Taking cuttings is one of the best ways to multiply your plant stocks and will save you money in the process. The spring and summer months are the ideal time to get busy with this task by snipping off new ‘softwood’ growth at tips of some plants and potting them up. Read on to find out how to take softwood cuttings from plants….
What Plants Can I Take Softwood Cuttings From?
The types of plants that can be propagated by taking softwood cuttings are perennial shrubs such as rosemary, lavender, fuchsia and pelargonium.
Eager gardeners see this as a chance to not only increase the number of their favourite plants from their own garden, but will also use it as an opportunity to trade with friends and neighbours, so it’s always worth growing more than you need for such exchanges.
How Do I Take Softwood Cuttings?
First, choose your shoots carefully. Avoid any tips that are in flower and pick those that are healthy-looking and not wilting (for best results you should carry out the task on a morning after they’ve had a good watering – drying out is the biggest cause of cutting failure).
The cutting should be around 10cm in length, from the tip of the shoot, and should be neatly severed with a sharp knife or secateurs to avoid damaging the parent plant. Unless you’re going to pot up this cutting immediately, put it straight into a plastic bag and seal it until you’re ready – this will stop it rapidly drying out.
To prep your cuttings, you need to cut away the bottom of your stem just below the lowest leaf joint with a sharp knife. Remove the lower leaves and pinch out the tip of the cutting so you’re left with a stem that just has a few leaves at the top.
Fill a plant pot with moist potting compost and make a hole with your finger, stick or the tool specifically designed for this task – a dibber. For small individual pots, just create one hole in the middle, or with larger plant pots you can make multiple holes around the edge. It’s beneficial to dip the base of your cutting into special ‘hormone rooting’ powder or liquid if you have some – it will help your cutting to take root but isn’t essential.
Carefully insert the cuttings into each hole and gently firm them in so the lowest leaves are above the surface of the compost. Give it a light watering then cover with a clear plastic bag, sealed around the container, which will keep the moisture locked inside. Place the pot where it’s going to get plenty of light but won’t get too hot – a windowsill that avoids direct midday sun is ideal.
How Long Does it Take For Softwood Cuttings to Root?
It should take around three or four weeks for new roots to grow, and it’s advisable to give the cutting an airing every three or four days by removing the bag for five minutes. Give it a very light watering if there are signs the compost is drying out.
Rooted cuttings should be treated as any other tender new plant by potting them up and hardening off before they go outside. They should grow quickly and, with proper care, they’ll be able to survive the winter, ready to flourish the following year.
Will you be taking any softwood cuttings this year? What’s your favourite plant to propagate? Let us know in the comments!