How to Propagate Softwood Cuttings

Overview

Propagating soft wood cuttings is really a matter of timing. The only difference between soft wood cuttings and hard wood cuttings is the time of year that you take your cuttings. All plants put on new growth in the spring. This new growth is soft and pliable at first, but by the end of the growing season this soft, new wood has hardened off and in many cases is as brittle as the previous year's growth. To propagate soft wood cuttings, take your cuttings early in the season, in May or June in most areas of the country.

Step 1

Determine whether the wood you wish to take as a cutting is at the right age. If wood is too green it will not root, and if it is too old and brittle it will have a hard time rooting. Take a sample of the wood you wish to propagate and try to bend it. If the piece bends and then breaks it is the proper age. If it bends but fails to break, it is too green; and if it will not bend, it is too old.

Step 2

Cut several branches that are of the right age. Cut approximately 1 inch below a leaf node and keep your cuttings 3 to 5 inches long. Your stems should not be more than 1/4 inch in diameter on most plants. Immediately place your cuttings in a small pail and cover with damp paper towels. Cuttings are best taken early in the morning, while the plant is fully hydrated.

Step 3

Remove the leaves at the lower leaf node, just above the point you made your cut. Strip a bit of the bark away at this end as well to help initiate root growth.

Step 4

Dip the cut end of the cutting into clean water and then dip it in a growth hormone powder, available at any nursery or home improvement center.

Step 5

Prepare a growing tray with a mixture of 60 percent perlite and 40 percent soilless mix. Use your finger or a pencil to poke a hole in the dampened mix 2 inches deep and then carefully lower your stem into the hole with the rooting hormone still clinging to it. Gently press the soil mix around the cutting.

Step 6

Place the growing tray into a plastic bag that will simulate a greenhouse, keeping the cuttings moist and humid. Place the tray outside in an area of dappled sunlight and make certain that the soil stays moist but not wet. Mist your cuttings and their soil with a soft misting bottle whenever the soil appears to be drying out. Watch for new growth within 14 days. After 21 days your cuttings are ready to be planted in your garden in a mixture of garden soil and loam.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp knife or pruning shears
  • Small bucket
  • Wet paper towels
  • Water
  • Rooting hormone powder
  • Plastic bag
  • Misting bottle
  • Loam

References

  • Free Plamts: Propagating Softwood Cuttings
  • Fine Gardening: How to Propagate Softwood Cuttings
Keywords: propagate softwood cuttings, starting softwood cuttings, growing softwood cuttings

About this Author

Larry Parr has been a full-time professional freelance writer for more than 30 years. For 25 years he wrote cartoons for TV, everything from SMURFS to SPIDER-MAN.