We decided to try it out with what is deemed one of the easiest plants to propagate — mint. Mint is a fast growing and quickly spreading plant, so we figured it would be a great one to start out with.
In the beginning of January we still had few strong mint stragglers hanging on in our outdoor containers. Knowing the worst of the frosts were yet to come, we really wanted to try and see if we could preserve the plant indoors over the winter to re-plant in the spring — not having to buy more and just to see if we could actually do it. So far it's working, so this is how we did it!
On the very first day of January, we snipped a couple 2 inch cuttings off the healthy ends of the mint plant where there were signs of new, healthy growth. You want to cut where you see new growth, as this is the part of the plant that will give you the best shot at propagation:
To prepare the cutting for new root growth, we gently stripped away all the leaf sets on the stem, leaving only a couple new leaves at the top of the cutting. Doing this encourages root growth from the leaf node areas we stripped away and also helps the stem of the plant focus all of its energy on those little top leaves and root regeneration.
This is how they should look once you've stripped all the bottom leaves from the stem cutting:
Side note: It was sunset when we did the first part of this project, so we got a rather distracting but pretty bokeh photo effect from our string lights outside in the pic above.
After stripping the lower leaves from the stem cutting, we just placed them in a shallow bowl of water, making sure the water covered both sets of leaf nodes that were previously stripped away:
From here on out, it was simply a waiting game. We just kept the water level above the two sets of leaf nodes and switched out the water every week or so.
Note: In researching how to propagate, we've read over and over that using a rooting hormone powder on the ends of the cuttings really speeds up this process, but it's something we wanted to try completely naturally to see if we could meet the challenge. There are organic versions of rooting hormone out there and who knows, we might even try it out in the future to see how much of a difference it can make, but again, this go round we wanted to see what was possible without the use of any additional supplements. If you want to try using organic root hormone powder, you would simply dip the stem in water after stripping the sets of leaves, then dip it in the powder and then rest in the dish of water just as above.
One week after placing the cuttings in the water, this is how we looked:
Not much had changed other than the larger of the two sets of leaves on the tops of the cuttings were beginning to weaken and dry out. It went like this for a long time!
An entire month later (yes, a whole month!), after the first week of February, this is how we were looking:
Several of the first leaves had completely browned and died away. We still had no signs of roots at all, but we left them in the water since the cuttings seemed to keep regenerating tiny little sets of new leaves that would sprout out the top above the other leaves. We figured this meant there was at least something going on throughout the plant and it wasn't so hard to just keep the water fresh and level, so we kept at it.
Two more weeks after the shot above, we'd basically figured it wasn't going to work and that we'd just try it again with some organic root hormone powder in the spring. It was literally at that moment that I looked down and noticed this:
See that little root emerging from the bottom leaf node of the cutting? It must have sprung out like this overnight — it was simply amazing.
After realizing the cutting had finally rooted, we let it continue to hang out and get stronger in the water for about another 5 days before taking it outside to transfer in a soil filled planter of it's own:
We just loosely packed soil around the rooted cutting first:
Then we went ahead and added the second cutting to the planter even though it hadn't sprouted any roots and quite frankly, the stem seemed to have browned and rotted. We figured at the worst, it would just die in the planter, but wanted to give it a chance since it had so many new little leaves springing out the top of it:
After planting, we gave the little cuttings a good soak and brought them back inside to the windowsill where they started off in the dish of water:
A week after planting (March 1st) and getting cozy in their new home with regular waterings, more of the big leaves browned, so I snipped them off in hopes the roots and plant will refocus all of their energies on growing stronger, deeper roots and producing more green leaves like they did in the water.
This is where we are right now:
Funnily enough, the smaller of the two cuttings that had the browned stem and no root growth seems to be producing more leaves since it's been in the soil — so it just goes to show how you never know! While neither of these cuttings look like much now, we've got high hopes they'll continue to grow and get stronger in this little pot as the sun begins to warm up. Who knows, maybe we'll have a pot bursting with mint to show you in a few months from now!
This was a great first propagation project for us to get our feet wet with the idea of regrowth from cuttings. We'd really like to be able to propagate a certain hydrangea bush that we'll likely only have one chance to get a cutting or two from, so this was a good baby step towards that goal (and of course we'll spill all the background details on that project when/if the time comes).
One thing is for certain — we never imagined it would be a 2 month process just to produce a root and plant the first cutting. We're not even sure why we let them hang out for so long other than some shred of hope, but we sure are glad we did! We're excited to watch them grow and progress as we learn more and more each season.
Have you had luck with propagating plants before? We'd love to hear your tips for success and what you've found to work best!