My Village Plants > How to take Plant Cuttings
How to take Plant Cuttings

How to take Cuttings
My mother showed me the basics and I’ve been experimenting since. There are many tips and tricks on taking cuttings and plants may vary. Different cutting methods work better on different plants and my hope is that we share this knowledge in time. For now, I’m simply going to write the basic methods on how to take cuttings.

Hardwood Cuttings
There are many different types of Cuttings but essentially we split them into the Hardwood, Semi-ripe and Softwood. I find hardwood works best on trees, roses and long shrubs for example. A hardwood cutting will yield a sapling ready for planting out within 1 year. The best time to take the cutting is during the dormant period so in the case of UK Trees that’s late Autumn to Late Winter. I’ve learned to focus on the shoulder periods for best results e.g. after leaf fall or before Bud break.

Try to identify the healthy vigorous shoots. Avoid the damaged, spindly or gnarly shoots. Try to identify where the plant has been growing and cut off a shoot between the wood that is 1 and 2 years old. The most important point about cuttings is ensuring you transplant the cutting immediately with minimal moisture loss. If the cutting gets dehydrated, then you will lose it and this can be a matter of less than 30 minutes in most cases. My mother would place the cuttings in a plastic jiffy bag that already had some moisture in the bag, then seal it. She would do this even if she was transplanting 10 minutes later.

To ensure moisture retention, in the case of Trees, I tend to take off most of the leaves that are growing and trim the cuttings to a length of around 6 inches. I then simply transplant the cuttings into a slit in the soil leaving about 1/3rd of the plant above ground and 2/3rd below to take root. Make sure you firm in the cutting to avoid air/water pockets. It’s important to keep the plant moist so continue to water the cutting as and when it needs moisture. Do not let the soil dry out as the cutting will die.

Semi-Ripe Cuttings
A variation on Hardwood Cuttings is called semi ripe cuttings. This is technique that I used to grow Photinia and Hebe you will see on the site. This was surprisingly very easy. I`m currently growing lots of Daphne plants for a long border using the same method. This perhaps best demonstrates the power of cuttings in that I need around 30 Daphne and the particular species I want would cost me £20 for an 11cm potted plant. I can tell you that’s about 1 year’s growth of a cutting.

To take Hebe, Photinia or Daphne cuttings, I’ve taken mine in late Summer and cut from the current seasons growth. The trick is to cut from the growth that has partially hardened but in truth I just cut stems off. Now importantly you are looking to split your cuttings according to Nodes so the bottom should be just below a node and the top just above a node. If you have leaves, I take them off and I’ve also learned to leave 1 or 2 of the top leaves but clip them in half to reduce moisture loss.

At this point, I use rooting gel or powder. I’ve had mixed results with powder and better results with the gel but everyone is different and I do encourage you to experiment. Dip the lower part of the stem in the gel or roll it in the powder – remove the excess powder with a gentle tap. Then pop it into the free draining compost and firm up around it. Give it some water and make sure it stays moist.

Compost and Growing Conditions
I’m using and experimenting with different types of compost so I’m not going to comment on what type works best. I find they all work with different degrees of success but conditions and care is probably more important. Moisture is perhaps the biggest item to consider. The compost needs to be free draining but moist – I`m a fan of adding Perlite but I suspect it’s because it makes the pot look more professional! I’ve used seed and cutting compost with perlite and it seems to work just fine albeit you have to monitor the moisture closer. I have a moisture meter which I find reassuring rather than accurate.

Temperature is another factor as is sunlight, location etc. Because most of my cuttings tend to be over wintered in the greenhouse I pay close attention to the temperature and when they start growing I aim for 18c degrees as an average during daytime. Some cuttings need warmer but it’s very difficult to be precise in a greenhouse at that time of year. I do tend to sit them in the south facing sun and it doesn’t seem to harm them but again hot days and the greenhouse even on the edge of winter can register 25c so keep an eye on moisture. I keep them up off the floor and away from the sides of the greenhouse for fear of frosts and cold getting to them and tend to insulate them with newspaper wrapped around the outside of their pots etc. A lot of this isn’t necessary if you are growing them during summer so it all depends when you take your cuttings.

Softwood Cuttings
Softwood cuttings are made on Cherry and Maples eg Acers. I tried taking cuttings last spring on my Japanese Cherry without success. I will be trying again this spring because it’s a beautiful small tree with amazing blossom. Hydrangeas and Buddleia also respond well to softwood cutting. Cuttings are best taken in late spring from the fast growing tips and I’m told early morning is the best time to take the cuttings. Take a 3-inch-long cutting just below a node & remove the lower leaves, treat with a fungicidal solution then dip in hormone gel or powder. Insert in the soil and water. Again as always, ensure you keep the cutting moist.

The Root to Success
I’m certain there will be many people who will sign up to the website with far greater knowledge than myself. I’m starting out and need just as much help and encouragement as every new gardener. I do consider myself a new gardener still and I’m still learning and making lots of mistakes. I’d like people who join us to feel warmly welcomed by the group and the best way we can do that is to help and encourage. Please don’t try to assert your knowledge over someone, you very well might be the best grower in the world and if you are I`d hope you’d impart your wisdom with helpful tips and suggesting advice. Some of what I’ve placed in this section may be incorrect or inaccurate. I’ve gathered it from my own knowledge and experimenting, so please do share your knowledge but do it with a “have you tried doing…..” rather than “you are doing that all wrong…..”.