Getting plants for free

Updated: Apr 27, 2019

Lavender is an easy plant to propagate from softwood cuttings.

Everyone loves getting something for nothing and taking softwood cuttings is an easy way to increase your plant collection.

It's also a great insurance policy for those tender plants that might not make it through the winter. Take some cuttings and you'll always have a back-up.

Best done in spring or early summer, it’s a simple method of propagation that’s generally more successful than hardwood cuttings later in the season.

Which plants to choose

All sorts of perennials are suitable candidates for softwood cuttings – both hardy and tender plants.

Lavender, penstemon, anthemis, dianthus, salvias and osteospermum can all be propagated this way, as well as shrubs, including buddleia, hydrangea and forsythia.

Forsythia is one of the shrubs that can be used for softwood cuttings.

How to take softwood cuttings

You don’t need masses of equipment or horticultural knowledge to be successful with cuttings. Just make sure you have a pair of secateurs, a sharp knife, compost and a propagator or somewhere warm. Then just follow these guidelines.

  • Take your cuttings early in the day before the plant has a chance to dry out.

  • Choose sideshoots that have no flowers on them.

  • Cut a piece that’s no more than 10cm long and place it in a plastic bag to stop it drying out while you collect more material.

  • Prepare the softwood cuttings by trimming them with a sharp knife just below a leaf joint. Your cutting should be between 5cm and 10cm long.

  • Remove the lower leaves and any that are big.

  • Fill a pot with seed and cuttings compost or a 50:50 mix of compost and either grit or horticultural sand.

  • Using a dibber, put the cutting into the compost mix up to the lower leaves. Water well.

  • The pot should be put into a propagator or cover it with a plastic bag and put somewhere warm. It’s a good idea to remove the bag a couple of times a week to air the cuttings.

  • Keep the cuttings in a bright place out of direct sunlight and kept moist until a good root system has developed. This can take up to 10 weeks and you can check by examining the drainage holes for roots or by gently tugging on the cutting. The cuttings can then be potted up individually.

  • Do keep removing any dead leaves from your cuttings to minimise the chance of disease.

  • Once your baby plants are growing well, gradually harden them off before planting outside.

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