How To Take Plant Cuttings
Increasing your stock by taking cuttings
Cuttings are a great way of producing new plants and can be taken from trees, shrubs, perennials, conifers, alpines and indoor or greenhouse plants. It is a much quicker method of propagation than raising plants from seed and has the great advantage that every cutting is identical to the parent material.
Cuttings can be taken from different parts of the parent plant- stem, root or leaf.
These fall into three groups:-
Softwood cuttings– these are taken from young, current year’s growth and are mainly done from April to July/August.
Semi-ripe cuttings– these are taken from the current year’s growth which has begun to ripen ie. when the base of the shoot has started to turn brown and woody. They are mainly taken from June to August.
Hardwood cuttings– these are taken from the current year’s growth that has turned woody at the end of the growing season. They are taken when the plant is dormant from September to November.
This method is mainly used for herbaceous perennials and some shrubs and are usually taken from September to November.
This method is used mainly for greenhouse and indoor plants and can be done using different parts of the leaf. It is mainly carried out in the warmer months as temperatures of around 15 to 20oC are required for success.
As you can see from the above different types of cutting are best taken at different times in the year and the spring and early summer is the time of the softwood cutting. The others will be the topic of future blogs or talks at the appropriate times.
Softwood Cuttings- April to July/August.
Trees such as Acer and Betula, shrubs such as Calluna, Erica and Lavatera, perennials such as Diascia and Osteospernum and other plants such as Pelargoniums and Fuchsias can all be successfully propagated from softwood cuttings. April to July is probably the best time for most but Pelargoniums and Penstemons take successfully as late as August but do then need winter protection.
At the moment I have some Pelargoniums (often referred to incorrectly as Geraniums- but that is the subject for another blog!) which are about 2-3 years old and although they have flowered on and off over the winter and early spring in our unheated porch they are now past their best. Normally I would replace them with new stock but this year is not normal as you may have noticed and I am going to use the growing tips to try to make cuttings. There isn’t as much new growth as I would like but it is still worth a try. Also since we have had another very mild winter there is already quite a lot of new growth on my Penstemons in the garden and I will take some early cuttings from these. Other good plants for April cuttings are Dahlias and Begonias when the tubers have made some new shoots as you bring them back to growth after their winter rest.
Taking the cuttings.
*Choose a side shoot or a tip shoot without flower buds (or on plants such as Lupins and Delphiniums young basal shoots) and cut just above a node (where leaves come from the shoot) and about 10-15 cms from the shoot tip.
*Ensure cuttings do not dry out by placing in a bag out of the sun and by dealing with the cutting as soon as possible
* Remove the bottom leaves so that the lower third of the shoot is free of foliage and trim the base with a sharp knife just below a node
The following two steps are not essential but if you have the materials you might as well use them
*Immerse cutting in a fungicide solution
*Dip base in hormone rooting powder or liquid
*Insert cutting into a pot of 50/50 moist sand and peat or peat-free potting compost (or garden soil if that is all you have) or place several cuttings around the edge of the pot.
*Place in a propagator or clear plastic bag to keep the moisture in and place in a shady part of a greenhouse or on a warm, but not sunny, windowsill ideally at a temperature of around 18-21oC
*Do not allow the compost to dry out but at the same time make sure that it is not saturated as plants need air around their roots as well as water.
*Successful rooting is indicated by new growth at the tips and signs of root growth through the base of the pot after which the cuttings can be carefully removed and potted up individually into normal potting compost.
*New plants should be hardened off before being planted out
You may not succeed with all of your cuttings so take a few more than you need as you can always give them to family and friends when you can next meet up! Earlier this year I took cuttings from a Plectranthus (a rather striking indoor plant which can go out onto the patio from June to September) to give to people at the first Great Oaks talk in April! What’s that saying about best laid plans? As it happened all 12 cuttings took and I will now pot them up and try to find good homes for them in our village.
By sowing seeds and taking softwood cuttings you can raise your own plants for more colour this summer. However, don’t give up completely on being able to buy new plants as well. The Old Railway Line Garden centre is now offering plants, as well as sundries and seeds, online for Click and Collect. Have a look through the website for what is available and if you require a plant which is not on the site give them a ring to see if they have it in stock.
This also applies to vegetable plants for the kitchen garden and with this in mind my next blog will be about growing your own fresh produce even if you only have a few pots on a patio or courtyard.
Keep well and good gardening.