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Guide to Propagate Plants from Softwood Cuttings

Narayani Karthik Jan 18, 2019
Plants can be propagated easily with the help of cuttings. Deciduous shrubs and plants can be grown especially well using softwood cuttings. You can expect a healthy yield of plants in your garden. Read ahead to know how to get started by letting you in on some basics.
People interested in gardening should know the different methods of propagating plants and shrubs. Many shrubs and plants are planted using softwood cuttings, which is a means of vegetative propagation. For a plant to propagate, stem sections of the plants are cut and planted in another location.
Most of the time, these cuttings are taken from the young plants that have a fresh growth and thick foliage (very much unlike the hardwood cuttings, where matured sections are cut from the plant). The cuttings are mostly taken in summers and spring, which are the blooming seasons.

Selecting the Cuttings

When cutting the cross section of the stem to be propagated, it is important to know the timing as to when the softwood cutting can be taken. A softwood is basically a region in a plant which is in its growing phase, neither very young and nor very woody. So the best time to take these cuttings is end of May or in June or July.
To determine whether the stem is in the softwood stage or not, take a section of the stem and try bending it. If it snaps instantly, then the stem is ideal to be propagated. The best time of the day to take these cuttings is immediately after day break, when the plant is sufficiently hydrated.
Lateral shoots that grow on top of the plant make the best cuttings. Taking these cuttings in the wee hours of the morning is much recommended as these shoots, if exposed to sunlight, will dehydrate and wilt quickly. The cutting size should be approximately 3-5 inches and should have at least some foliage.

Rooting or Planting

The next step is rooting the cuttings. So first, remove the lower set of leaves to open out the wounds to let the rooting happen. Then, dip the stem into a solution of water and rooting hormone powder.
This powder speeds up the process as it contains the same auxins used for initiating the root growth in plants. Now, place the cutting in a shallow pot with good drainage, containing a perlite mixture (60% perlite, 40% soil-less mixture, and coarse sand). A perlite mixture helps in better draining of soil, as too much of moisture can rot the rooting.
Now, plant the cuttings in the soil and trim the remaining leaves to reduce any loss of transpiration. To enhance root development, small wood stakes can be fixed on the corners of the pack.
And then, place the whole potted cutting inside a plastic bag, which will create the appropriate humid condition required for the rooting to take place. Place the plant in a shaded region of your garden, where it gets little sunlight and more shade.

Checking for Root Development

Results will be much more noticeable after 4-5 weeks. One can check the bottom of the pot to find white roots that would have erupted through the drainage holes of the pot's bottom. If the roots are not visible, try pulling the cutting and if it is exhibiting resistance, it means, that your plant is just fine and the roots are still developing.
With a healthy growing environment and requisite sunlight and moisture, the primary and secondary roots start emerging gradually and within 6 weeks, you will see a young shrub sprouting out of the pot.
Once the rooting is complete, transfer the shrub to its new pot which contains 80% soil and 20% perlite. Water the soil with kelp-based fertilizer and nutrient-rich sea weed. Come monsoons, one can transfer these young shrubs to a sheltered nursery where they can continue growing and blossoming until late winter.
Usually, cuttings of deciduous plants root fast. And when taking these cuttings, it is important to keep them hydrated for a period of 2-6 weeks before the propagation. Growing plants from cuttings is very effective. Here are some of the deciduous green shrubs/trees which can liven up your flower gardens, and that can be propagated by this procedure:
  • Butterfly bush
  • Crape myrtle
  • Blue mist shrub
  • Deciduous azaleas
  • Flowering quince
  • Japanese maples
  • Magnolias
  • Rugosa rose
  • Smoketree
  • Honeysuckles
  • Lilac
  • Willows
  • Wintercreeper
  • Forsythias
  • Virginia sweetspire
  • Winter hazels
  • Daphne
  • Redtwig dogwood
  • Beautyberry
  • Witch hazels
  • Viburnums
  • Beautybush
If you are planning to liven up your yard and garden with the mentioned beautiful shrubs, do follow the procedure carefully and you will find a lush green leafage adding to the chic look of your home and garden. You may also try propagating roses from cuttings. The myriad colors of the roses will only beautify your garden all the more!