For who knows what reasons, thinking of cuttings immediately brings to mind little old ladies – they’ll walk you through their gardens pointing out every plant in their collection and go on to tell you the history of them. “You like that fuschia, don’t you, love? I grew that from a cutting from Mrs Wilkinson’s garden, next door but one, just before she had her new hip put in. Bless her cotton socks…” Despite what may come to mind, many people feel that propagating plants by cuttings is something best left to those with a bit of botanical knowledge, a rather daunting challenge! However, this isn’t the case – armed with a few basics, it is rather simple, something that all should try!

Stem cuttings can be basically divided into three groups: Softwood Cuttings, Semi-Hardwood Cuttings, and Hardwood Cuttings.

Softwood Cuttings

This method uses immature shoot tips and is best suited for plants like pelargoniums, chrysanthemums and many other perennials.

How to do it: These should be taken early in the growing year, while the growth is still young and soft. One should cut sections about 2-4 inches in length (5-10cm). For shrubs, these can be taken from the tips of stems, or for other perennials, from young growth near the base of the plant.

Remove the lower leaves of the cut section. This is because the leaves would otherwise be buried and would subsequently rot. Then cut across the stem just below a leaf node. This should all be done with a sharp sterilised knife.

Place these cuttings into a gritty, sandy growing medium. Firm in and water gently.

A plastic bag can be placed over the pot used which will create a mini-greenhouse. Make sure, however, that the plastic is not in contact with the cuttings. The compost should be kept moist, but not wet.

Semi-Hardwood Cuttings

This method is used a lot for propagating evergreens and conifers and uses cutting material that is less mature than hardwood cuttings, but are firmer than softwood cuttings.

How to do it: These are best taken from mid-late Summer. They should be about 3-4 inches in length and cut just below a node. Put them into a mixture like the one mentioned above and root outside. Preferably in a cold frame.

Hardwood Cuttings

This method uses hard, woody sections of vigorous stems that have just completed their first season’s growth. This method is normally used to propagate deciduous trees and shrubs.

How to do it: This sort of cutting is best taken from late Autumn to early Winter. Look for stems of the current year’s growth that are about pencil thickness and feel woody. Cut sections 8-10 inches in length. It should be cut, at the top, just above a bud, and at the bottom, at an angle just below a bud. Cutting the top straight and the bottom slanted will help you put it into the ground the right way round. Dig a V shape trench. This should be about 6-8 inches deep. Put a layer of sand in the bottom. Put the cuttings into the trench so that about 2/3 of it is below the ground and about 3 inches apart from each other. Replace the soil and firm with your feet. They should be ready for lifting and replanting about a year later.

After trying the above methods and not having any results, try again.No use crying over spilled milk and all that! The beauty of taking cuttings is that it is practically free, therefore, there is no need to worry if they don’t root!

And if they do root? Hurray! Like seeing seeds germinate and grow, lifting a container and seeing little white roots starting to grow through the drainage holes makes one incredibly joyful!  Have a go, you’ll enjoy it!


An eccentric, plant-obsessed nutter!