These step-by-step instructions show how to take clematis cuttings to grow new vines. It’s a simple propagation method using softwood cuttings.
This is part of the Complete Clematis Care Guide with tips on planting, propagation, fertilizing, and more.
How to Propagate Clematis
Once you become addicted to these beautiful flowering perennial vines, you’ll want a lot of them. That’s what got me into propagating new plants from the ones I have.
There are several ways to propagate clematis:
- Grow clematis from seed (which is very slow process taking up to 3 years for germination).
- Divide and transplant mature plants (great if you have them).
- Layering (stem of a living vine is pinned to the ground until it establishes strong roots).
- Grafting (not considered the best way to grow clematis).
- Growing new plant from cuttings (quick and easy-but not all will root).
Besides division, learning how to take clematis cuttings is the easiest. It can be hit and miss: some batches all root, some won’t at all. But it is definitely worth trying if you enjoy plant propagation and want more free plants.
When to Take Clematis Cuttings
It is possible to grow from stem cuttings from late spring until the end of summer.
These cuttings are called by different names depending on the maturity:
- Spring: softwood
- Summer: semi-ripe
- Late summer: ripe
- Autumn: hardwood
I have the best success with late spring and early summer, probably because, once the cutting is rooted, it’s still summer and there’s warmth, humidity, light, and time to nurture them.
However, the younger (newer, greener) the cutting, the more tender it is. Cuttings later in the season are tougher but slower to root. There’s benefits to both!
Like any propagation method, it never has a 100 percent success rate. I usually prepare about 10 or 12 pieces, originating from about 3 long cuttings, and end up with 3 to 6 plants to be planted in the garden. Some will carry on for years, just as we hope, others may die off or get the dreaded clematis wilt at some point.
But, much like seeds, there’s not much effort needed to start many so you can end up with—we hope—several.
If you want to try growing other plants from cuttings, When to Take Plant Cuttings has a printable list naming plants by season.
This free two-page document is in PDF format and you can download it to your device and print it out if desired.
If you are new to downloading files or ebooks, this provides a free ebook and instructions.
How to Choose a Clematis Cutting
This is for softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer.
- Choose an established vine (two years or older) to take cuttings from.
- Be sure it’s not an invasive variety. Sweet Autumn is a troublemaker in many growing zones.
- The best growth to cut is not the super fine new green growth of spring, but a few weeks or more into the growing season as they start to thicken.
They are not yet tough and nowhere near woody, but neither are they the super fine tendrils of first growth.
- Do not choose stems with buds or flowers.
Steps for Propagating Clematis Cuttings
- Two-year old+ clematis vine.
- Plastic bag with warm, damp paper towel.
- 3″ pot with good quality potting soil.
- Drip tray to hold the pots.
- Rooting hormone and small dish to pour it in.
- Fine, sharp cutting knife (I like a scalpel) and cutting board.
- Rubbing alcohol to clean your blade.
- Plastic Ziplock bags (food bags) large enough to cover each pot without touching the cutting.
- Chopsticks or similar item to support Ziplock bags.
Before you take your cutting, read all the steps and have your supplies ready.
You need to do all these steps immediately after taking the cuttings, otherwise the stem will die.
STEP 1 – Preparation
- Decide how many cuttings you want to prepare and get the pots ready.
- Place potting mix in 3-inch pots, water thoroughly, top up with mix, and water again.
- Set pots on a drip tray and have a chopstick and clear food bag ready for each pot.
- Clean your scalpel or fine cutting knife with rubbing alcohol.
- Have your rooting hormone and cutting board ready.
- Dampen a clean rag or paper towels with warm water and place in a plastic Ziplock bag.
STEP 2 – Get Your Cutting
- Go to the garden and decide which stem or stems will be your cuttings.
- If you can, find a 3-foot stem on the mother plant. It’s okay if it’s not that long, and longer is fine too. Ideally, it does not have any flowers on it.
