Get the knife.

Time to cut.

Yes, now that my plants are finally growing I am whacking on them, otherwise known as taking cuttings.  And as you may recall this is the Year of the Clematis, so those vines are the first to get it.

DISCLOSURE: I have never before in my whole life ever attempted to start clematis plants from cuttings.

So here I am writing about it, with zero experience, because it’s the time of year to take the cuttings and I didn’t want you to miss out on the drama, plus this whole effort is making me very nervous and I need support. (Perhaps you’ll try it too from peer pressure, just like in junior high.)

And now I am going to stop right here and totally appreciate the readers who might be real cutting experts out there, gardeners with razor sharp secateurs (those are scissors, I looked it up) and brand new jars of hormone powder and perhaps even with beautiful automatic heater/mister arrangements.  But I don’t have any of those things so I will be using other things.

OK, moving on.

First you find a clematis with enough growth that it won’t be killed for the summer if you cut off a chunk.

clematis cutting

I gathered from vast minutes of reading that you need a long enough piece of the vine that there is a sort of middle part, not just the little soft curly top bit. Then you sever it with whatever is playing the role of secateurs, in my case a pair of scissors.

Aren’t illustrations great? Just cut the vine to ribbons as shown above.

Next you dip the bottom end of the stem into hormone stuff, and it better be new, not some dumb hormone stuff you got three years ago when you were trying to propagate those lilacs. So, I dip the stem in my three-year-old hormone stuff…

dipping clematis cutting in hormone powder

I did get a little bit on me because I always get everything on me. (Once when I was painting a wall a total stranger told me I looked like a speckled chicken.)

planting clematis cutting

Oh this is a great photo! It features my Tunnel Device for making a spacious hole in the soil — and if you think the Tunnel Device looks like a tiny upside-down paintbrush that just shows that you don’t know about these special tools. The TD creates a nice little hole in the soil so that you can slide in the cutting without whisking off all the hormone powder. (Note: yes I know the hormone powder is so old that it is probably useless but if you have no respect for ritual then there is just no helping you.)

I added some extra perlite to the potting soil so it will stay nice and moist because cuttings are seriously thwarted by drought.

planted cutting

You situate the little leaf node so it’s just peeky-peeky out of the soil and all the two-inch stem is down below.

Apparently roots can come barreling straight out of the stems of clematis cuttings, not like roses where the roots seem to like a nice leaf node from which to shyly sneak forth. (Some people do leave a leaf node on bottom of the clematis cuttings, but I belong to the no-node group until all the cuttings die, then I switch.)

Fig A-54

As a final gesture to show this little cutting exactly who is boss around here, or possibly to limit moisture loss etc etc, you snip its poor remaining leaves in the heartless fashion as shown in Figure A-54. (Don’t go feeling bad about it, it’s good for them, just like brandy is good for you. Trust me on this.)

bagged cutting

(My goodness it is fun to put in those blue arrows, you should try it.)

Then, because I don’t have a mister arrangement (I do have a Mr. O, so I don’t mean that kind of mister arrangement, I mean the fog kind), I put a plastic bag over the pot to keep it mega-moist.

And a bamboo barbecue skewer goes in one corner to hold the bag up. (I have these bamboo skewers left from when I tried to grill what people call “kabobs” on my barbecue grill which is since known as “the food incinerator.”) And you nip a hole in the top of the bag to let in some air.

foggy bag

After a while the bag will get all misty inside, and this makes the cutting feel better like maybe it isn’t going to die. Then you put the whole ensemble in a bright but not sunny place and don’t let it get hugely hot or you’ll end up with steamed cutting for supper.

week old cutting

Now here is a very hopeful picture. This is a clematis cutting from one week ago and it is looking pretty darn possibly not dead. VERY hopeful.

The experienced people say it can take five to eight weeks to root clematis cuttings, and that you should probably grow the new plants with care for a year before kicking them out into the garden. I also learned that many commercial clematis plants are grafted onto some sturdy rootstock, like maybe a redwood tree or a saguaro cactus, but honestly people should have some faith in Mother Nature and relax.

bunch of clematis cuttings

I may have created too many clematis cuttings.

Clematis Ice Blue

But the blooms are so pretty.  And surely the cuttings will grow.

Tillie says…

Tillie says


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual plants, Clematis, propagation, Tillie and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Get the knife.

  1. Grace says:

    I’m excited to see how these turn out. Please keep us posted. One can never have too many clemmies.

