Propagation Blog #3 Timing Softwood Cuttings

by LaVille Logan

For most plants there is a window of opportunity for success. I always rely on asking Google for help with this as it steers me away from mistakes.  “Google, when is the best time for ________ cuttings? Often the answer is “When the plant is actively growing.” This makes it unnecessary for me to be concerned with the planting zone because the plant will be growing when conditions are good for it. Plant growth stages fall into 4 categories: herbaceous softwood, semi hardwood, and hardwood and are very important in determining whether or not the cutting will root. I will be concerned with softwood cuttings today as much of my experience is with this group. I have started clematis, forsythia, fuchsia, pelargoniums, salvia, ivy, hoya, abutilons and hydrangea this last season. (Be aware that I did not take all of the cuttings at precisely the “correct” time.) Softwood is when the young stems are just getting a little hard—not likely to dry out after they are cut. Older stems become harder and it is more difficult for them to develop roots in that stage. The softwood should snap and break when bent. You can use the same starting procedures with softwood cuttings: 1. Cutting length from 4 to 6 inches, 2. Strip bottom two sets of leaves, creating a scar to ‘work with’ the hormone, 3. Dip into hormone powder, shake off extra, and 4. Place into readymade hole in dampened potting mix. Keep cutting in a humid environment for 2 to 3weeks ( refer to blog about tote containers or use inverted Zip Lock bags. It is better if the bags do not touch the cuttings. There are many plants that will work with these procedures, but the ones listed are the plants to which I had access. Regading not taking cuttings at the ‘correct’ time–remember the windstorm? A branch of our Xylosma tree broke off, I made a 20+ cuttings, (insert unhappy emoji) they all failed, but when I trimmed back my clematis later (not actively growing, and kind of crunchy) I got two of those cuttings to grow!  Yay!