Starting New Plants from Cuttings

Softwood cuttings are soft shoot tips, taken from relatively young and immature plants. The best time of year to take and plant softwood cuttings is in spring and summer – this is a time where fresh new growth is plentiful, and warmth and humidity is suitable for cuttings to root. Each plant responds differently to cutting, so it’s best to try multiple plants to get a good feel for their  individual dispositions.

Water the mother plant the day before taking a cutting. Select healthy, green and fairly new shoots to clip. Cut an initial 3 – 4 inches just above a leaf joint so no stub is left on the mother plant. Immediately, so the cutting does not dry, prepare by trimming just below a leaf joint, remove the lower leaves up to about 1 inch. You want to be left with a 2 1/2 to 3 inch cutting. Dipping the base of this cutting into a rooting hormone can encourage the development of roots, but is not always necessary. This depends on the plant you choose to take your cutting from.

Your soil mixture for planting cuttings should be equal parts moist peat and sharp sand to provide moisture retentive, well drained and aerated soil. Softwood cuttings require gentle warmth and high humidity to encourage root growth and prevent wilting and drying. For this reason most cuttings are started in greenhouses. The same effect can be created by inserting five thin, foot long sticks around the pot edge and drawing a transparent bag over them. Seal with an elastic band or string and place in a warm place out of direct sunlight.

When fresh sprouts begin to appear on your cutting, remove the bag and give a gentle tug to ensure your plant is well rooted. If there is little to no give, transplant into individual pots and place in light shade and warmth until established.