    • linniew says:

      I would love to do a follow-up, especially if all the cuttings grow fabulously well.
      If they all die, however, I may be too busy…OK I will try to be mature about this Grace but that will be new for me.

  2. Cathy says:

    OMG Linnie, you make everything fun. And I am going to try my hand at this! You’ve convinced me…. mainly because my rooting powder is only 2 years old. And I am rooting some wisteria anyway! Just adore your blog but you had me laughing out loud this AM!

  3. David says:

    In the interest of scientific research you are obligated to post your results objectively. With plenty of those neato blue arrows.

    Figure A-54 made me feel bad anyway. A sip of brandy would have been helpful.

    We have some rooting powder in a foil envelope that has to be at least 10 years old. We also have a couple of clematis outside that have been doing pretty well for a few years, despite my best efforts with the lawn mower.

    • linniew says:

      That rooting powder of yours is just getting good, aged like a fine wine.

      Perhaps Figure A-54 should come with a trauma warning. And I need to get an alcohol widget.

  4. Dear Linnie, You make gardening so much FUN! I love this post. And I am so impressed with the blue arrows, having no idea how you made them. Thank you for visiting my ‘lasagna garden” posting. In answer to your question, I don’t recommend layering and planting under trees. P. x

  5. Sheila Read says:

    Perfect timing for this post. I was just mulling taking a few cuttings. Now, with the aid of your blue arrows, I know exactly what to do. I’m not sure I have any hormone powder – perhaps I can just skip that part? Or is getting speckled an essential part of the process?

    You make me laugh every time.

  6. linniew says:

    Welcome to the Old Root Hormone Powder Confession forum Sheila.
    I don’t know if getting it on you is essential to the plants growing but I find it does help with hot flashes.

  7. This is one of the funniest posts I have ever read. I don’t even care if a clematis is ever produced. The more arrows the better, and if they are totally irrelevant to the post itself, all the better. I would like further information on the food incinerator and Tillie and her words of wisdom. There is so much material here.

    • linniew says:

      I try to control Tillie but she pops in occasionally, not exactly a little ray of sunshine. She first showed up a couple posts back and now she is sort of like a genie out of the bottle.
      Glad you enjoyed the post though Carolyn. (The arrows really were fun.)

  8. kininvie says:

    I’m completely new here, but hit this post while having a general look around. Love it! I’ve done what you did with the clematis. NOT ONCE have any roots appeared. But do they die off and tell you it’s over? No, they just sit there for ever, looking really quite alive, and telling you that if you go on giving them space which you can’t afford, they will perform one day……but they just don’t. It’s a mega-con, designed to make you buy more clematis out of frustration.

    Seriously, you don’t say what sort of clematis you are using, but you may have the best chance if you go for something as near the wild types as possible. Viticella, alpina, or macropetala…?


    • linniew says:

      kininvie, Welcome! Thanks for reading and for the comment!
      Boy what a bummer, clematis cuttings bought off by the nursery industrial complex, paid to create a market. They DO look so well, but now my radar is on for this scam. I will not be manipulated by mercenary cuttings. Now, regarding types of clematis, there is the big white flower, the big red flower, the big purple flower, and the big white with a bit of blue flower.(Sorry I have a little trouble tracking the particulars.) “Macropetala maybe, it SOUNDS like big flowers…

  9. Angie Case says:

    You’re a nut. I love it. New favorite bedtime read. My husband thinks I’m a loon anyway, now he knows I have a twin somewhere and I’ve been laughing out loud and reading bits and guffawing over clematis cuttings. I hear cinnamon works the same way and since it leaves a nice brown smear mark on everything it touches it has it’s own benefits! I hope the clematis cuttings do well. I’ve been trying my hand at fuchsia cuttings and have even had a little success with it. Happy gardening to you.

    • linniew says:

      It is awesome finding people like you Angie so I know I am not alone! One of my favorite quotes is Oscar Wilde: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” Pretty much my prime directive. Glad you enjoy my scribbles– love your comments.
      I keep checking the clematis cuttings. A couple have gone on to clematis heaven, but most are hanging in there and about two show itty bitty leaf starts. I will do a follow-up eventually if there is at least one plant. Otherwise I’ll just hope everyone forgets about it…(they won’t).

  10. mm says:

    So funny I had to work at unsquinting my eyes and read through tears to share this with my husband. Delightfully entertaining.

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