• Alison Murray

Things to do in the garden during lockdown day 56: take softwood cuttings

Late spring, early summer is a great time to take softwood cuttings. They root quicker than hardwood cuttings and will be ready to pot on later in the summer.


Cuttings are a great way of multiplying your plant for the next year, knowing for certain what each plant will be and saving money to boot. Once grown on they make great presents too.


Propagating by cuttings ensures the offspring are precisely the same as the parent plants. This can not be guaranteed when sowing from seeds collected from plants in the garden. Hybrid cultivars may be sterile or the seeds may not come true and bash out a flower an entirely different colour from the parent plant. Taking cuttings is asexual propagation - basically cloning the parent plant. We all ought to be mindful though, new cultivars take many years to breed, so are often the intellectual property of the breeder and can't legally be propagated. Plant from nurseries should be labeled as such if this is the case.


The right way to take cuttings depends on the plant. I have cut just below a leaf node on the salvia, popped them in a little rooting hormone and the rest they'll do themselves. The key is to only leave a few leaves on the stem, so that the plant doesn't lose water too easily and die. Some plants like Sambucus perform better as heel cuttings, pulling off a stem with a tiny bit of bark from the one it was attached to. The hydrangea is less drought tolerant so I have and popped it in a plastic bag to prevent water loss.


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