How to take cuttings

Taking cuttings from  Chillies

Yesterday, while cutting back a Bolivian Rainbow plant to make a Bonchi, I decided to take cuttings from the stems I had cut off.  Throwing perfectly good Chilli stems away seemed like sacrilege!

Taking cuttings is a fantastic way of cloning exact replicas of your best plants.  If the parent plant is a star, the odds are that the plant from a cutting will turn out that way also  That is a real bonus!

It is also an excellent method of growing Chillies if you have left the growing season a bit late. You will, of course, have to have overwintered Chillies to make cuttings from them, but if you have overwintered plants, Bobs, your uncle. You can eliminate having to germinate seed, and then wait for them to reach a reasonable size before potting- on and hardening off.

However, taking cuttings is not as simple as snipping off a stem , placing it in water and hoping for the best. It requires more than that. A bit of science is required to make the magic of root cuttings work.

The following guidelines are based on that science.  Follow them and you will have every chance of success in your Chilli cuttings.

Guidelines for cuttings

Taking cuttings

The first guideline is that cuttings should only be taken from healthy plants. In essence, by making a cutting, you are making an exact clone of the parent plant. If the parent is unhealthy, the odds are more than likely that the plant that forms from the cutting will become unhealthy as well.

Next, it is essential to cut the stem just below a node (the internode area). Nodes are the sections on a stem where leaves and flowers branch out from.  They are an area of the stem where growth hormones are concentrated. By cutting at this point, you are placing the plant in the best position for root growth.

Do not cut much above half an inch from the node. Making the cut any further down makes it more possible that dieback will occur. If dieback happens, it is more likely that disease can be introduced into the cutting. Make the cut at a forty-five degrees angle. Finally, cut away any leaves in the direct vicinity of this area ( and a little further up the stem). Leave some foliage at the top of the cutting. The area where the foliage is situated is another area that contains growth hormones. It is this area that kicks off the formation of roots by sending grow signals to the internodes situated at the bottom.

The final steps

Hormone rooting powder

You could use a rooting hormone at this point. To do this, place a bit of rooting hormone powder in a small container. Dip the internode area into it up to about an inch. Hormone rooting powder contains a synthetic form of Auxin (a growth hormone) The powder also often contains cytokinins (another growth hormone), fungicides and other chemicals. These help develop root growth and prevent the formation of fungal infections.

Now, fill a small jar to three quarters with room temperature water. Place the cutting into the water. Use the leaves at the top of the cutting to rest the cutting on the sides of the jar. Do not allow any leaves to become submerged.

Change the water in the jar every couple of days. Within a couple of weeks, if the cutting has been successful, you will notice that roots will have formed at the internode section. You may also see a couple more roots above it on the stem. but not as many

Once the roots have been formed, the plants can be transferred into a pot with some compost. It will grow like any other plant

Final thoughts

When deciding on  growing plan or strategy for a Chilli growing season , cuttings should definitely form part of the picture along with seeds.  The aim of the game after all is to be able to harvest Chillies at the end of a season.  With this in mind,I have already started Superhots  for next season . I have done this because they have a long seed to fruit bearing growth period. I will be starting other seeds at the beginning of February for faster growing varieties. With cuttings, however, I will only need to consider taking them from plants I have overwintered in April. By May, they will have already reached the stage that they can be finally potted-on and hardened off. From there, they will remain permanently outside throughout the rest of the season.


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