Easy - How to Root Softwood Cuttings

jimmyjojoDecember 1, 2006

How to Propagate Plants by Softwood Cutting

IÂve have had a lot of success rooting softwood cuttings of plants that donÂt produce much or any seed. This is my humble process.

IÂve tried this method on a number of different plant species including tropical houseplants. On some it works great and others not so good or not at all. The fun part is experimenting!

The basic idea is to keep the stem of the cutting alive until a callous and roots can form. This is called asexual propagation (Âa means without) or cloning, as apposed to sexual propagation which is by seed. And "softwood" means this yearÂs growth that hasnÂt toughened to hard or semi-hardwood yet.

There are many methods and types of equipment you can use. However, this is the method I use and itÂs currently working well for my plant needs.

Points to keep in mind before you start:

1) Use a sharp knife or pruning shears. Ones that wonÂt crush the end the roots will be generated from. A clean cut will preserve the cells close to the surface.

2) Clean your knife or shears with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol or water and bleach (10:1), before you start to make cuttings. Fungus and bacteria can rot a cutting before it has a chance to form roots.

3) ItÂs best to take cuttings during a time of year when the plant is in full growth mode, usually early to mid-summer. Actually any time of year other than full dormancy is OK, but the more vigorous itÂs growing at the time of cutting the higher percentage of success youÂll have. Again experiment, some plants will root fine from late September cuttings kept under grow lights.

4) Take healthy cuttings, strong, disease and insect damage free.

5) The leaf or leaves left on the cutting stem will continue to provide moisture and energy "juice" until roots have formed. So you have to cut off all the extra leaves and flower buds and only leave one or two leaves at the top. Some plants have large leaves compared to their stem diameter and you can cut them in half width wise.

6) Cutting length varies from plant to plant. Most will grow roots from 3 to 4 inch cuttings. Some need 6 inches and others are so hardy only an inch stem and one half of a mature leaf are required.

7) The bottom of the stems will rot if they are wet. So the idea is to lightly mist the leaves and keep the air in the seed tray and dome moist without getting the perlite mix and stems wet.

8) When taking cutting they should be taken quickly and not allowed to dry out, keep moist and out of the sun.

9) The cuttings need bright light but not direct sun

  1. The rooting hormone has a shelf life and should not be contaminated, keep cool and dry and out of direct sun. Ideally, it will last a couple of years.
  1. Go to the library. IÂve found most if not all of this information from library books and "Not the Internet". One of my favourite books is "Secrets of Plant Propagation" by Lewis Hill.
  1. Lastly, Experiment. The best...
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

jummyjojo, VERY well done! You've outlined and illustrated a very fool proof system. And you've given the post a good title so that it can be easily searched out.

I like that you emphasized cleanliness to start out with. That's important. You could have mentioned that one of the reasons for a very coarse potting medium (with lots of perlite) is the avoidance of root rot and algae growth. Your mix looks perfect.

Have you ever found that you needed to increase air circulation? (I do not typically put a dome over my cuttings, so I wondered about that.)

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 2:40PM
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Thank you, rhizo_l. I usually put six pots inside the dome and put the mix in them instead of filling the whole tray. That way if one pot starts getting black stems I can remove just that one, and it also allows for proper drainage. Yes, the root rot problems most people encounter is because the mix and stems are too wet and not enough oxygen can get at it. Good idea, I'll add that to the doc.

I'd love to one day have a greenhouse with a proper missing system that has the correct air circulation too. But this is OK for now. I uncover it one or two times a day to hand mist and that brings in some fresh air. Actually the only downside at first, was the daily misting but now I love looking in on them :)

It's a real simple, quick method to grow cuttings that most anybody can do. Especailly if they don't have much room or bucks!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 12:59PM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Well done, a nice presentation. There is some good information there.

I often use a single edge razor to make cuttings. Very sharp and gives a nice clean cut.

Thanks for sharing.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 3:21PM
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Mike Hughes 5

These Blueberry videos are all basically the same. They tell you how to cut the cuttings stick in rooting hormone and then in soil. Then leave you there. Nothing about daily care and watering. How long it takes to root. I also wonder if you could root the cuttings in water? I have tried 3 times this year to root Blueberry cuttings with no success. I tried the wood box with sand and an aquarium dome for humidity after a day the cuttings all turned brown. I have tried no dome no success. I am trying this time with a plastic dish pan with a mix of Perlite / sand then the cuttings inside a white garbage bag. Any more information appreciated.

mail (at) mikealrhughes (dot) com

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 3:47PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

For someone who has not done cuttings before, you have covered the basics very well. Thanks for all the effort you put into your presentation. Al

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 10:09AM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

If Al approved, you passed the test. He is so knowledgable and writes in layman terms so a novice garden can understand. The tuitorial was great. Thanks! If you have anymore up your sleeve..please share with us. The pictorial method is so helpful to novice gardeners.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 12:54PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

What are some plants that you have propagated using this method? Does that dome have air vents in the top? I have seen them in gardening books with those air vents. Do you mind sharing where you purchased the dome that fit over the sectional tray? I purchased dianthus seedlings from Home Depot in one of those sectional trays(I don't think that's the proper name for it, but I think you can figure out what I'm trying to say)The tray was filled with polka dot plant seedlings. It had 32 plants in it. I wondered if they weren't started from plugs. Can you buy the domes separately to fit over the sectional trays? Guess I will have to know the size and I would imagine you would want the dome to fit snugly over that seedling tray. Now another stupid question: Are you sitting these outside in the shade or light but not in the sun? Or are you starting these indoors? I see the heat mat which indicates to me you are starting them indoors.

I am so eager to learn new things about propagation. Today I finished planting the Emerald Blue creeping phlox that I dug up on Monday. Monday afternoon I got 3 "hunks" planted before the temps climbed to 90 and above; saving the rest of the creeping phlox until I could get back to planting it today. It was soaking in a small bucket of water since Monday afternoon to keep it from drying out. I planted the rest today and I read where you shear the creeping phlox after they are finished blooming so I sheared off about 3 in. after they were planted. The tips that I sheared off, I didn't want to throw away, and a light bulb went off in my head, why not try to root those tips? I stripped the leaves/foliage about an inch from the stem bottom and dipped it in Rootone and potted about 5 stems in a 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 in. nursery pot. Watered it well and we just had a good rain. I just went out and looked at the rain gauge and it shows 1 in. of rainfall. Yeh! It will cool it off and we needed that rain as everything is so dry here.

I know I have read that it is best to have a grow light and heat mat when starting seeds inside. I don't have room for a set up. I was wondering why I couldn't start the seeds indoors in something like that container tray or even ind.small pots and put them in window sill? Will they get too leggy without the gro light or shop light? I might could start them on a computer storage cabinet in the office and I could always buy a single shop light system and use that. As long as I put something on that furniture to protect it I won't have to deal with dear Hubby. I also have some wooden snack tables that I could set up by the window where there is natural light all day long.

Sorry this is so long. If you feel like you don't want to respond to all my questions here, feel free to email me direct.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 3:44PM
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