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Softwood cuttings

Softwood cuttings can be taken at any time during the growing season, but are usually taken in spring. Soft wood, or growth, is the most immature part of the stem, produced continuously during the growing season at the tips of the stem. They can also be taken in summer and early autumn from stems that have previously been cut back hard to encourage strong new growth.

Because of its soft nature, these cuttings can be prone to wilting or rotting. Luckily, they are also the fastest to root, and as spring growth is very rapid, this is the best time for fast rooting.

The rapid growth rate does have one drawback as the cuttings also lose water quickly. Once they dry out and wilt they will never root, so it is vital to protect them against extensive water loss.

The critical period for softwood cuttings of half-hardy perennial bedding plants taken in late summer or early autumn is winter - getting them through the cold weather successfully. It is essential that they have developed a good root system by late autumn, if not they are less likely to overwinter. If the cuttings have been taken early enough and are well rooted they will have sufficient roots to survive the winter.

Step by step

Softwood cuttings | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • Remove up to 10-15cm (4-6in) of shoot, cutting it off cleanly above a bud on the parent plant.
  • Use a sharp blade to trim below a leaf joint/node to make a cutting between 5-10cm (2-4in) long. 
Softwood cuttings | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • Remove the leaves from the bottom one-third to half of the cutting and pinch out the soft tip if necessary.
  • Dip the bottom of the cutting in hormone rooting if necessary.
Softwood cuttings | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • Insert the cuttings into a pot of cuttings compost, so that the bottom leaves are in contact with the compost. Space them around the edge of the pot, so that preferably their leaves do not touch. If necessary, water well and allow to drain.
  • Mist the cuttings with a fungicide.
  • Place the pot in a propagator with bottom heat of 18-24C (64-75F) or cover with a plastic bag, supported on a wire hoop or split bamboo canes, seal around the pot with an elastic band and place somewhere warm. Remove the bag to ventilate the cutting for 10 minutes once or twice a week.
  • Cuttings should be placed in good light but out of direct, scorching sunlight; covering with horticultural fleece will help diffuse bright sunlight.
  • Ensure the compost is kept moist until the cuttings are well rooted.
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