Take shrub cuttings after new growth has hardened off in the spring and the stems are pliable but break when bent. The soft wood from shrub cuttings roots within weeks for planting in the landscape. The ease of propagation from shrubs allows home gardeners to add plants to the garden without a great deal of expense.
Choose healthy shrubs which easily propagate from stem cuttings, like lilac and forsythia. Clip 6- to 8-inch sections of soft wood stems, making an angle cut directly below a leaf node. Remove the bottom leaves of the stem, exposing the bottom 3 or 4 inches. Place in water until you can plant the cuttings.
Wet potting soil with warm water so it leaves your hand moist but not wet when you squeeze a handful. Fill the growing tray and make several deep holes for the shrub cuttings with the dibble or pencil.
Pour 1 to 2 tbsp. of rooting compound into a baggie or paper plate. Dip the soft wood cuttings in the rooting compound to cover the bottom of the stems and shake off the excess. Stick the cuttings 3 to 4 inches deep in the holes of the potting soil, making certain at least one leaf node is beneath the surface of the soil. Firm the soil into place around the shrub cuttings.
Cover the growing tray with clear plastic wrap or a plastic bag and seal the plastic with tape or rubber band. Place the shrub cuttings in a bright location but out of direct sunlight. Open the plastic daily for an hour or two to allow fresh air to circulate around the cuttings. Check the soil for moisture. Add water by misting with a spray bottle of water, if necessary. Reseal the plastic.
Allow the soft wood cuttings to grow for three to four weeks before checking for root growth. Give the shrub cuttings a gentle tug to feel for resistance, which signifies the formation of a root system. Remove the plastic when roots form and allow the new plants to continue growing for another two to three weeks.
Transplant the new plants by gently lifting them out of the growing tray with a spoon or small trowel and planting them into individual containers. Continue growing the new plants in pots until they are strong enough to be in the garden. Once the plants start showing signs of new growth, plant them into a permanent location in the landscape. Water daily until the plants become established.