Are you interested in plant propagation? One of the best ways (and easiest!) to propagate plants is by taking cuttings and subject them to the right conditions so they forms roots. Although semi-hard and hardwood cuttings will root, softwood cuttings are usually easier to root and become a sizable plant in less time.
So what is the secret to plant propagation and rooting softwood cuttings?
No secret really, just the right conditions for the type of plant you are trying to reproduce. Although what I am about to describe works for most plants, there are some that almost refuse to root as softwood cuttings. Purple-leaf Sandcherry immediately comes to mind. Sandcherry cuttings will almost always rot and die if you try to root them as softwood cuttings, so propagating them as hardwood cuttings with bottom heat may result in better rooting percentages. Discovering the proper conditions is one of the biggest challenges in plant propagation.
What is the right condition for rooting softwood cuttings?
Adequate sunlight, temperature, and humidity are three of the biggest factors that affect the rooting of a softwood cutting. Let’s touch on each just a bit.
Sunlight requirements while propagating plants
Plants require sunlight to produce energy. Along with the energy production, the sunlight does another vital role: to help the roots supply moisture to the plant and to draw moisture up into the stem. It does this by evaporating the moisture from the surface of the leaf, which causes a low pressure on the surface. This low pressure helps draw moisture up into the plants stem and up to the leaves.
Because a softwood cutting does not have roots, this process can be vital to the cuttings survival. This can be accomplished in many ways, but the two most common are using a misting system or a humidity chamber. An intermittent misting system provides moisture at a predetermined interval which keeps the leaves moist. A humidity chamber does the same thing, but the method of retaining the moisture differs. A humidity chamber retains moisture because it keeps it from evaporating because the cuttings are enclosed in a clear or opaque chamber.
Temperature requirements while propagating plants
Temperature is one of those factors while propagating plants that is often overlooked. The top of the cutting, including the leaves, should be kept cool, while the bottom of the stem should be kept warm. One way to keep the tops cool is to spray them with mist from a misting system. Another is to use shade cloth to reduce the sun’s intensity, however, you need to be careful not to reduce the amount of sunlight too much. Remember, the cuttings still need sunlight to help with the process of drawing moisture up into the cutting. The sunlight is also needed to help warm the rooting media to keep the bottom of the cutting warm.
Humidity requirements while propagating plants
Keeping the cuttings hydrated is essential to successfully root softwood cuttings. The moisture that is deposited on the cuttings leaves and rooting medium allows the cutting to live without roots. The moisture is drawn up into the cutting through the stem where it supplies the plant with moisture. Too much water in the rooting medium can cause the stems to rot and a misting system is a great way to control the amount of moisture in the rooting medium.
Another thing the moisture that is deposited on a cutting does is to keep the cutting cool. Plants go through a process called transpiration. This transpiration process is quite similar to our perspiring because it allows the plant to release water through its leaves which cools the plant off. This transpiration process is what actually draws the water up the cuttings stem and incorrect amount of water on and around the cutting can greatly affect the process.
Discovering the right conditions to get softwood cuttings to root is half the fun. Go ahead, give it a try today!