Propagating Plants from Cuttings

Soft wood cuttings generally taken from plant material in a greenhouse in April or May or from plants outside in May and June. General points

To successfully propagate plants from cuttings there are several points which must be considered;
1.Suitable plant material must be selected. This usually means choosing plant material in its juvenile stages. Semi mature plant material i.e. that which is starting to flower will not root neither will mature material which may be starting to go woody. Conversely plant material which is too young may be too soft and tender and will quickly dry out or rot. 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.

2. The cutting must be maintained in conditions which will encourage root production and which will also prevent rapid deterioration of the plant. When the shoot for a cutting is first taken from the parent plant it will be in a turgid condition ie. full of water. At all stages it should be prevented from excessive water loss which would cause it to wilt badly. This can be controlled by keeping the cutting out of direct strong sunlight and high temperatures. Some type of barrier can also be used for preventing high rates of water evaporation from the leaves. We use perforated polythene film, but fleece would probably do just as well.

3. The part of the shoot which will produce roots must be maintained under optimum conditions. The requirements of rooting are a supply of air and water to the shoot and also warmth. If the medium used becomes waterlogged then the passage of air is blocked and the stem will rot. What is required is a free draining open compost which also retains moisture. Coarse or fibrous sphagnum moss peat or organic compost mixed half and half with vermiculite is ideal.

4. Hormone rooting powder will speed up the rooting process and a drench of a fungicide will prevent rot long enough for the stem to produce roots. The cutting should be taken just below a leaf joint as this is the optimum area for root production. If you take the cutting in between leaf joints die back and rot will occur up to the leaf joint and this can easily spread back through all of the shoot. Fuchsia and chrysanthemums are two of the few plant groups which will produce roots on all parts of the stem and it does not matter with these where the cutting is taken.

The above applies to the majority of plants with the exception of those with fleshy and succulent type leaves and silvery foliaged plants. Succulents will rot if kept in moist and humid conditions. often succulents will root if the cuttings are simply placed on the top of a rooting medium which is not too wet. They will produce aerial roots first of all after which the shoot can be pushed into the compost. Silvery foliage plants are well adapted to preventing water loss and they can be simply pushed into the soil in an open area of the garden and watered in. They will root quite quickly. A good and simple method to try to root all softwood cuttings is to place them in garden soil which is on the northern side of a wall. If the soil contains a reasonable amount of moisture they need not be covered. June is a good month to carry this out

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Last updated January 2001