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8 August 2013

Taking Semi-Ripe Cuttings

I find that one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening is taking cuttings that you can develop into new plants, and late summer to mid-autumn is the time to be taking semi-ripe cuttings. These are an easy way to propagate a wide range of ground-cover plants, herbs, hardy climbers, shrubs and trees without the need for any special equipment or skills.

Before mid-summer, propagate by taking softwood cuttings, and after mid-autumn by taking hardwood cuttings.

Semi-ripe cuttings are taken when the parent material is soft at the tip but firm at the base, and you should select shoots that are more horizontal in habit with short gaps between the leaves. Avoid unhealthy, damaged or atypical material.

The equipment you will need is as follows:-

1) a polythene bag to keep your cuttings moist until you plant them

2) a sharp knife, secateurs or scissors

3) fresh hormone rooting powder

4) pots of various sizes

5) cuttings compost - a 1:1 mixture of free-draining potting compost and sharp sand or perlite

Using a sharp instrument, take your cuttings from this seasonís growth. You will be trimming them to the required length later so take cuttings in excess of 15cm (6in). Cuttings are best taken early in the day when the stems are full of sap.

Place the cuttings in a plastic bag straight away to keep them moist, then keep the bag in the shade. Don't take too many cuttings at a time - you can always come back for more.

Trim your cuttings to produce ones 10-15cm (4-6in) in length, cutting just below a leaf node. Remove the lowest leaves and the soft tips, which will usually leave about four leaves remaining. On large-leaved shrubs, cut the leaves in half to reduce water loss.

Dip the bottom of the cutting in fresh hormone rooting powder, making sure that the cut is well covered, then tap it gently to remove the excess.

Some difficult-to-root shrubs, such as Magnolia grandiflora, benefit from 'wounding', which involves the removal of a sliver of bark 2.5cm (1in) long on one side of the stem at the base.

Put your cuttings into suitably-sized containers filled with cuttings compost, then water them well and allow to drain. You can fit a number of cuttings around the edge of a large pot.

Either put your containers of cuttings in a greenhouse or cover the pots with a plastic bag and put them in a warm, light position, out of direct sunlight. Make sure that you keep the compost damp until your cuttings are well-rooted. You may need to shade your greenhouse or cold frame in hot weather.

Cuttings rooted in the greenhouse will need to be gradually hardened-off before planting or potting-on. This is best done in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.

Hardy shrubs can also be rooted directly in the soil but may not root fully until late spring the following year.

Cuttings taken in the summer should root quickly but look out for any dead or diseased cuttings and remove them. Where you have cuttings in outdoor beds, keep them free of fallen leaves.

When your cuttings show signs of making new growth and looking healthy you can gently turn out your pot to examine the roots. If they look ok you can put the plant back in it's pot and prepare to pot it on in the near future.

Fungal moulds and rots can cause serious losses, but regularly removing diseased material and having good ventilation to help remove excess moisture can help to minimise the problem.

I hope you are successful with your semi-ripe cuttings - perhaps being inspired to try other forms of plant propogation.

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