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Softwood cuttings are stem sections of plants cut for use in propagating new plants. This is generally a successful method for cultivating new plants of many varieties, including a large range of houseplants, many shrubs, and some types of trees. Softwood stem cuttings are usually taken from the young parts of the plant with fresh growth. This is in contrast to hardwood cuttings, which are taken from mature sections that tend to be firmer and woody in nature. Softwood cuttings are normally taken in the spring and summer, unlike hardwood cuttings, which tend to propagate more successfully if taken in fall or winter.
The propagation of softwood cuttings is often considered one of the most effective ways of cultivating new plants and shrubs. In order to propagate softwood cuttings successfully, it is usually important to select actively growing parts of the donor plant. Many gardeners recommend taking the cuttings early in the morning when the plant will normally be at its most turgid, that is to say well hydrated. Cuttings are normally taken just below a leaf joint, and the lower leaves are removed, to give a bare section of stem and usually two or three sets of leaves above. The size of a softwood cutting depends on the species and size of the donor plant, but most softwood cuttings are about three to five inches (about seven to twelve centimeters) in length.
Once the cuttings have been taken, rooting softwood cuttings is the next stage in this method of plant propagation. The exact instructions differ from plant to plant. Typically, the first step is to dip the bottom of the cutting in a rooting hormone powder. These powders contain hormones that encourage the cutting to produce roots. Many commercially available hormone powders also contain anti-fungal substances, which are important as they may inhibit the growth of fungus long enough for the new plant to become established.
After applying rooting powder, the softwood cuttings are usually planted into good quality compost. Young cuttings are susceptible to dehydration; so many gardeners use a propagator to keep the cuttings in a humid environment. Alternatively, securing a clear plastic bag over the pot can serve the same function. Most softwood cuttings take six weeks or more to root, and can then be potted.