Propagation by Sprout Cuttings:
Discovering What Works

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In this picture, the plant on the left is ready to be taken as a cutting. The plant on the right is too immature. However, I have taken cuttings when the sprout was very small. About half of them survived.

You can take sprout cuttings from plants much larger than the one on the left, but you must always include the top sprout as part of the cutting to be placed in the growing medium.

If your plant has put out laterals (i.e. the small sprouts growing out of each node have grown large and also have leaves and nodes) you can also take cuttings from the top part of the lateral just as though it were a stand alone plant.

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This year I have attempted to maintain a very clean* "cuttings" operation for two reasons. First, one commercial grower speculated that the main reason for a low survival rate when taking cuttings was contamination. In the past, about 70 percent of my sprout cuttings and only 50 percent of my leaf cuttings survived. Recalling how I did the cuttings in the past, I was convinced that contamination had to be a major factor. Second, in order to learn what variables (growing mediums, temperature, humidity, etc.) are important to survival when taking cuttings, it would be necessary to control contamination.

*Clean--as in pasteurize, disinfect. This should kill most pathogens. However, it will not kill viruses.

When preparing to take a sprout cutting, sterilize the blade of the knife with a spray or two of alcohol. I also wear medical examination gloves. Gloves are not typically used for this procedure. My typical loss with sprout cuttings is about 30 percent. If I am correct about contamination, there should be a dramatic reduction in loss this year. Several thoughtful comments on this subject were sent to us by Gary D. Miner They are posted in "Send Your Tips..." They are worth reading.

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When the sprout has developed at least one set of leaves in addition to the cotyledon pair (the first set of leaves to appear--soft succulent plain looking leaves) and the tip of the plant is beginning to open to display the second set of leaves, it is time to take the first cutting from the tuber. Cut the sprout about 1/16th of an inch above where it is attached to the tuber. This may leave a cut that is not smooth and clean--with rough edges. Gently holding the severed sprout, make a clean final cut about 1/16th of an inch below the bottom node--approximately where the knife blade is pointing in the picture.

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