Late Summer Propagation by Softwood Cuttings

 In Gardening, Plant Propagation

Softwood Cuttings; Late Summer Propagation 

Late summer and early autumn is the perfect time to propagate your favourite plants by rooting cuttings!

You may want to do this to have more of garden plants but often it is the frost tender varieties that are best over wintered as little plants. After all there is a limit to the space we all have on a windowsill!


What to propagate

softwood cuttings, pots and secateurs

Aucuba cuttings being inserted after trimming with secateurs

So I’m thinking of Fuchsias, Pelargoniums, pinks, Penstemon, Salvia, Coleus and lots of other plants. Don’t bother with annuals; it is perennials that you need to focus on rooting cuttings at this time of the year!

Cuttings taken in late summer and early autumn will produce roots quickly. And importantly, will be established well enough  to pot up into small pots before winter.

You will need-

  • healthy plants to propagate
  • a polythene bag with moisture inside
  • a pair of secateurs
  • a sharp knife or disposable scalpel
  • hormone rooting powder or liquid [optional]
  • clean pots or trays
  • a thin polythene bag or sheet to cover the inserted cuttings or better still a propagator
  • a windowsill that does not get direct sunlight
  • enthusiasm to give it a go!
  • patience!
softwwod cuttings in a glass of water

Solenostemon [Coleus] cuttings rooting in a glass of water

How to do it

Select healthy shoot tips -preferably without flowers- and do this early in the morning when the shoots are full of moisture.

Keep them moist and shaded and don’t delay in getting them prepared for propagation!

When you go out to take those cuttings, take a polybag with you and squirt a little water into it first so that there is plenty of moisture to keep your cuttings in tip-top condition.

Aim for cuttings of about 10 cms length.

Remove the lower leaves and cut the stem base neatly with a sharp knife.

If you haven’t got a really sharp knife then one of those disposable scalpel-like knives that you can buy at hardware stores is excellent for this.

For most plants you make the bottom cut just below where you have removed the lowest leaf. However, for some you can make that cut midway between leaf joints. This is especially true when rooting cuttings of Clematis and honeysuckle.


Inserting your cuttings

Dip the cut ends in fresh hormone rooting powder or liquid.

This will encourage roots to form more rapidly but do keep any unused hormone in the fridge or buy new every year.

Use clean pots or trays filled with moist half and half mix of perlite and potting compost.

Cover all but Pelargoniums with a thin clear polythene bag.

Place on your windowsill to root them.


Growing them on

A plant showing a good root system

A well developed root system

When rooted -normally 6-8 weeks- lift, separate and pot individual into pots before onset of winter.

Keep in a well-lit and frost free place until spring!

Here’s what the Royal Horticultural Society has to say about rooting cuttings – firstly softwood cuttings. But also for semi-ripe cuttings.

In winter you may wish to try your hand at propagating a few plants from hardwood cuttings and I’ve some tips on that in my blog here.


What plants have you successfully propagated by softwood cuttings?

Perhaps you are interested in other ways to propagate plants. Check out my blog on root cuttings here.

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