Cutting edge technology

(or: Clarkie Goes Soft)

For a change, I’m not going to bore you with words.

Well, perhaps just a few. Irrespective of hemisphere, you can clone your favourite plant with softwood cuttings. I say irrespective of hemisphere, because although I am conditioned to taking softwood cuttings from June to August, the name of the month is actually irrelevant. The ideal time to take softwood cuttings is around two months after bud-break, or if you like, two months into the growing season. At this time, plants are at their most active, and growth has not yet become “woody”.

In the world of commercial plant propagation, technology now plays a major role. In custom-built propagating houses, sophisticated computers control air and root temperatures, while fully automated misting and watering systems are de rigueur. But we can propagate at home, without all that. A few recycled bits and pieces will give us the edge we need to be successful with softwood cuttings.

The work involved in preparing softwood cuttings takes a little time, but it’s still an easy and very satisfying way to acquire new plants.

So what is a softwood cutting?

Select a non-flowering shootUse a clean work surface and toolsA softwood cutting is taken from the current season’s young growth, before it has ripened or become woody. Usually, I would use the tip growth, although in many cases cuttings taken from further down a stem are equally successful. Where a plant has put on good new growth, it is often possible to take several cuttings from one shoot. Just make sure you don’t go back into last year’s wood.

Ideally, select a non-flowering shoot. Sometimes this is difficult, and if you have to use a flowering shoot, make sure you remove all flower buds.

Trim cleanly below a node (leaf joint), and remove the lower leaves, leaving perhaps two or three pairs.

Trim just below a nodeRemove the lower leaves

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About Mike Clark

Mike discovered the joys of horticulture when, as a small child, he overheard a neighbour say she'd dropped a sixpence in the tattie patch. He has been digging ever since, with the tenacity of a true Scot, hoping one day to find a fiver. Despite now running his own landscape gardening business, Mike claims to be permanently broke, due in part to his quest for fame resulting in writing gardening columns for free. He likes trees, Jack Russells, and 12 year old Glen Ord, but not necessarily in that order. Gifts of any of these can be sent c/o, but he would like to point out that the third item is by far the easiest and cheapest to post. One of the highlights of his life was winning a toilet brush in a raffle. He persevered with it for ages, but he's back on the paper now... Mike approaches gardening and writing with exactly the same formula. Throw in plenty of manure, and something good will eventually spring up.

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