Propagating plants from softwood cuttings in an effective and easy way to create more of a gardener’s favorite plants. Before getting started, however, there are some tips gardeners need to know concerning when and how to take these cuttings as well how to properly care for them so that they take root and mature.
What Are Softwood Cuttings
Softwood cuttings are taken from new plant growth of established plants. Softwood cuttings are flexible, unlike hardwood, and they can be taken from perennials and certain types of trees and shrubs. Deciduous trees and shrubs are generally best suited for softwood cuttings. These cuttings are easy to take, more reliable and generally take root faster than other types of cuttings.
Take Softwood Cuttings in Spring
Gardeners take cuttings in spring when the new plant growth on an established plant is at its peak; however, gardeners can also take softwood cuttings later in the growing season from plants that continue to produce new growth. Perennials that thrive in mild climates are best suited for summer or early fall softwood cuttings.
Tips for Taking Good Cuttings
Gardeners should follow these tips for taking a healthy softwood cutting.
Take cuttings from the soft, flexible tip growth on new plant shoots. Before choosing a cutting site, look for a healthy stems and foliage and avoid any stems that appear weak, leggy or damaged. If a blooming stem in chosen, the gardener should remove any flower buds.
Always use a sharp knife that has been properly sterilized to take cuttings. Cut below a leaf joint or node, taking a piece about six inches long.
Place new cuttings in a lightweight soil and make sure they receive adequate humidity and moisture. Gardeners can use a cold frame to create and maintain a moist humid environment for the new cuttings.
Cuttings that cannot be potted immediately should be wrapped in moist paper towels and placed in a sealed plastic bag.
Cuttings generally develop roots within two to six weeks after planting, but this can vary by plant species. Gardeners can check for root development by tugging gently on the seedlings, and if it moves easily, allow the plant to remain in the pot another week or two.
If a gardener does not have a cold frame to keep potted cuttings in, he or she can speed up rooting and increase chances of success by keeping cuttings indoors in an area where they receive plenty of sunlight. Cuttings can be moved outside in a protected area after they have developed a strong root system. Tug on them to check for root development.
After potting softwood cuttings, watch for wilting and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Gardeners can spray cuttings with water to keep them moist. Because softwood cuttings require a moist, humid environment , they are susceptible to damping off and fungal diseases. To help prevent this, gardeners can water the cuttings using a fungicide solution. Adding bone meal, potassium sulfate or lime to the soil helps to provide essential nutrients and ensure healthy growth.