cutting in a potato?

woburJuly 30, 2006

On the TV show, Gardening by the Yard, Paul James suggested rooting cuttings in a potato. Has anyone ever tried that?


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This sounds like a stunt when he was short of material for his show. What is wrong with proven, conventional methods of propogation?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 3:43PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I like to try new methods of propagation. but only when they offer SOME advantage. Al

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 10:40AM
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it was presented as a 'sure fire' way to get a take on a plant you have had trouble propogating. That would be an advantage! Paul James is usually pretty reliable.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 5:44PM
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For those of us who have no idea what this is all about, would you like to give a brief explanation of rooting a cutting in a potato? I wouldn't have a clue where to begin. Forgive any skepticism that I might be showing here.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 1:57AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Paul James made a hole in the end of a potato and inserted a cutting. The potato was then planted with the cutting sticking up above the soil. He did not provide any scientific theory for this having a rooting advantage and I took it to be a joke. Al

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 10:23AM
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For those of you who haven't seen him, PJ is pretty accurate in general with his info. I find him significantly better than most garden show hosts I have seen, which doesn't mean the potato cutting thing works. In fact, PJ said he loves potatoes and it seemed like a waste of a good potato. LOL. However, I have had a spate of failed cuttings and an overabundance of potatoes probably destined for the compost pile.

According to PJ.... Make a hold in the end of the potatoe a little bit smaller than the diameter of your cutting. Push the cutting in, bury it in a pot...he used clay...up to the top of the potatoe with moist potting soil et voila....maybe... I'll try with some hydrangeas which are suppose to be easy and I have been failing at and let you know. The cutting he demoed with looked like a woodyish one.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 11:05AM
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Directions for rooting in a potato:
(Note: This assumes that you know the proper time to take a cutting from whatever type of shrub/tree you want to root.)

Select a large Idaho baking potato.
Insert a knife in one end of the potato and make a deep slit halfway into the flesh.
Prepare cutting by scraping off bark lightly on two sides of the cutting below a bud and dip in rooting hormone.
Insert cutting in potato slit.
Bury potato in the ground, in a shady spot where you will remember to keep it watered.
Potato will grow foliage. Keep removing the potato foliage.
Do not be in a hurry to pot up the rooted cutting. Let it sit over the winter and pot in early spring.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 8:49AM
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Thanks Nandina. Do you think this offers an advantage over more conventional methods? Have you used it for difficult cuttings?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 9:47AM
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If and when I watch "Paul James' Gardening by the Yard", I watch it as a comedy, not as a serious gardening show.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 12:42PM
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Using a potato is a good method for easy to root plants such as privet. When I have time in a few days I will post what I consider to be the best method to use for difficult to root plants. It is not a commonly known technique and I have not posted it in several years. Watch for it....

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 6:34PM
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If privet is easy to root, then why use the potato? In addition, no one has explained what it is about the potato method that makes it worth trying.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 8:10PM
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katielovesdogs(z5b/6a Indiana)

I use potatoes to root roses and have been doing it for a long time. I learned how to do it from an elderly neighbor who has been rooting roses in potatoes for years.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 2:09PM
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No one has explained what it is about putting cuttings in a potato that faciliates their rooting. I have rooted roses in poor loam and in poor clay soils with great success. No potato.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 5:57PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Eldo, this procedure, with no explanation, has been floating around for more than a half century. I'm guessing that if it does anything it just keeps the moisture constant. I think I once suggested an experiment to test that over on the experiments forum but no one ever took the bait and I keep forgetting to try it.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 1:27PM
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To Katielovesdogs in Indiana, care to expand on the method of rooting roses in potatoes. I would appreciate learning the method. Thanks

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 1:39PM
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Nandina, would you please post your rooting secrets????

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 9:30AM
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I did a search of Nandina's 'tooth pick' method of rooting and here is what she posted:

Posted by nandina 8b (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 23, 06 at 13:13
I have not posted this propagation method in several years. Time for a repeat. Just a reminder that all cuttings need to callus before they will root. This method allows the callusing to take place on the mother plant before the cutting is removed and is most helpful for those hard to root trees/shrubs. Plan to use the toothpick technique during the last weeks of August up until mid-September. This is a little known process and when I first posted it a number of growers contacted me, pleased to know about it as it requires no misting systems, etc.
A very sharp, small penknife or Exacto knife.
A small block of wood (to prevent cutting fingers!)
Some colored yarns or tape for marking purposes.
1. Select the stem from which you wish to take a cutting. Look along it until you locate a bud ON LAST YEAR'S GROWTH.
2. Place the block of wood behind that point and make a single VERTICAL cut all the way through the stem, just below the bud.
3. Insert a toopick through the cut.
4. Mark each cutting with colored yarn/tape so that you can locate it at a later date.
5. Walk away from your toothpick cuttings until the end of October or November. Leave them alone!
You will note that a callus has formed where you wounded the cutting and inserted a toothpick. With sharp pruning shears remove the cutting just below the toothpick. Trim off the toothpick on either side of the cutting.
7. Dip your cuttings in rooting hormone and set them in a cold frame. Water well and close up the frame for the winter. Water as needed. If you do not have a cold frame, set the cuttings right next to your house foundation on the east or north side. Lean an old window or glass pane up against the foundation to protect them.
8. Rooting should take place by mid-spring. Those with greenhouses can leave the cuttings on the mother plant into December/January before setting them to root. Commercial propagators will find this useful.
This method requires a bit of practice but works well. In August/September select the stem to be used as a cutting. Locate last year's growth on the stem and grasp it between thumb and forefinger. Snap the stem lightly until it breaks in half. Leave it hanging on the plant where it will callus. Then follow instructions above for setting cuttings. Snip the cutting off, when callused, at the wounded part. This is a useful technique for azaleas and many woody shrubs and Japanese maples.
Hopefully I have explained this method so it is understood. Reading it over a few times may be necessary.


Posted by nandina 8b (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 8, 07 at 10:00
I note that you are a professional so will take the time to post two techniques neither of which require misting. First, have you tried heel cuttings? Or the standard 'from seed' method?
The first rooting method I call the 'toothpick technique' which allows a cutting to callus on the plant before it is removed. For this you will need a small, thin, very sharp pen knife (or exacto knife) and a small block of wood. Locate last year's growth on a stem, place the block of wood behind that section and make one single vertical cut through the stem below a bud. This is done in August/late summer. Insert a toothpick through the cut, tie some sort of marking tape on the stem so you can find it later and walk away from it until October. At that time remove the cutting severing below the toothpick, trim the toothpick to the stem, dust with rooting hormone and stick in a cold frame. Or, cuttings can be placed in a greenhouse where they will root without misting. This is my favorite hardwood/shrub rooting method for all that type of plant especially difficult to root ones.
The second method is a variation of the first. It takes a little practice and azaleas are a good practice plant. One simply makes a downward snap below a bud on last year's growth in August partially severing the stem. Leave it to hang on the plant until October, then remove, dust with rooting hormone and set in cold frame or greenhouse. When I am working with a difficult to root plant I will also use this method, snapping the stem at a main branch creating a heel cutting.
Once you have worked with these methods you will find them easy and can expect a high level of strikes.

THANKS, Nandina - I'll give it a try and report back on this thread. If anyone else has tried Nandina's method, please post your results.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 6:49PM
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