There are several different types of cuttings that you can take from plants – the most common are softwood, semi-ripe and hardwood. These refer to how woody and therefore how old the plant stem is.
Softwood cuttings are taken from the youngest part of the stem, and are the easiest and quickest to take root. This makes them ideal for anyone trying this for the first time.
Softwood cuttings are taken in May and June from the new growth of the plant. They root easily – between 4 and 8 weeks – but can wilt and die if they lose too much moisture, so they have to be kept warm and moist. And the best way to do this, if you don’t have a propagator, is to put the pot inside a polythene bag.
Some experts recommend using hormone rooting powder to encourage rooting, others say it is not necessary. I have taken cuttings both using rooting powder and without using it and I have had successes and failures with both. So give it a try and see what happens.
The most suitable and easiest plants for taking cuttings include: fuchsias, pelargoniums, hebes, lupins, hydrangeas and chrysanthemums.
So here’s how you do it:
1. Cut about half a dozen growing tips from the plant – about 4″ using a sharp knife or secateurs and pop straight into a polythene bag to keep the cutting moist
2. Use either special cuttings compost, or make up a half and half mix of multi-purpose compost and vermiculite or sharp sand
3. You can use small 3″ pots for individual cuttings, or a larger 5″ pot and place up to 5 cuttings around the edge
4. Trim each cutting so that the bottom is just below a leaf joint (node) – make the cut a slanted one if you can
5. Take off all the bottom leaves, leaving just 3-4 at the top, and pinch out the growing tip
6. If you are using hormone rooting powder, dip the bottom end of the cutting in water, then into the powder and shake off any excess
7. Push the cutting into the compost in the pot up to about a third of its length, and water
8. Cover the pot with a clear polythene bag making sure the bag does not press against the leaves, and place on a bright, sunny window ledge or in a greenhouse
9. Check every few days, but they should not need much watering
10. When you see new leaves appearing, you will know that the cutting has rooted – you can then re-pot the new plant into normal potting compost
And because softwood cuttings are so easy to root, it is also possible just to pop the cut stem into a glass of water, take off the bottom leaves, pinch out the growing tip, and within a couple of weeks you will see the roots starting to grow.
And that’s all there is to it – your family and friends will be so impressed when you give them plants for free!
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