How to ... take softwood cuttings

Growing plants from softwood cuttings is an excellent way of bulking up your garden cheaply and duplicating favourite plants in your own or a friend’s garden -a cutting also makes a lovely gift.

Late spring is a good time to take your cuttings, as you need new fresh growth from this year, but ideally to take the cuttings just before the plant starts to flower.  You can take softwood cuttings from a range of different deciduous shrubs such as hydrangeas, fuchsias, viburnum, philadelphus, as well as perennials, and trees.

When you’ve decided on which plant to take cuttings from, snip off around 5cm of new growth with sharp secateurs, just after a leaf node.  Then strip back the lower leaves to stop the plant losing water through transpiration.  You can also cut the leaves in half to reduce their surface area and take off a flowering tip.  You’re looking to leave enough leaf for the plant to be able to photosynthesise and build roots.

You can either pop then into a small jar full of water and pot them on after a few weeks once they’ve rooted.  Keep it well watered on a window ledge, once more leaves start to grow you know it’s been successful.  The other option is to put them directly into compost, which you can add grit to improve drainage, once you’ve cut them.  Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag and keep it in the greenhouse out of the burning sun and in time it will start to root.  It’s as easy as it is satisfying.