JOBS FOR APRIL: take softwood cuttings

Take softwod cuttings.jpg

The fresh growth of many perennials and some shrubs will root very easily, which means softwood cuttings are one of the most reliable ways to propagate many plants. The best time to take these cuttings is between April and June. Suitable plants include lavender, pelargoniums, fuchsias and salvias.

Strip off the lower leaves and trim with a sharp knife

Strip off the lower leaves and trim with a sharp knife


1. Fill a module tray or 9cm pots with seed compost.

2. Remove the soft growing tips of non-flowering stems using a sharp, clean knife above a bud on the parent plant. Only take cuttings from a healthy plant. The cutting should be 7-10cm (3-4in) long.

Pop several cuttings into each 9cm pot

Pop several cuttings into each 9cm pot

3. If you’re taking lots of cuttings pop them in a plastic bag to stop them wilting while you prepare and plant up the other cuttings.

4. Trim the cutting to below a leaf and strip off the lower leaves.

5. It’s not essential but you can dip the base of the cutting in hormone rooting powder, which can speed up the formation of roots.

6. Make a hole in the compost with a dibber or plant label and insert the cutting into the hole. Firm in place, water and label.

Softwood cuttings will dry out quickly but they can also be prone to damping off so getting the right balance is crucial. Place in a heated propagator or cover the pots with a clear plastic bag to retain moisture around the leaves. Ventilate daily, either opening vents on the propagator or removing the plastic bag and getting rid of the excess moisture. Place somewhere bright but out of direct sunshine.
Keep the cuttings moist and they should root in 2-3 weeks. A good indication they’ve rooted are signs of new growth, although this isn’t always foolproof, so it’s also worth checking the drainage holes of the pots for signs of roots. Pot on into individual pots.