Propagation by cuttings entails obtaining a branch off a plant and keeping it alive long enough for it to form its own root system and so another plant.

Cuttings should only be taken from healthy parent plants in active growth. Guidelines for when and what type of cuttings are: spring or summer; and the older hardwood, although in some cases soft wood does better.

The length of the cutting is not important, but the cutting must have at least one bud that can be left above the rooting media for eventual shoot development.

The cuttings should be kept from drying out by wrapping in wet paper or placing in a plastic bag out of the sun. Most cuttings will last a few days but the sooner they are placed into the rooting media the better.

Cuttings taken with leaves usually root best, however hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants are usually taken with no leaves in winter and planted.

Before planting cuttings of species that are difficult to root they are treated with growth regulators or fungicides, or usually both. Growth regulators can be purchased as a 'rooting powder' which is a commercial preparation of IBA (Indole Butyric Acid). The most commonly used fungicide is 'Captan' powder.

Immediately after treatment insert the cuttings into the rooting media. Difficult and slow-to-root species should have a media that is disease free. Coarse sand and peat moss is the usual media used.

Conditions for rooting leafy cuttings are temperature between 18°C - 27°C, an atmosphere conducive to low water loss from the leaves, ample light and a clean, moist, well-aerated and well-drained rooting media.

Simple devices can be used such as a glass jar or a polythene cover placed over a few cuttings in sand, or a box half-filled with the rooting media with a piece of glass or plastic film over the top, placed next to a window or in the shade outdoors.

The cuttings are ready for potting when the roots are 1-2" long. A good disease-free potting mix should be used. It is important that the potted cuttings be moved gradually from the protected conditions under which they were rooted.

Conditions stated are guidelines only, and experimentation to suit your climate and plant species should be carried out to ensure best results.

Geoff Parker

DATE: July 1981

* * * * * * * * * * * * *