Early to mid spring is a great time to take softwood tip cuttings. These are very immature stems, the tip of new growth, just a few cm long. They are full of zip and ready to put on roots at the slightest provocation. Happily, cutting them off the parent plant is just such a provocation. That’s the upside. The downside is that, being very tender, these cuttings are very susceptible to the usual propagation suspects, namely contamination, infection, fungal attack, wilting, too much direct sun, not enough sun, looking at them the wrong way, all sorts. They therefore need a bit of pampering and care to be successful.
Being scrupulously clean in the cuttings department is a good way to reduce chances of failure. I am using a floor tile as a cutting surface, cleaned with bleach spray before use, along with the blade. It’s a good idea to clean all this again between varieties if you are doing more than one.
I cut a few stems of a climbing rose, ‘danse de feu’, which I am trying to increase. I have two hardwood cuttings that did well but I want more. More!
From this little bunch it’s possible to make quite a few cuttings. Using the blade I cut lateral (side) shoots off, then cut the stems further just above leaf nodes. This makes them internodal cuttings. This leaves me with several short cuttings with a bunch of leaves each and a ‘peg’ of stem. I trimmed the leaves to just a couple of small leaves and if the leaves were large I cut the leaves in half using the blade.
Note that the very tip of the stem, the youngest flimsiest end, is no good for cuttings, it’s likely to rot. With a little dunk in rooting hormone, the stem cuttings were stuck in cuttings compost, two parts grit to one part vermiculite. It’s easiest to wet the compost first, then use a dibber to make a hole and ease the cuttings in. They went around the edge of a clean 9cm pot.
I gave them a good spray with fungicide, top and bottom, so that they were dripping wet. To keep humidity levels up, I popped a large ziploc freezer bag over the pot, tightened the zip and put the lot in the heated bench.
By being ultra clean, by using fungicide, and maintaining humidity, I am hoping to avoid common causes of failure during the rooting process. They will take a good 4 to 6 weeks to root, then should make good sized plants in a couple more months. I might not get any flowers this year but they’ll be well set for 2018. If they survive the rooting process…
I’ll be back soon, with more propagation news.