Softwood cuttings offer an easy way to propagate landscape plants for the flower bed. The idea of adding plants to the yard cost-free makes this an attractive alternative to buying plants at a nursery. The softwood cuttings develop in a matter of weeks and with proper care will be growing in your garden by the end of the season. Learning to propagate landscape plants is easy even for beginning gardeners.
Choose plants that are easily propagated---like forsythia, pussy willow, or azalea. Sterilize the pruning shears with alcohol and cut 6-inch clippings off the plants in early spring. Take cuttings from softwood---growth from the previous year---so the stems are tender yet hardened.
Fill the growing tray with potting soil and moisten with the spray bottle. Do not allow the soil to become soggy or the cuttings will rot. Poke uniform holes 2 to 3 inches deep in the soil with a pencil.
Avoid contamination of the bottle of rooting compound by pouring 2 to 3 tablespoons of the powder into another container. Strip the bottom leaves from the cuttings, exposing 3 inches of the stem, and dip the stem into the container of rooting compound.
Stick the plant cuttings into the pencil holes and tamp down the soil to remove air pockets, which can allow bacteria to breed and kill the cuttings. Cover the entire growing tray with plastic if you desire. This step is not necessary if the tray will be outside during warm weather. If you do use a plastic cover, ventilate the tray once a day by removing the plastic for an hour.
Place the tray where it will receive lots of indirect sunlight. Direct sun can dry out and kill plant cuttings before they have a chance to root. Mist the cuttings 3 or 4 times a day to keep them from drying out. If your schedule does not permit regular misting, water the plant cuttings once a day in the morning.
Watch for new growth on the plant cuttings. This is an indication that a root system has developed. Move the cuttings into a sunnier location and water daily for another week. Transplant the cuttings to individual pots so they can grow to the desired size before being planted in the landscape.