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Easy - How to Root Softwood Cuttings

posted by: jimmyjojo on 12.01.2006 at 11:15 am in Plant Propagation Forum

How to Propagate Plants by Softwood Cutting

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

Ive 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 (a means without) or cloning, as apposed to sexual propagation which is by seed. And "softwood" means this years growth that hasnt 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 its 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 wont 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) Its 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 its growing at the time of cutting the higher percentage of success youll 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

10) 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.

11) Go to the library. Ive 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.

12) Lastly, Experiment. The best way to learn this is by trial and error. The best conditions for each species will become second nature after a while.

Youll need:

- A bag of Perlite ("white popcorn", naturally occurring silicous volcanic rock), you can add vermiculite and a little soilless mix but remember we want it light and airy and not wet

- Plastic seed growing tray with a high 6" clear plastic dome top

- 1 to 8 - Plastic plant pots 3 or 4 inch with drain holes, cleaned with water and
bleach 100:1) I use clean cottage cheese containers

- Clean sharp shears

- Hand squeeze spray bottle with clean water

- Softwood cutting rooting hormone powder (Stim-Root No.1 0.1% Indole-3-butyric acid)

- Dibbler a clean stick or pencil to make a hole in the perlite mix to put the cutting into


Clean your tools, pots and tray. Fill the pots with the perlite and put them into the seed tray. Harvest the cuttings from the plant taking longer cuttings then needed. At a worktable out of the hot sun, pour a little of the powder out on a napkin. Cut off the extra leaves on the stem of the cutting leaving one or two good leaves. Make a fresh cut on the stem touch it into the powder tap off the excess powder and with the dibbler make a hole in the perlite and push the stem in an inch or so. Each pot will hold 4 or 5 cuttings. When youre finished preparing the cuttings mist the leaves and dome and cover the tray. Put the tray in an area that gets bright light but not direct sun light. Mist the cuttings daily or in very hot times of the year twice daily, morning and night. Roots will usually form in 3 to 6 weeks. Some annual vines like wave petunias and ivy root in as little as two weeks. To check for roots lightly tug on the cuttings if resistance, then you have roots. Let the root grow to a length and thickness that will sustain the size of the stem (experiment). Usually new leaf buds will start to grow at this time too. Then pot them up in clean pots and new potting soil and water with a mild transplant fertilizer. And slowly introduce them to the sun over a week or so.

Additionally, if you get a "jiffy" style seed heating pad (Wal-M in January) to provide bottom warmth you may get roots a little faster on some species.

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    Perlite, Clean sharp cutting knife or clippers, dibbler stick, rooting hormone, seedling tray and most importantly the 6" high dome cover to keep the leaves humid.

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    Hand mister, seed tray and dome, plant heating pad for winter and early spring rooting, and the cuttings. There are way too many cuttings in there but I cant help myself.

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    Cuttings can vary in length. Some plants root from the leaf nodes others need a longer than this. But cut off the flower buds and small leaves to promote root growth. This is a Salvia elegans cutting.

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    Once the roots are an inch or two long pot it up. I use small 2 1/2" pots and a light potting mix and water with a weak transplant fertilizer. It may need to be kept in the dome for another week or so after that. Then introduce to the sun gradually.

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    And there you have it! Your results may vary :)


clipped on: 02.23.2010 at 10:47 am    last updated on: 02.23.2010 at 10:47 am

Two hour new garden bed....for newbies

posted by: wendy2shoes on 04.23.2009 at 06:39 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

Thought I would share the process I went through this afternoon to make a new bed. Mine is intended for veggies, but this will work for wintersown flower sprouts of any description.
First, using an edger, cut out the edge of the bed. Toss the cut out chunks into the centre. (You can cut them up a bit or stomp on them).
Next, lay down cardboard, and layers of newspaper to your outline. I had to use rocks to hold this down, 20mph winds today.
Wet it all down. Add grass clippings, leaves, compost whatever. I mowed the back yard and threw the stuff on top.
Top it off with topsoil, triple mix, rotted manure, whatever. (I had a yard left from last year).
I used rocks around the perimeter to contain the soil, and hold down the cardboard edge. The whole thing should settle down and the worms start doing their work after I get back from seeing the grandkids for a week.
You can plant new sprouts directly into this new bed. I just won't be around to do it.
Waaayy easier than removing sod. The grass composts quickly, and provides great nutrients for your new bed!


clipped on: 06.28.2009 at 07:46 am    last updated on: 06.28.2009 at 07:46 am

RE: winter sown Larkspur & Many Thanks (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: connie-k on 06.25.2009 at 01:51 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

My microwave presser is made from 4 ceramic kitchen wall tiles
I use 8x10 in. ones.
I put the first tile down (smooth side up) and several folded layers of Viva paper towel (viva does not have designs on it and I have heard of people using the blue shop towels also)
Next lay out your flowers-several more layers of towels and then a tile (smooth side down)-repeat with two more tiles
My mircrowave has 10 power setting on it, so 10 is the highest and I set mine on 4. Then I set it for 3 min. and removes tiles when done and put some weight on the whole bunch. I try not to peek for 24-48 hours.
Then I remove place flowers between sheets of paper.
You can remove the paper with the flowers from the tiles and place them under weight as soon as the tiles have cooled, that way you can press several batches during the day.
I made this tray for a wedding gift-glued the flowers on with YES glue and when dry I put envirotex (is is a resin) over the top. I was pleased. I also make cards.


clipped on: 06.28.2009 at 07:35 am    last updated on: 06.28.2009 at 07:38 am