very close together because as the plants root they will be producing a hormone that will be released into the soil. The soil should be a type of soil that holds moisture very well. A common soil is straight vermiculite of perlite. These are found at your local greenhouses or home garden centers. If the plants are close together, they can share the hormones being produced and will root faster. An example or another experiment you can do to prove this is with a bag of peaches that are not ripe. Take one peach out, place it on the windowsill, and leave the rest in the bag. The bag of peaches will ripen faster because of a chemical called ethylene. Leave these cuttings alone for about 3 to 4 weeks. You will need to water them several times a day; do not let them dry out .
  6. After the cuttings have pushed roots out you will know by gently pulling on the cutting. If the cutting doesn't give, new roots probably have formed. The new roots are delicate, so be careful when pulling the cutting out of the ground.
  7. Take the individual cutting, replant it in a 4-inch pot, and keep it well watered. Do not overfertilize because fertilizer can be too strong and brown the roots out, in turn killing the plant. Do not use more then a 10-10-10 fertilizer to start.

Assessment

Watch and care for the plants that you are growing from cuttings. You will have a small percentage, but that is expected under less-than-ideal situations. The ideal situation would be a room that is sterile at all times and regulated closely by temperature and moisture. Talk about why some of the plants died or didn't take root.

Conclusion

You can see from this lesson that you can start your own forest in your back yard just like those you see in Pennsylvania. The best part is you can start this forest at next to no cost. Just the cost of the rooting hormone, some pots, and soil.

Reference

Herren, Ray (2002). The Science of Agriculture: A Biological Approach. Independence, Ky.: Delmar Publishing.

Author

Andrew Boyer, Northern Tioga School District