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Cuttings are one of the best ways to propagate new plants in your garden for free. They also provide “insurance” for your plants if you are attempting to over winter tender plants.

There are 5 basic types of cuttings:

Leaf cuttings
Hardwood cuttings
Semi ripe cuttings
Softwood cuttings
Root cuttings

The most common I seem to use is Softwood Cuttings or Leaf Cuttings.

Leaf cuttings take two forms, whole leaf and cut leaf. Whole leaf are the simplest and are suitable for plants such as African Violets and succulents. They are very simply to take, simply cut with a sharpe knife at the base of the leaf stem, insert the stem into a pot with the base of the leave just touching the surface of the compost. Water and leave to drain and then place in a propagator in a light position out of direct sun light. Placing in a plastic bag will also work fine.

You treat cut leaf cuttings as above, works very well with begonias. Take a leaf and cut into 1inch squares making sure each square includes a section of main vein. Pin these down to the surface of the compost and small plantlets should form in a few weeks ready for growing on.



Soft wood cuttings are generally taken from plant material in April or May or June. It is suitable to a wide range of deciduous shrubs. Fuchsias are a classic plant to propagate in the way. I also use this method for trailing pelargoniums I use in the hanging baskets.


Suitable plant material must be selected. This usually means choosing plant material in its juvenile stages the soft growing tips on shrubs etc. Semi mature plant material i.e. that which is starting to flower will not root. The ideal plant material is a young shoot which has been produced under good growing conditions and is of a size large enough to store a good supply of energy and plant food which the shoot will require between being severed from the parent plant until when it produces it's own roots.

It is also best to take the cutting in the early morning when the plant is fully stocked with water and the temperature is cooler reducing the rapid water lose possible. Also to help water loss, place the cutting directly into a sealed plastic bag and keep out of direct sunlight.

To take the cutting cut at a node, where leaves join the stem, the reason being that there is a concentration of growth hormones at nodes that will encourage rooting.

Prior to planting the cutting remove the lowest set of leaves to leave a bare stem of some 2 to 4 inches. Dip in rooting compound and than place in a pot of free draining compost. It is important with all cuttings that the compost is not too wet or too dry. It needs to be open and allow air flow. Perlite or Vermiculite both help in this respect if added to a fine compost.

Again place the cutting in a light warm spot, no direct sunlight and in a propagator or plastic bag. Regularly check the cutting and remove any dead leaves that may cause a problem.

Once rooting has taken place harden off and then plant outside.


Hardwood Cuttings I tend to find are the hardest ones to take, they also seem to take the longest to set too and I am an impatient beast in the garden at times!!

Again these are good for deciduous shrubs such a dog woods, willows, etc.

The main difference to softwood cuttings are that these are taken from mature growth in the dormant season of the plant.

Select a branch that has had a full growing season to mature and remove the soft tip of the current years growth and discard.

Trim the top to be just above a bud and the bottom to just below a bud. Aim for an length of about a foot if possible. There seem to be arguments about whether the top cut should be straight of sloping but I have never noticed much difference to be honest!

Now you can plant the cuttings, not in a pot this time but in a trench in the garden. Aim to bury about 2 thirds of the cutting into the soil. If you have heavy soil like me it might be worth lining the base of the trench with some sharp sand to keep their feet well drained and help prevent rotting.

Leave them be for a whole 12 months and you should then be able to remove and plant into their final position. (See I said they take a while!)

Semi ripe cuttings are good for woody plants and are useful to carry these plants over to next year and are usually taken late summer. The cutting is taken from the current years growth that has begun to mature at the base. For this reason avoid diseased or damaged shoots.

Remove the selected side shoot and trim to just below a node, also remove the very soft tip of the shoot as this will wither and die back quickly if not removed and lowest leaves. The rooting of the cutting is normally encouraged if you make a vertical cut into the base of the stem. This is a shallow cut and should not split the stem into two.

Apply rooting compound and place into compost, water in and place in a cool frost free area such as an unheated greenhouse or cold frame. Water them sparingly during the winter, just keeping the compost moist and remove any dead material before it starts to rot.

This practice works very well with over wintering geraniums.

And finally Root cuttings. This often seems to be a forgotten method but we all complain readily about how plants such as mint, ground elder, bind weed spreads like made even if you leave the smallest bit of root in the soil by mistake.

I have used root cuttings successfully for Japanese Anemones and will work on other plants especially perennials

Again take the cutting when the plant is dormant. Lift the whole plant and select roots that are around pencil thickness. Cut from close to the crown of the plant and trim into sections about 4 inches long. Remember what is the top and bottom of each section. You can replant the original plant. Remember to not remove more than 25% of the plants roots as they will severely effect the donor plants chances of success.

The plant cuttings can now be placed in trays of composts leaving the top of the cutting just below the surface of the compost. Some people apply the top layer with course grit rather than compost. Water in and place in a cold frame or greenhouse until spring when shoots should appear.

So there you have it, one final point, make sure you use fresh rooting compound, it does go off with time. Also there are new Gel Pots available which are meant to make things easier, I have never used them but am thinking about getting a few as it will be good for my 6 year old to watch and learn.

This is a fairly quick summary to be honest, there are whole books on the subject of cuttings, but I hope it gives you a few ideas to be going on with and maybe enough info to go and try it. I am by no means an expert but I have had more success than failure and it is a great feeling watching something you started as a cutting maturing and making a great new plant for little cost. I also suspect that some may disagree with some things I have said, but like so many things in gardening there is more art than science it seems!

HTH
Jerry
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