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How to take cuttings: semi-ripe cuttings

by Rhiannon James

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Cuttings are a quick and easy way to multiply your plants. From a single shoot snipped off an existing plant, you can grow an entirely new specimen, making cloning your favourite foliage and flowers a doddle.

There are three main types of stem cuttings: softwood, semi-ripe and hardwood – which kind you take depends on the time of year and the type of plant.

Now is a good time to take semi-ripe cuttings from a range of shrubs, herbs, hardy climbers and hedging plants, when growth has slowed down and stems are starting to harden up. Semi-ripe cuttings are thicker than softwood cuttings and have larger food stores so they are stronger and can form roots with less cosseting.

When to do it

Usually late summer to early autumn. It’s also best to take cuttings in the morning when plant stems are filled with moisture.

Things you’ll need

1. Sharp secateurs

2. Sharp propagation knife

3. Clean pots or modular trays

4. Potting compost

5. Horticultural sand

6. Medium strength hormone rooting powder

7. Labels and permanent marker

Step-by-step

1. Select a robust, healthy ‘mother’ plant to take your cuttings from. You’re looking for the current season’s growth which will be slightly woody at the bottom but soft at the tip and will still have leaves. Avoid any flowering, weak or damaged bits.

2. Next, cut off shoots about 15cm/6 inches long, just above a node (where the leaves meet the stem) using sharp secateurs. Put each cutting in a damp plastic bag to reduce water loss and pot it as soon as you can.

3. Shorten each cutting to about 10cm/4 inches in length, cutting just beneath a leaf node at the base and removing the tip just above a node, if it’s very soft, with a sharp propagation knife. Remove the leaves from the lower half to two-thirds of each cutting (leaving about four still attached).

4. Some cuttings, such as those of Berberis and Ceanothus, root better if you take them with a heel of older wood at their base. To do this, hold a side shoot and pull down sharply to remove a small sliver of bark from the main stem along with it. Neaten this heel and remove the leaves from the bottom of the cutting.

5. Dip the base of each cutting in hormone rooting powder and then tap off the excess as too much can damage the cutting.

6. Plant the cuttings into containers filled with a 50/50 mix of potting compost and sharp sand. Make a hole in the compost with a dibber or pencil and insert each cutting. You can plant several cuttings around the edge of a pot or in modular trays but don’t let them touch each other. On large-leafed plants you can cut the leaves in half to reduce the amount of space they take up and to lessen water loss.

7. Firm the compost around each cutting, water them and label each pot.

8. Put the cuttings in a cold frame, a greenhouse, a propagator or on a light windowsill. Keep the compost moist until the cuttings have grown a good root system and don’t let them sit in scorching, direct sun. You can cover pots of cuttings with clear plastic bags held in place with elastic bands to stop them drying out but remember to remove the bags for a short period at least twice a week to allow ventilation. Keep an eye out for mould and rot and remove any dead or diseased leaves or cuttings as soon as possible.

9. Growth of new leaves will indicate that rooting has been successful, and you’ve created a new plant!

10. Cuttings rooted in warm greenhouses, on indoor windowsills and in propagators will need to be hardened off for two or three weeks before they move outside permanently.

Some plants that can be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings

Choisya

Shrubby herbs such as bay, hyssop, rue, rosemary and sage

Box

Lavenders

Escallonia

Forsythia

Hydrangea macrophylla

Lavatera

Passiflora (passion flower)

Philadelphus

Cistus

Conifers

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