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Plant Propagation with Softwood Cuttings

Updated on July 6, 2017

Propagating with Herbaceous Cuttings

Herbaceous cuttings are made from non-woody, herbaceous plants such as coleus, chrysanthemums, sage, dahlia, African violets, basil, mint, ivies and even tomatoes!

Cut a 3- to 5-inch piece of stem from the parent plant. Remove the leaves on the lower one-third to one-half of the stem. A high percentage of herbaceous cuttings root, and they do so quickly. Many of these will form roots if placed in water. Once sufficient roots have formed, they can be planted in a growing medium

Softwood Cuttings in Water


What are Softwood Cuttings?

Softwood cuttings are prepared from soft, succulent, new growth of woody plants, just as it begins to harden. Shoots are suitable for making softwood cuttings when they can be snapped easily when bent and when they are still forming new leaves. The shoot will have the oldest mature leaves and small new leaves.

For most woody plants, this stage occurs in May, June, or July. The soft shoots are quite tender, and extra care must be taken to keep them from drying out. Set each cutting in a jar or pail of water until you are ready to use them. The extra effort pays off, because they root quickly if dealt with immediately.

Some shrubs and plants that can be propagated from softwood cuttings are rosemary, camellia, ceanothus, gardenia, privet, and viburnum.

Softwood Cuttings

Softwood plant propagation is just as easy as taking hardwood cuttings.

Select the cutting from a vigorous new non-flowering shoot with 3 or 4 pairs of leaves. while the parent plant is in a growing spurt. Softwood cuttings are best taken in late spring to early summer, early in the morning, when concentrations of hormones in the sap are at their highest.

Make your cut half an inch below leaf nodes. The cutting should be about 6 – 8 inches long, and bend easily, without snapping or breaking. Because they have a lot of new green growth, softwood cuttings can easily dry out.

Keep your cuttings in a closed plastic bag while you're working. As the tissue is soft and immature and will wilt quickly, propagation must take place as soon as possible after the cutting is taken.

Potting up a Rose Cutting


Keep Softwood Cuttings Moist

Moisture is absolutely essential; the cuttings must never be allowed to dry out. If you are taking a quantity of cuttings, wrap them in a damp cloth or put them in a plastic bag in a cool shaded spot - or even in the refrigerator - until you finish cutting and are ready to deal with them.

Potting up Softwood Cuttings

Use a sterile growing medium to root the cuttings. This can be sterilized soil, perlite, or clean builders sand. Remove the leaves from the bottom third of the cutting, and press them gently into the rooting medium. You can also use a rooting hormone to encourage root growth. Place the cuttings in the rooting tray far enough apart so the leaves do not touch the neighbouring cutting, or in separate pots of sterile medium.

The trick with softwood cuttings is to keep them in a humid environment while they form new roots. You can do this by a variety of means, from frequent misting, inverting a plastic bag over the cuttings (making sure it does not touch the plants), or putting the cuttings into a misting chamber.

Remember to allow the cuttings to air out periodically.

Rooting Tips for Softwood Cuttings

You can locate your tray of cuttings in a cold frame, in a greenhouse, or outdoors in the summer (out of direct sun). In cooler weather, some bottom heat will help the cuttings take root.

Rooting time varies with the type of cutting, the plant being rooted, and environmental conditions. Softwood cuttings develop new roots quickly because they are taken from the most actively growing part of the plant. Usually 4 – 6 weeks will be sufficient to develop new roots so the new plant is suitable for potting up.


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    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      Propagating your plants is a great way to get new stock.