Can you clone straight into soil?

If you are like me, you often encounter plants or trees you would like to add to your garden. An easy way to achieve this is to take a graft from the plant and place it into a peat plug. But have you ever wondered if you can clone straight into soil?

Cloning directly into the soil is the most common form of plant cloning, although not the most effective. To clone a plant,  graft a piece of plant material from the original plant, submerge the grafted end of the scion into a rooting hormone powder, and deposit the powder-covered end into a pot or container with soil. 

Cloning directly into the soil has the added risk of rotting the graft before it takes root.  Fortunately, many alternative cloning mediums will almost guarantee healthy rooting and result in perfect clones. Unsure about your cloning technique, or just interested in the alternatives? Read on to find out more about cloning straight into soil and other cloning alternative options.  

What is plant cloning exactly?

Some may consider plant cloning unnatural when it is quite the opposite. Cloning is a process that nature has been implementing for millions of years to ensure the survival of many different plants and trees. Plant Cloning is the exact duplication of a plant species utilizing vegetative propagation, which means to take a piece of the original plant and create a separate plant organism identical to the original. As opposed to natural cross-breeding that also occurs in nature, plant cloning has fewer variables and usually results in more consistent yields.

Cloning in Nature

When a plant clones itself, it duplicates the original organism and makes an exact copy. Cloning in nature occurs when a plant such as the strawberry plant sends out a runner vine or modified stem and comes into contact with viable, sustainable, and fertile soil. The runner then develops roots. Although the two plants are now connected, they are separate entities and can survive independently. Many plants survive by cloning, such as potatoes, onions, pumpkins, and even ordinary grass.

Cloning plants at home

Cloning plants at home is easy and has been done for centuries by gardeners and agriculturalists. There are different methods of cloning plants depending on the species. All of them require soil or a rooting medium in which the plant can take root and begin to grow. Rooting hormone powder is highly recommended as it gives the cuttings or grafts a greater chance to take root and grow successfully. During the early stages of plant cloning, it is essential to keep the graft damp to encourage growth. Some people put their cutting straight into a glass of water. However, this might not work on all plants, so be sure to your research before attempting this.

Different methods of plant cloning

The most general method of plant cloning is taking a cutting from the desired plant. These cuttings can be from the leaf, stems, or roots. Each has its harvesting methods and factors that you need to know when attempting to clone them. Before attempting to clone your plant, find out which way will be most effective before cutting into your leafy friends. Below we will briefly discuss these methods and harvesting techniques.  

  1. Stem cuttings are the most regularly used method for stem cuttings consist of two main methods—nodal and heel cutting. Nodal refers to cutting just below the node of the stem. In comparison, heel cutting includes a portion of the old wood at the base. Both of these cutting methods require a sharp knife to prevent excessive damage to the plant of origin. Cuttings, in general, should be 3-5 inches or 7-12cm long. Stem cuttings can be side shoots, or the tips of main shoots, of softwood, half-ripe wood, or ripe wood
  1. Leaf-bud cuttings are made from half-ripe wood and have one leaf with a dormant bud at its base along with a portion of the stem. This type of plant cloning or propagation is used on some evergreens and yields a more significant number of younger plants than stem cutting. To get a Leaf-bud cutting, use your knife to carefully remove a leaf stem with a bud by cutting downwards along the plant’s main stem.
  1. Eye or bud cuttings are similar to leaf-bud cuttings but without the leaf attached. Eye or bud cuttings are used on plants that are dormant during winter or autumn. This method is popular amongst grape farmers. Applying this method requires you to cut off a woody stem section, which contains a bud on one side. Remove a bark strip from the opposite side of the bud. Place the cutting horizontally in the soil with bud just protruding from the ground and the stripped side underground.
  1. Leaf cuttings especially useful for cloning a larger variety of greenhouse plants. The method for this type of cutting is in the name. Remove the leave from the main plant with the leaf stalks attached. Cut the ends of the stalks off cleanly and place them in your choice of rooting medium or soil.
  1. Root cuttings work best during the plant’s dormant season. It works well on shrubby or herbaceous plants but is not limited to them. Remove the complete plant carefully from the soil and cut sections from the larger fleshy roots into thongs. Your thongs should be  2-3inches or 5-8cm long, with the top ends cut straight and the bottom at a diagonal angle. Doing this will help you distinguish between the top and the bottom of the thongs. Insert your thongs into a rooting medium or soil, with the straight cut ends just protruding from it. Remember to dip your diagonally cut sides into rooting hormone powder.
  1. Housing your cuttings in the correct environment is critical for successful cloning. Placing your cutting in a mixture of peat plugs and rock wool within a pot or planting container ensures that roots will have enough anchorage and drainage. This has the added benefit that you can see the progress of the roots as they grow. Covering it with a translucent dome will protect your plant clones from external factors like wind, rain, extreme temperatures, and diseases caused by fungi and bacteria. Plant clones usually develop optimally in an environment 2-3°C or 5-10°F above that of the ambient atmosphere. Remember to moisten your cuttings every day to ensure root growth and development.

What are the benefits of cloning

If you have fruit, herb, flower, or even cannabis plants that deliver good yields, cloning is a great way to almost guarantee the exact performance in another plant. For this reason, cloning is used widely in agriculture. With growing technology making the risks of cloning even smaller, it is easy to understand why farmers use this method. Some biologically spliced commercial agricultural products do not produce seeds, and thus cloning is the only viable option for farmers and plant biologists to reproduce these plants.

Cons of cloning

We have discussed the benefits of plant cloning and how it can make your life easier. However, easier does not denote better. Since cloning replicates the original plant’s exact genetic material, it is a double-edged sword as genetic issues within the original plant will be reproduced in the clones. This means if the original plant were susceptible to diseases, all the clones would share that vulnerability. Plant cloning also limits plants’ genetic diversity, preventing newer and sometimes better flora species from developing. Agricultural, commercial cloning for crop replication is also expensive and resource-intensive compared to seeding for crops.

What is the best plant cloning medium?

The best rooting medium for plant cloning will depend on what species you are planning to propagate. For the overall best results, as discussed above, use peat moss with Rockwool. Not only will you be able to monitor the progress of your plant clones when you transplant them, but you also will not damage the clone, as the roots will come loose easily. 

Supplements to help plant cloning

Several chemical growth substances are readily available at garden centers and nurseries to help your plant clones root. They are also known as root growth hormones formulated especially for plants that are difficult to clone. There are different types of hormone treatments for softwood, half-ripe, and ripe-wood cuttings. If you wish to use them, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.


Cloning straight into the soil can be a cheap and easy alternative to duplicate your best or most impressive flora. However, if you are going through the effort of cloning your plants, you might as well do it with one of the methods discussed above. This will increase the chances of successful clones dramatically and also spare you the disappointment and heartache.

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