Project — DIY Root Chutes for Your Cuttings
Since there aren’t many products on the market to aid rooting in water, we started making these simple clay funnels to support our sprouting stem cuttings and fruit seedlings.
Although glass vases do look beautiful as a base - especially when those magical roots start appearing - you don’t have to use a transparent vessel; since roots are accustomed to forming underground (in the dark), they don’t need light to grow - any watertight cup or pot will work well as a support for the chutes.
Tools & Materials
Air drying modelling clay
Small bowl of water
Glass or other watertight vessels
Cutting tools such as pastry cutters
To soften the clay and make it easy to mould, start by giving it a good knead. Once it feels nice and supple, begin to shape your clay into a smooth ball with the palms of your hands.
There are several ways to create your chute shapes; you can either sculpt and build them by hand, or form them using cutting tools such as pastry cutters or a knife. We prefer to simply manipulate the clay by hand to create a wonky finish.
If you prefer to use cutting tools, roll the ball out on a clean, hard surface lined with greaseproof paper, before cutting and moulding. Cornflour will help to keep the clay from sticking to your work surface or rolling pin.
Regardless of whether you hand-mould or roll-and-cut, make sure the clay isn’t too thin or it may crack as it dries; aim for a minimum of around 5mm (¼ inch) thickness. If you like, you can create patterns and shape the edges with whichever tools you have to hand.
If you would like to fuse different shapes together, you can make your own clay ‘slip’ (glue) by mixing a small amount of water with a little lump of clay. Using your scalpel, score the two surfaces that you want to stick together, paint some slip over the grooves and gently press the pieces together.
When you’re finished shaping your root chute, make sure to join and smooth any seams - do this by running a wet finger along any cracks and bumps.
Leave the chutes to dry for 8 hours, and then return to smooth over any cracks with a wet finger. The clay can still be cut into at this point, and can be re-softened with more water if needed. Leave the chutes to dry completely for another 24 hours or for as long as indicated on your air drying clay packaging.
You can now decorate the chutes using a paintbrush to gently apply your acrylic paints. Don’t worry if things get a bit messy; just leave the clay to dry in-between coats.
Once the final coat of paint has completely dried, use a clean paintbrush to add a layer of varnish to each chute. Make sure to cover the entire surface evenly. After the first layer dries, add another coat of varnish. This will create a protective, watertight layer to prevent the clay going soggy if it sits in water. Allow the root chutes to dry, then pop them on top of your rooting vessels and adorn with your cuttings.
So that you can use it again, keep any left over clay re-sealed and in an airtight tub or zip seal bag to stop it drying out.
Good luck and happy rooting!
Words by Ro Co, Photography by Erika Raxworthy