You can grow new plants with softwood cuttings from garden shrubs and herbaceous perennials in spring and summer. Have a look at the plant list and step-by-step instructions.
In late fall and winter, you can root older growth: How to Grow Plants from Hardwood Cuttings.
Plant Cuttings in Each Season
Each stage of a plant’s growth offers different propagation opportunities.
Late spring is the time for softwood cuttings from many plants, perennials, shrubs, and vines. These young cuttings are eager to root but also at high-risk for drying out without proper care. After softwood comes the greenwood phase.
Summer is the time for semi-ripe cuttings, when the base of the shoots are hardening up (maturing) but the tips are still nimble. The ripe phase is next.
By autumn, the plant growth is mature. Fall and winter hardwood cuttings can be slow to root but more stable than tender young cuttings, allowing over-wintering in a cool greenhouse or under some protection outdoors.
Other propagation methods include: starting from seed, leaf-bud cuttings, tender cuttings, basal cuttings, leaf cuttings (vein, midrib, leaf slashing and squares), root cuttings, layering, division, offsets, and more.
Related: 5 Basic Plant Propagation Methods
Tips for Choosing Donor Plants
There are dozens of plants suitable for softwood cuttings listed below. The plant you take the cuttings from is called the donor plant.
You can take softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer or plan ahead for next year: a donor plant pruned this year will provide nice softwood shoots next spring.
To select softwood shoots for cuttings, try the bending test:
- New growth is too green and will bend but not break.
- Softwood will snap when bent. This is just right.
- Hardwood is too woody to snap.
Depending on the plant, you may choose lateral (side) or apical (main) shoots.
Plant List | Softwood Cuttings
Mid-Spring to Early Summer | After Last Frost
Take cuttings from new growth.
Here’s some suggestions (there’s lots more than I’ve listed here).
Summer Semi-Ripe Cuttings
Take cuttings on maturing stems (base is hard, tip is soft) in late summer.
If you want to grow lots of different plants, consider getting a good, illustrated guide to propagation:
How to Take Softwood Cuttings
This is a generalized version of what I do for all types of cuttings from softwood to hardwood. I love seeing what other gardeners do as well. There’s lots of minor variations in methods but ultimately, they all seem to achieve the same result: newly rooted plants. You might also want to ask for advice at a local garden nursery if they do their own propagation.
Because some cuttings just won’t root, always take more than you need.
- Soil-less potting mix
- 6-8″ flower pot (clay or plastic) | plastic works best
- Rooting hormone powder
- Sharp, clean knife
- Plastic food bag and damp paper towel
- Softwood cuttings (6 per pot)
Step 1: Prepare Pot for Planting
Step 2: Take Cutting from Donor Plant
Step 2: Remove Lower Leaves
Step 3: Trim Stem
Step 4: Apply Rooting Hormone
Some plant species do fine without this. Read more on rooting hormones here.
Step 5: Plant Stem
Step 6: Plant More
Step 7: Care & Growth
Once you see how simple it is, it’s addictive!
Here’s the instructions for rooting hardwood cuttings in fall and winter. It’s another excellent way to get free plants.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