How to Take Cuttings Successfully
Taking plant cuttings is easy to do once you know how. It costs very little (almost nothing) and you don’t need complicated equipment, just a bit of patience. In our opinion, it’s one of the best ways to propagate trees and plants.
Taking cuttings allows you to grow several new plants from an existing one (the “mother plant”), which is very useful if you’re trying to make a garden on a budget. Cuttings are also a good way of propagating tender plants.
TWO OF THE MOST COMMON METHODS OF TAKING CUTTINGS - SOFTWOOD CUTTINGS VS HARDWOOD CUTTINGS:
What Are Softwood Cuttings
Softwood cuttings are those taken from some broadleaf shrubs and other plants in summer. As the name suggests, cuttings are taken from a soft section of the stem – not the mature woody growth at its base. They tend to have a higher rate of success than hardwood cuttings.
How to Take Softwood Cuttings
Cut a 5-10cm section of shoot from the parent plant. It is best to take cuttings in the morning
when the plant is full of fluid. Choose shoots that are not flowering, as they are more likely to
produce roots. To take your cutting, cut neatly above a bud. At the bottom end, cut just below the node. Remove any lower leaves and, if it has fleshy leaves, cut any top ones in half to help maintain moisture.
Be aware, a small number of plants require ‘basal’ cuttings – aster, chrysanthemum, delphinium and Lupinus for example. For these, cuttings should be taken from clusters of young shoots at their base in spring.
Dip the base of the cutting in rooting hormone powder. Before doing so, it helps to slice a small ‘wound’ at the end of the cutting. This helps the roots grow at the sides and not just down.
Place the cuttings into a container filled with cuttings compost (a rich, well-draining compost). Make a hole in the compost using a pencil or a stick (or your thumb also works). Insert the cutting, base down, so the first pair of leaves sit just above the level of the compost. Water thoroughly.
If you want to increase your chances of the cutting taking root, place the container in a heated propagator at 18-20C in a spot with good, but not direct, sunlight. If you don’t have a propagator you could cover it with a plastic bag and keep it in a warm spot, but be sure to remove the bag regularly to ventilate. If you are not going to be able to do this step immediately, you can place cuttings into a plastic bag and store them in the fridge until ready.
It will take the cuttings 6-10 weeks to root – keep the compost moist during this time. Once your cuttings have rooted, harden them off over a period of two weeks then pot them individually. Check regularly for any rotten or dying material and remove it.
In spring, pot into liners (9cm pots) to grow on. Once the roots have grown out to form a strong ‘rootball’ your new plant is ready for potting up or planting in your garden.
What Are Hardwood Cuttings
These are cuttings taken from deciduous plants after they have lost their leaves in winter. This is a reasonably simple and reliable propagation technique — because these plants do not have leaves, there is no need to keep them in a warm, moist environment to root. They do, however, need a little patience. It will usually be the following year before the roots and then shoots begin to develop.
How to take hardwood cuttings:
Take hardwood cuttings in autumn after the plants have dropped their leaves and are dormant. Don’t take cuttings in frosty weather.
If you are planning to take several cuttings, prepare a narrow trench for them outside in a
sheltered spot. The cuttings will stay in this for most of the following year. To ensure good
drainage, put a layer of sand in the base of the trench, then backfill the trench with soil mixed
with compost. If you only need a few cuttings or don’t have space for a trench, you can use pots filled with a 50/50 mix of multipurpose compost and grit.
To take a plant cutting choose a strong, pencil-thick woody shoot that has grown in the current year and cut it off close to the base of the shoot.
Remove the tip of the shoot and cut it into lengths 15-30 cm (6-12in) long. Cut just above a bud at the top of each length, using a sloping cut. This sheds rainfall from the cutting and is also a useful reminder of which end of the cutting is which.
1. Cut just below a bud at the bottom of each cutting, using a straight cut.
2. Dip the lower end of each cutting in rooting hormone powder.
3. Insert the lower ends of the cuttings into the trench or pots so that one-third of each
cutting remains above the soil surface. Space cuttings 15cm apart in the trenches.
4. Leave the cuttings in the trench or pots until the following autumn. Water in dry periods
so that the compost doesn’t dry out.
5. Once the cuttings have taken root, they can be replanted in their final positions.
What are the best plants to take cuttings from?
Once you know how to take a cutting from a plant there are plenty of suitable plants to choose from. Softwood cuttings are ideal for many tender plants like pelargoniums, petunias, verbena, Argyranthemum and osteospermums. You can also take softwood cuttings from many deciduous shrubs, including lavender, rosemary, forsythia, fuchsias, hydrangeas, lavatera and buddleja.
Hardwood cuttings work well for most broadleaf shrubs and roses as well as climbers like
honeysuckle and grape vines, and fruit bushes such as blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries and figs.
Taking plant cuttings is an easy, cost-effective and enjoyable way to increase the number of plants in your garden. Why not try it yourself?