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What is Tip Cutting?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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Tip cutting is a method of propagating plants that does not involve planting seeds. The process used in this form of cultivation calls for harvesting a cutting from a healthy plant. When accomplished successfully, the cutting can be placed in soil where it will develop a root system and eventually emerge as a new plant in its own right.

In order to successfully engage in tip cutting propagation, it is necessary to know when and how to harvest the cutting. First, the plant must be mature enough to provide a viable cutting. Collecting cuttings from plants, shrubs, or trees that are already producing foliage or blooms is generally recommended. Harvesting from mature plants will increase the chances that the cuttings will have enough nutrients to withstand the trauma of being cut from the main plant and remain viable until the cutting can develop a root system of its own.

Next, it is important to confine the tip cutting activity to the early morning hours. This is because most plants are at their most vigorous in the several hours after sunrise. Taking this precaution also helps to ensure the cuttings are strong enough to remain fresh and strong during the removal and subsequent rooting.

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Many people make the mistake of harvesting a cutting that is too short. As a general rule, effective tip cutting involves making the cut below at least three sets of leaves on most foliage. This is usually sufficient to include two joints in the stem of the cut, and increase the chances of the cut developing a root system in a short period of time.

Gardeners will use different tip cutting methods, based on the type of plant, the current climate, and the strategy that will be used to help the cutting create a root system. Some prefer a clean cut, while others will go with a jagged cut that is somewhat slanted. The slant cut is often preferred if the cutting will be rooted in water rather than in soil.

Once the tip cutting is complete, the cut tips can be placed in water that has been infused with nutrients, including rooting hormone. As the roots develop, the cutting can be transferred into a small pot filled with potting soil or mix. Watering regularly will help the root system to further develop and burrow deeper into the soil, causing the harvested tip to begin developing into a full-fledged plant.

The use of tip cutting is frequently preferable to the process of planting seeds to start a new plant. Cuttings will often begin to take root and mature into a plant in a fraction of the time it takes for seeds to germinate and begin growing to any appreciable level. Gardeners who love to expand flower gardens or cultivate favorite shrubs for use in landscaping often prefer the use of a tip cutting shoot to a seed for this very reason.

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