I recently decanted some softwood cuttings that looked like they had rooted judging solely by some nice new top growth. In doing so I broke my newly acquired golden rule, namely don’t do this until lots of roots are apparent at the bottom of the pot.  I convinced myself that new top growth must mean new roots. With hardwood cuttings, I have learned to my cost that this is often not the case, but I figured that a softwood stem doesn’t have any reserves in it, so the plant must be getting its vigour from somewhere.

In short, I got away with it. While there was the odd stem with no roots, most had a good set, certainly enough to pot on.

For a smallish set of roots, my usual approach is to loosely over-fill a 7cm square pot with compost, so that it is well mounded.  I make a large hole with a finger, waggled about till there’s plenty of room.  I place the cutting in the hole, taking care not to damage the roots on the way, then use the excess compost to gently firm it in.

Here are the happy cuttings.

Gaura ‘Passionate Pink’. With a bit of zooming you can clearly see the new top growth.  Roots-a-plenty here.

Euphorbia, pinched from my mother’s garden, not sure what the variety is.  Again, the new growth is obvious and all had a good set of roots.

Lobelia species ‘Fan burgundy’. Lots of new top growth, and lots of roots to go with. Joy.

Carnations.  I took these a couple of months ago. A few stems had rotted off, but most are OK, although the roots are far from impressive.

Abelia.  This is actually the last of my hardwood cuttings taken last December.  I attempted to pot this on a couple of months ago, but found it did not actually have any roots despite some nice green fresh growth up top.  I hurriedly repotted it and popped it in the heated bench for a little R&R.  A couple of months later it has a goodly set of roots and looks very happy potted up in fresh compost.

I had some salvia ‘blue marvel’ cuttings that I did not photograph this time that were also rooted, duly potted up.  I also have a confession to make.  Some months ago on a visit to Greenwich Park I vandalised a nice looking peonie – I nabbed a few stem tips for cuttings.  Scandalous behaviour.  I later read that peonies don’t respond well to cuttings, but one of them has survived long enough to put on roots, so we shall see, I’ve potted that up too.

Here they all are, potted up and waiting for a feed and water.  I put them back in the heated bench to grow on for a while, then I’ll start to harden them off, with the aim of overwintering them outside, perhaps in the cold-frame.


I was so pleased with these results that I’ve taken some more cuttings of penstemon, gaura and salvia.  No such thing as too many plants!

I’ll be back soon with more propagation palaver.