Growing plants from semi-ripe cuttings are one of the most rewarding ways of reproducing genetically identical offspring from a parent plant.There are always going to be some plants that you wish you had more of, perhaps these are tender perennials that you do not have the space to overwinter, maybe you’d like to share some newly propagated plants with your friends and family.
Creating new plants from semi-ripe softwood cuttings is regarded as the easiest and fastest way to grow new plants that match the characteristics of your chosen parent plant.
Whatever your reason for wanting to propagate new plants there are a few simple rules that apply to taking softwood cuttings and a few tips that are considered good practise techniques for taking softwood cuttings.
Firstly ensure the plant you are taking the cuttings from is healthy, free from pests and disease and true to type. These plants are referred to as stock plants and can be used repeatedly to take plant material from. The reason for taking cuttings is often plants raised from seed will differ genetically from the parent plant, causing unwanted variations in the new seed raised plants.
Once you have identified your stock plants ensure they are in top condition, water and feed them well for a few days prior to taking the cuttings, this will ensure the plant material you are about to remove is in top condition.
Softwood cuttings are best taken from side stems that do not have a flower or flower bud at the tip (Don’t worry if you cannot find one, simply pinch out the flower bud) A good example of a plant where softwood cuttings are very successful is Fuchsia, these root quickly and with very little effort.
To take a cutting use a sharp pen knife or pruning knife, careful select the cutting material, ideally a stem 3-4 inches long.
Cut this stem beneath a leaf node, ensure the cut is clean and free from damage.
Once you have this stem remove a few of the large leaves working your way up the stem until you have one or two leaves remaining.
Dip the cut stem into a little rooting hormone powder, gently tap to remove any excess powder.
Holding the stem careful use a dibber or pencil to make a hole in the corner of a square 9cm pot.
Place the stem into the whole until half of the stem is below the compost.
Use the dibber or pencil to push compost back around the stem, contact with the compost is essential to encourage rooting.
Repeat the process until you have 9 cuttings in a single pot, I find 3 x 3 rows works well in a 9cm pot.
Placing the larger cuttings in the centre and smaller ones on the outside will ensure they get enough space and light to root successfully.
Once completed each pot should go straight into a heated propagator or covered with a clear polythene bag and kept well light but out of direct sunlight for a few weeks.
Every few days you will need to check on progress and remove and fallen leaves, misting with a fine spray will be enough water to keep the plants alive while they produce roots. Ensure the compost remains moist but not wet at all times.
In a few weeks your softwood cuttings will begin to root, within a few weeks, all your cuttings will begin rooting, allow the roots to show at the base of the pot before transferring each plant to individual 9cm pots for growing on.
Lot’s of plants can be propagated this way, especially tender perennials this is an ideal way or both increasing the number of plants and overwintering smaller plants ready for growing on in the Spring.
Remember these new cuttings will be very sensitive to direct sunlight until they have rooted properly and should not be exposed to frosts or cold winds during the winter months.
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Head Gardener and International Horticultural Consultant
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