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What Is a Basal Cutting?

Updated February 21, 2017

Cuttings or portions from the parent plant are among the most commonly used methods of plant propagation. Plants that are grown with cuttings are the exact replicas of the original, including similar growth traits, form and flower colours. Cuttings are generally classified as terminal or tip cutting and subterminal or basal cuttings.

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Basal cuttings are actually a form of plant division, cites Steven Bradley in "Propagation Basics." The cuttings are taken from the tender, short shoots that are emerging from the soil. These are cut just near, or sometime below, the soil line. Certain plants such as chrysanthemums produce shoots that start to grow roots while still attached to the mother plants. This is a relatively easier method of propagating basal cuttings. These cuttings are commonly referred to as Irishman's cuttings.


The best time to take basal cuttings is at the time of new shoot emergence during early spring. Time the cuttings so that the foliage on the plant is not fully unfurled. Taking cuttings during this active growth period causes minimal damage to the plant as the tender shoots are rapidly replaced by new growth. Basal cuttings are difficult to take from fully mature plants. Any available basal material from such plants is usually weak due to the presence of taller stems around it.

Planting Method

Fill a medium-size pot with a rooting medium. Select vigorous growing shoots with unfurled foliage for taking cuttings. Cut 4- to 6-inch portions of stems with a sharp knife, ensuring the cutting is firm and semi-woody at the base. Remove all leaves from the lower half of the cutting and insert in the rooting medium. Place pot in warm, bright area out of direct sun and keep rooting medium moist. Cutting generally root in three to five weeks.


Basal cuttings are primarily recommended for hardy perennials. Plants that may be propagated with basal cuttings include aster, pearl everlasting, bellflower, chrysanthemums, potentilla, knotgrass, bleeding heart, euphorbia, baby's breath, musk mallow, lupin and purple loosestrife.

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About the Author

Irum Sarfaraz is a freelance writer with over 20 years of nonfiction writing experience in newspaper op-eds and magazine writing, book editing, translating and research writing. Sarfaraz is originally from Pakistan and has been published in both American and Pakistani newspapers and magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, and diplomas in nonfiction writing.

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