By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 20 July 2016.
Another idea for free plants for your garden!
Readers know I love a bargain plant. I love even better sharing favourite plants with family and friends. Softwood cuttings at this time of year are a great way of creating free plants from the plants you all already have. Just this week an old friend gave me four young plants grown from cuttings of a plant that I had given her, and which another friend had given me, many years ago and which I had lost meantime. Welcome back to Pat’s Dad’s pink daisy (actually, an osteospermum)!
Softwood cuttings are not difficult, and said to have the best chance of any cuttings of rooting well. It is so satisfying to see a new plant growing well. Here’s how to do it.
What are softwood cuttings?
The young, soft and flexible shoots of plants which, in soil, are able to produce roots. Softwood cuttings are usually 8 to 12cm long and look a little like a miniature plant. They root best from plants that are producing lots of strong young shoots and which are usually 2-3 years old.
Which plants can I use?
Pinks, perennial wallflowers (proper name is eryisimum and the well known variety is Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’), penstemons, aubretia, pelargoniums and fuschias are perfect candidates. These plants are not long lived and can become woody and leggy.
Softwood cuttings also work well for some soft shrubs, such as buddleia.
How do I do it?
- Almost fill a flower pot (about 10cm across) with seed compost with some ‘silver sand’ or very fine (horticultural) grit mixed in (to help with drainage). All the ingredients are for sale in garden centres.
- Use a sharp penknife or kitchen knife and cut new and non flowering shoots from the parent plant. This is best done during the daytime. Each shoot is likely to give you a free plant, so cut the number of new plants you want, and a few spare. These are your cuttings.
- Cut off the base of the stem, cleanly, just below a joint with a leaf to ensure you don’t have any of the woody older plant attached. Then very ( and I mean very) carefully pull the leaves off the bottom two thirds or so of the cutting.
- Some gardeners then dip the base of the cutting in rooting powder, as the powder can help prevent rotting and encourage root growth.
- Using a pencil or something similar create a hole in the compost at the edge of the pot, and pop in the bald end of the cutting. Five cuttings will fit around the edge of the pot.
- Firm the soil gently, water gently and stand the pot on a shady windowsill. Keep the soil moist but not wet.
- After about eight weeks the cuttings are likely to have rooted. Gently pull them to see if they are. If they have rooted, move them carefully into a pot of their own and keep them moist. To create a good bushy plant, nip the growing tip out of the plant.
- Keep these free plants growing in their pots where you can ensure they are moist and protected from harsh winds. They will be perfect to give away or plant in your borders in the autumn or spring.
Fuschias and other thin leaved plants need some humidity – a clear plastic bag about 10cm taller than the cuttings and tied around the pot will help. Readers of our past blogs will know that pelargoniums like it hot and dry so leave them as they are.
Softwood cuttings are best taken from May to July. It is a quick job on a dull day. And now’s your last chance!