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11 Reasons Why Your Cutting Isn’t Rooting

Maybe this scenario sounds familiar to you:

Your favorite plant just keeps growing and growing and growing… 

And it grows almost too long. 

Actually, way too long! 

Alright! You decide to cut a cutting. 

Proud of your bravery, you snip the cutting from your beloved plant and place it in a glass of water. 

You wait and wait…

And wait. 

And still, wait…

Sometimes, nothing more happens at this point. You’ve cut the plant, taken the cutting, and put it in water, but even after what feels like forever, the cutting hasn’t rooted or barely rooted.

Unfortunately, this can happen. Many things can go wrong, and your cutting won’t root. We’ll show you the reasons why rooting might not be successful.

Reason 1: Your cutting isn’t rooting because you only cut one cutting

It could be that one cutting root is better, the mother plant is healthier and stronger in one shoot than another, or simply not all cuttings are as viable as others.

There are many reasons, but one thing is clear: If you can, always take multiple cuttings from a plant to increase the chances of successful rooting.

And if they all end up rooting, even better! 🥳

Reason 2: Your plant isn’t suitable for propagation through cuttings

Not all plants are suitable for propagation using cuttings. Of course, many classic houseplants do this quite well: the ivy, the Monstera, and the Philodendron, for example.

On the other hand, the UFO plant, Alocasia, or succulents like the elephant’s foot and Aloe vera reproduce through offshoots or pups.

Unfortunately, you can’t make this happen yourself. The plants produce offshoots when they are especially happy in your care.

Reason 3: Your cutting isn’t rooting because your mother plant isn’t healthy

The mother plant needs to be strong and healthy to take a cut. That means, for example, it shouldn’t be infested with pests.

And if it is, you must provide first aid to the mother plant before caring for plant babies. Yes, it’s similar to how you handle oxygen masks on an airplane. 

The cutting process won’t bother her when your mama plant is in tip-top shape. Plus, her babies will have more energy to stand on their own two feet – or in our case, their roots.

Reason 4: Your cutting isn’t rooting because you’re using non-disinfected tools

You might have heard or read this before; the scissors or knife you use to cut the cutting is very important.

Your cutting tool must be sharp and properly disinfected beforehand – not just quickly washed with rubbing alcohol or any other disinfectant. 

Using non-disinfected tools can lead to diseases in your mother plant or the cutting. The same goes for cutting multiple plants without cleaning the tool in between.

So, always work with clean tools and disinfect them between cuts.

Reason 5: Your cutting isn’t rooting because you’re cutting in the wrong place

The connection between the stem and the leaf is called the leaf node.
The connection between the stem and the leaf is called the leaf node
Find the small raised bumps on the stem, which are called nodes and are where the leaves come out, and cut just below a node.

To ensure your cutting forms long, healthy roots, including an eye (a node or knot) is essential when cutting. Without one, roots won’t be able to form. 

Reason 6: Your cutting isn’t rooting because it’s too long

If you cut particularly long pieces as cuttings, they might not have enough energy to form roots.

The longer the cutting, the more “plant” must be supplied with moisture or water. If your cutting is busy doing that, it will hardly have any energy left to grow healthy roots.

The ideal length for a cutting varies from plant to plant. A good guideline is a distance between two nodes (experts call this the internode).

So, remember: Your cutting should be at least one internode long.

It’s best to cut many small cuttings, one node at a time, so to speak. If they root and you plant them all together in a pot, you’ll end up with a bushier plant later. 

Additionally, I recommend making sure that no leaves are submerged in water. They can’t perform photosynthesis there, and they can easily rot.

Reason 7: Your cutting isn’t rooting because you let it dry out for too long

Don’t get me wrong. Your cutting should definitely dry out a bit.

Many plants can even be left to dry overnight. Especially for those with enough moisture reserves in their stems and leaves.

Drying is important to prevent infections, such as fungal growth. Alternatively, you can sprinkle cinnamon on the cut end for disinfection.