- Examine the stem before you cut.
You’ll notice that toward the base of the plant, the stem is woodier, perhaps brown or turning brown.
The tips where new growth is occurring are the greenest parts.
We’re going to take a long piece of stem and then divide it into several cuttings (and, we hope, several new plants).
- Don’t take your cutting unless you are ready to get them potted right away.
- To take the cutting, cut just above a leaf joint (the part of the stem where two leaves grow from).
- Immediately place the cut end between warm, damp paper towels, and place that end in the bag. We’re trying to reduce the shock to the cutting.
Step 3 – Prepare Cutting for Planting
- Cut the shoot in the 3 locations shown below.
- Clean your scalpel (or fine cutting knife) again before proceeding. Otherwise, it’s way too easy to spread disease.
I show a knife in the photo because I couldn’t find my favourite scalpel when I was taking the photo.
- Place the cutting on a cutting board.
- Put the top of the vine (the green end) at the top of the cutting board.
- Start at the first leaf joint from the bottom.
- Cut 1-inch ABOVE the leaf joint (#1 in the image above).
- Cut OFF the leaf on the left side (#2 in the image above).
- Cut 2-inches BELOW the leaf joint (#3 in the image above).
That’s your first piece for propagation.
You can usually get several pieces like this one from a 3-foot piece of vine but don’t use the very green tips – they’re too young to grow roots.
BONUS CUT – Ignore this next part if it seems too complicated:
You can actually use both leaves (instead of cutting one off), if the stem is wide enough to split down the middle with a knife (cut down the middle from A to B).
If this is overwhelming, just move on to step 4.
Step 4 – Rooting Hormone and Planting
New to this? Read Rooting Hormone 101 here.
- Place small amount of rooting hormone in clean dish, dip stem in powder, tap off excess.
To avoid contamination, avoid dipping directly in the rooting hormone container.
- Use a dibber (or chopstick) to make an insertion hole in the potting mix for each cutting.
- Insert cutting into 3″ pot (with potting soil), leaning it against the inner side of the pot.
- Cover stem (the part with rooting hormone on it) with potting soil, pressing lightly to remove any air pockets.
- You can put 4 of these prepared cuttings in one pot: one against each inner side.
Step 5 – Water
- I had you water the soil when you prepared the pots, but do it again if needed.
- The growing medium should be damp enough to stay in ball if you squeezed a handful, but not so wet that it drips water.
Step 6 – Cover if Air is Dry
You only need to cover your cuttings if your air is dry (not humid) and there is risk of the cuttings drying out.
Otherwise, just keep them in a warm spot out of direct sun.
- Cover with Ziplock bags, supported with chopsticks to hold it higher than the cuttings.
The bag is intended to keep warmth and moisture in, but you still need air circulation.
- Don’t let the bag touch the cutting.
Step 7 – Care
- Make sure contents remain moist and do not dry out.
- Check your plants every day to ensure moisture is consistent (not too much, not too little) and it’s not too musty or mold and mildew may form.
New Roots Forming
- In approximately 2-4 weeks, you should see new roots forming. That’s when it’s time to put the plants in individual pots.
- The simplest way to test for new root growth is to look at the holes in the bottom of the pot and see if anything is growing there.
- Alternately, very gently pull on the plant from the base near the soil. If you feel the roots are ‘grabbing’ the soil (i.e. there is some resistance to your pull), that’s a good sign. Any new growth above soil level also indicates the plant is growing as desired.
- When repotted, give them time to grow bigger and then either plant them out well ahead of fall frost, or, if you have adequate grow lights, keep them indoors until spring.
And that’s it! I hope you’ll give it a try. You may find some cuttings just won’t root, so try more than you need. This is much like seed germination: most will sprout, but there’s often a few stubborn ones in the group.
Also, there are a few ways to do these cuttings. If you love this stuff, get a good illustrated book on propagation to learn more methods for a variety of plants.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