These are at the plant's tip where new growth is taking place. Herbaceous softwood cuttings are taken from the new spring growth of low growing long-lived (perennial) plants that die down in winter.
You can follow these instructions to take and plant your own softwood cuttings if you have the opportunity in spring (September–November).
You will need:
- scissors, secateurs or a knife
- a clean container, for example a plant pot, yoghurt or margarine container (punch drainage holes in the base of the container)
- basic growing mix of peat and pumice, or seed raising media
- root hormone powder number 1, gel or solution
- one of these plants: chrysanthemum, azalea, thyme, catmint, Meyer lemon, geranium, fuchsia, lavender, daisy.
Follow these steps:
- Take the cuttings
- Choose a parent plant with soft healthy stems at the tips of the branches or the new growth of a herbaceous perennial (such as a chrysanthemum). Your plant may be different from the above examples. Contact your teacher if you are unsure about what to choose.
- Cut five soft shoots from the parent plant. Each cutting should be 5–8cm long.
- Prepare your cuttings
- Cut the stem squarely across the stem, just below a node. This is where there is a concentration of natural hormone (auxin) and stored food.
- Remove the lower leaves. This helps expose the cambium tissue.
- Remove any flowers. You want all the plant's energy to go into forming roots.
- Trim large leaves in half. This slows water loss from the leaves.
- Remove the tip.
- Plant your cuttings
- Dip the cuttings in rooting powder or gel and shake off any excess. Too much can cause tissue damage.
- Fill a container with the basic growing media, and firm it slightly.
- Make holes in the media, and put a cutting in each hole.
- Firm around the stems to stop air pockets.
- Label each pot with the plant's name and the date.
- Water the containers gently.
Softwood cutting from a geranium
- Create a warm humid environment
- Put the container in the plastic bag.
- Loosely close the top of the bag with a rubber band.
- Put the container in a warm, well-lit place but not in full sun.
If you make softwood cuttings record how successful you were in your diary.
To make softwood cuttings successfully:
- take the cuttings from healthy parent plants at the most suitable time of the year spring/early summer
- treat the base of the cutting with rooting hormone
- use a growing mix which has good drainage and retains some water. This must be clean and free from pests and diseases
- take cuttings from soft, new growth. They lose water easily and are vulnerable to disease
- cuttings need a warm, high humidity environment.