Propagating ornamental plants with cuttings is a simple and inexpensive way to grow more plants. A cutting is a short piece of stem that is removed from the parent plant. Under optimal conditions, it develops roots and new growth when placed in rotting medium. Softwood cuttings are taken during the summer months from the current season's growth. They are soft and break easily when bent. Semi-hardwood cuttings are also taken from the current season's growth, but the stem has begun to harden. They are usually taken in late summer to early fall. Hardwood cuttings are taken in late fall to early winter while the plant is dormant.
Take softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings in early morning while the temperatures are cool, and take hardwood cuttings any time during the day. Choose healthy vigorous stems. Avoid weak, spindly stems or stems with blooms. Use a sharp knife or hand pruners to cut 4- to 6-inch-long pieces of stem at a slant just below a node.
Wrap the cuttings in a moist paper towel and put them in a plastic bag until you are ready to plant them. Work as quickly as possible so the cuttings do not dry out.
Fill trays or 4- to 6-inch pots with the planting medium and wet thoroughly.
Cut or pinch the leaves off the bottom 2/3 of each cutting. If the remaining leaves are big, cut each one in half. Snip off a small amount of the end of the cutting at an angle, insert the cut end in the rooting hormone and stick it into the planting medium. Firm the soil around each cutting so it stands upright.
Place the trays or pots in a clear plastic bag and loosely tie or cover with clear plastic sheeting and secure to the edges of the containers with tape. Do not let the planting medium dry out. Water whenever the condensation on the inside of the plastic disappears.
Pull one of the cuttings out of the planting medium about two weeks after new leaves begin to grow on the cuttings. If the cuttings have roots, transplant each cutting into a 4- to 6-inch pot. The cuttings may take from two weeks to several months to develop roots, depending on the type of plant.
Allow cuttings from perennials to grow until the following spring before planting them in the garden. Keep cuttings from shrubs in containers for one to two growing seasons before planting them in the garden.