Propagation by semi-ripe cuttings
Amateur Gardening|July 31, 2021
Steve and Val Bradley explain the best way to take late-summer and autumn cuttings
Steve and Val Bradley

STEM cuttings can be divided into three main groups: softwood, semi-ripe and hardwood (there are also subdivisions within these main groups, such as vine eyes and mallet cuttings). These terms refer to the various stages of the plant’s growth at the time the cuttings are taken. Softwood indicates young, soft, sappy shoots (often shoot tips); hardwood indicates woody stems of 9-12 months old; while semi-ripe cuttings are made from shoots at an intermediate stage between these two.

Selecting and preparing

In many respects, the process of selecting and preparing a semi-ripe cutting is similar to that for softwood but, because the tissue of the semi-ripe is more woody, they usually take longer to form roots. They can be taken from late summer into the autumn, with late-summer cuttings usually placed in a propagator and potted in a few months’ time, while autumn cuttings are often placed in a cold frame and left to root slowly over winter so they are ready for potting the following spring.

These cuttings can vary in length, but what is important is the stage of growth at the base. You need the stage when the stem in this area starts to mature (or ‘ripen’) and turn brown.

Both deciduous and broad-leaved evergreen plants can be propagated in this way, and it is the most common method used for growing conifers from cuttings.

Wounding the cutting

Many broad-leaved evergreens, such as bay, laurel and rhododendron, have large leaves and, in order to fit the cuttings into pots or trays, the leaves can be cut in half. This means the cuttings get roughly equal amounts of light, rather than the first ones being smothered by those inserted later.

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