But if you leave the cutting out for too long (meaning: a day or more), it can dry out and die before it even gets a chance to reproduce.

You can sprinkle cinnamon on the cut ends to prevent cuttings from drying out. Cinnamon has natural anti-fungal properties that can help prevent rot and promote rooting. Learn more about using cinnamon as a rooting hormone in this article.

Reason 8: Your cutting isn’t rooting because it’s getting too little light, or you chose the wrong season

Just like the mother plant, cuttings need enough light to perform photosynthesis and grow big and strong. This can quickly become an issue in fall and winter when it’s darker.

So, try to cut cuttings only in spring or summer and find a bright spot without direct sunlight for them.

If you don’t have a bright spot in your home, you can always use a supplementary plant lamp to help.

By the way, just as important as brightness is ensuring your cuttings are warm and don’t get cold feet. An unheated room or a cold windowsill (especially if the windows aren’t completely sealed) can quickly stop root growth.

Well, it makes sense when you think about it. You wouldn’t want to settle down in a cold place either, would you? 

Reason 9: Your cutting isn’t rooting because the air in your home is too dry

This problem also affects adult plants when the humidity in your home isn’t high enough. 

Remember where your plants come from – their roots, so to speak. Many houseplants originate from tropical regions, and it’s very humid there. 

For a cutting to grow big and strong, it also needs higher humidity levels.

So, create a pseudo-tropical environment for your moisture-loving plant and its cutting by keeping the humidity high. Your cutting will thank you with vigorous root growth.

By the way, this doesn’t apply to all plants. Some can handle lower humidity levels just fine. You can check what’s best for your plant in a plant encyclopedia. 

Reason 10: Your cutting isn’t rooting because it’s exposed to drafts

Your cutting is fragile at its young age (it’s practically a newborn) and can be especially sensitive to drafts, which can cause it to stop root growth.

So, eliminate this issue by placing your cutting in a spot protected from drafts.

Keep in mind that:

  • Drafts can occur near windows, especially if not tightly sealed.
  • Ventilating your space (by opening windows) is fine. However, if your cutting is particularly small and sensitive, you can move it to another location while you air out the room.

Mother plants can also be sensitive to drafts. For example, Monsteras can quickly develop stress spots from drafts. In a plant encyclopedia, you can easily check whether your other plants can tolerate drafts.

Reason 11: Your cutting isn’t rooting because it’s rotting 

Lack of oxygen can cause Pothos cuttings to rot due to the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which thrive in low-oxygen conditions

This is your reminder that cuttings are delicate beings. 

For this reason, they can easily succumb to the dreaded rot. Change the water about 1-2 times a week to prevent this. It’s especially necessary when the water becomes cloudy or starts forming small bubbles.

As you’ve already heard, use sharp and disinfected scissors or knives when working with cuttings.

Reason: Your cutting isn’t rooting yet because you’re too impatient

My Pothos cutting is rooting after ten days

Lastly, a reason we know all too well: you’re just too impatient!

Honestly, sometimes I feel the same way! As soon as I take a cutting from a plant, I immediately check for any signs of root growth.

Give your plant a little more time to impress you with its roots. 

The good news: If your cutting looks healthy and shows no signs of rot or other diseases, it’s doing well! And if it’s doing well, it will likely form roots eventually. So it won’t ghost you. 

So, if you can rule out all these 11 reasons for not seeing roots on your cutting, you might just need to be patient for a while longer.

A little outlook for you

To not only focus on the negative in this blog post, here’s a glimpse (and a glimmer of hope for you) of the wonderful things that happen after your cutting has successfully rooted.

Once the roots of your cutting are at least 1-2 inches long, you can transplant it into soil ideal for seedlings and finish by watering or misting it.

If you’ve let the cutting root for a while (we’ve all forgotten about cuttings at some point) and there’s a tangled mess of roots in the glass, you should trim them first.

Cut off the parts where individual roots have become entwined. If you were to plant it like that, a proper root system wouldn’t form.

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