18 Popular Plants to Grow from Cuttings in the Spring

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When fresh, green growth appears in spring, it is time to take softwood cuttings from deciduous shrubs, vines, and trees to grow more of your favorite plants.

If you have favorite shrubs and vines like clematis, lilacs, and hydrangea, spring is the time to take cuttings for rooting new plants.

Softwood cuttings are easy to root, and, with routine care, provide new plants that will be ready within a few months for planting in the fall garden.

This specific type of cutting is a softwood nodal cutting. Do not worry about the names: it is called softwood because the new shoots are still soft and not yet too woody, and nodal because we are going to snip off the cutting just below a leaf node—the place where leaves grow out of the stem.

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Plants You Can Grow from Softwood Cuttings

Always check with local agencies to ensure that the plants you choose for your garden are non-invasive and suitable for your growing conditions.

These are examples of some of the plants that can be propagated by softwood cuttings.

  • Bittersweet (Celastrus spp.)

  • Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)

  • Camelia (Camelia spp.)

  • Cherry, flowering (Prunus spp.)

  • Clematis (Clematis spp.)

  • Dogwood (Cornus spp.)

  • Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)

  • Forsythia (Forsythia spp.)

  • Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

  • Hibiscus, Chinese (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

  • Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)
  • Lilac (Syringa spp.)
  • Mock orange (Philadelphus spp)

  • Rose of Sharon; Shrub-althea (Hibiscus syriacus)

  • Rose (Rosa spp.)

  • Viburnum (Viburnum spp.)

  • Weigela (Weigela spp.)

  • Wisteria (Wisteria spp.)

While the steps listed below provide a general overview of the process, it is recommended that you follow instructions for your specific plants for best results.

If you plan to propagate a lot of plants, I recommend getting a good, illustrated book on plant propagation with plant-specific step-by-step instructions.

American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques

How to Root Softwood Cuttings

1. Prepare your containers with growing medium

The containers should be at least 4-inches deep with drainage holes.

The best growing medium to use varies depending on the plant type, but, in general, some combination of sand, perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss are recommended.

I have also had good results using container potting mix.

Dampen the growing medium before planting your cuttings.

2. Take cuttings

Plants have their greatest moisture levels in the morning, so take your cuttings early in the day if you can.

Some cuttings will not root so always take more than you need.

Use a fine, sharp, clean knife or garden secateurs to take 4 to 6-inch cuttings from healthy shoots of non-flowering, new growth on the mother plant.

Cut the shoot just below a leaf node at a 45-degree angle and place the cutting in a plastic bag to help retain moisture.

The cut end is now the bottom of the plant and the only part that will form roots.

3. Plant your cuttings

First, remove any leaves or shoots from the lower third of the cutting.

Dip the base of the cutting in rooting hormone powder.

Use a clean garden dibber to create a planting hole in the growing medium.

Place the cutting in the growing medium, burying the lower third, right up to the first remaining leaves.

Space your cuttings a few inches apart.

4. Water your cuttings and cover

Water generously and gently press down the growing medium so the cuttings are snugly in place.

A clear, plastic bag over top can help retain moisture. Be sure to remove it and air the cuttings every few days.

Place cuttings in indirect light, keeping moisture levels even. If the growing medium dries out, the cuttings will die.

The ideal temperature range is 18-24C (64-75F), but, if you are like me, you just do the best you can with the conditions you have.

Next Steps

While softwood cuttings will eventually become full-size shrubs, vines, and trees, keep in mind that it will take several years.

Roots will form in approximately 3-5 weeks, and become fairly well established at 6-10 weeks. You can test for root growth by gently pulling on a cutting. If roots have formed, it will not slip out of the growing medium. You may also notice new top growth at this time.

At this point, you can transplant the rooted cuttings to separate containers in proper container mix, and allow the plants to harden off (transition to outside conditions) as they continue growing.

By fall, it is time to either plant the cuttings in the ground, or, you can continue growing them in pots and over-winter them in a garage or greenhouse.

Spring is Softwood Cutting Time

I hope you will try rooting softwood cuttings. Be sure to take your cuttings in spring before the young plant shoots become too woody. If kept moist in containers with indirect sunlight, roots will form and you should have new plants ready for the garden by autumn.