Caring for Mother Plants
At Tula, we love our mother plants for their presence, perseverance, and generosity. Each one comes with a story – the massive Euphorbia lactea that is supported at its base by several bricks, or the Crassula ovata (Jade) grown over decades to take the form of a miniature, thick-trunked tree. And to make each story even richer, every mother plant is not just growing at Tula, but in homes all around Brooklyn and beyond. Because that’s what mother plants are, large specimens that can regularly be pruned back for cuttings.
These cuttings are taken home by Tula customers to be rerooted and grown, the same plant thriving in multiple places at once.
Owning a mother plant can be one of the most rewarding ways to garden – with a mother plant comes a literal method of spreading the love of plants. And though a mother plant can come with a lot of questions and a few challenges, that doesn’t mean you can’t approach it knowledgeably and with confidence.
Typically, the best time to harvest cuttings or pups from a mother plant is in early spring. This gives the mother plant a chance to concentrate energy on new growth in the spring and summer, and gives time for cuttings and pups to reroot through the warm months.
When taking cuttings, never take more than half of the plant. Every plant is different, but this tends to be a safe rule. Plants pruned back to half should be capable of bouncing back if less than half is taken. That said, it is safest to only cut a small percent of the overall plant. This will give you the opportunity to harvest from the plant more often.
For plants that produce pups, it’s safe to remove the pups when they have grown to an established size at the base of the mother plant. Typically, it’s safe to remove all the pups from a mother plant without harming it.
Before making cuttings of a mother plant, familiarize yourself with the species of plant as well as common methods of propagation.
Euphorbias, for example, contain a milky white sap called latex that can cause a rash when it comes in contact with skin. It can also stain pottery and floors. When we make Euphorbia cuttings at Tula, we wear gloves and keep a towel and spray bottle of water nearby. Misting the wound on the mother plant immediately after cutting dilutes the sap so it’s less harmful to skin and flooring.
No matter the plant, ensure your cutting tool of choice, whether it’s garden snips or a saw, is sterilized. We use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol solutions.
To learn more about harvesting cuttings and pups, as well as methods of propagation, check out Plant Sessions. In the two videos below, Tula co-founder Christan Summers walks through methods of propagation for arid and tropical plants.