Tips for taking cuttings
As gardeners, we are always told to “take softwood cuttings in the early summer when the growth is young and soft”. 'Soft' means the growth is yet to become ‘woody’. Softwood cuttings tend to be easier and more successful.
While this is the generally recommended method, unless you have a cool, shaded glasshouse with a misting bench to stop the very soft and vulnerable cuttings from frying in the summer sun and drying out, your cuttings will not survive until they have rooted.
Here at Felbrigg we take hundreds of softwood cuttings from our tender perennials every year. We take our cuttings at the beginning of October, when the material is still young and soft. October works for us, as the sun isn’t so intense, the days are not so hot and there’s all the summer season’s growth to take cuttings from.
Here are some of our top tips for success:
Take cuttings in the early morning
The material will be fully turgid (this means plump, full of water) giving it the best chance for survival.
During the cooler morning the cuttings material will not transpire as much (dry out so quickly) while you are collecting and prepping the material.
Always select undamaged material
Only select this year’s growth, young material is easier to root
If you can, choose material that is not about to flower
This is because the plant hormones will not be right for producing roots. If all the material is flowering so you have no other option, be sure to pinch out the flower buds.
Once you have collected your material take the cuttings as soon as you can
Remove the lower leaves and always cut beneath a node – this is the point where the leaves emerge from the stem, the node is a growth point and from here new roots will emerge.
Pinch out the very soft tip of your cutting, this will reduce the likelihood of rotting
Use a compost mixed with 50% sand
It is important to get the balance right between moisture retention so the cuttings don’t dry out, but you want to avoid soaking the material to the point that it rots off.
Make sure you firm the compost properly
You need to blanch the stems of your cuttings as this encourages them to root.
Place in a protected environment
If you don’t have a propagation box, cover with a plastic bag - this helps to reduce moisture loss.
Your cuttings need to be in a light room but not in direct sunlight