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Taking Cuttings

All Aboard - Destination Unknown By Virginia Bickel

 This story takes four children: Amanda, Peter, Laura and Jason from New York City to a small town in west Texas and describes good times and bad times as they grow from childhood to adulthood


Virginia Bickel's newest book Come September  has just been released. Order it now!

  In Virginia Bickel?s second book, she turns from historical fiction to mystery. Come September is the story of Daniel Lindsey?s quest to identify the young woman found unconscious in front of his store, and to find out what she was doing on Mesa Street, in El Paso, Texas.  She brings to this genre her skill with character development and dialogue. You won't be disappointed.

Dr. Sarah Barlow






Taking Cuttings Growing a Standard Year 2000
Year 2001 Year 2002 Year 2003

Taking Cuttings

With acknowledgments to David Clark.

Please click on the thumbnail to view the picture full size.


The fuchsia is an easy plant to propagate, and with suitable modifications to cuttings.jpg (77289 bytes) technique cuttings can be taken at any time of year. The natural cycle of growth means that there is a wide variation in the nature of the shoots available for propagation, though the basic principles involved are always the same. The advice given here on the selection and preparation of the cutting material is divided according to the seasons. It is mainly concerned with plants growing in the greenhouse. Cuttings can also be taken from plants growing in the garden, but propagation material obtained from this source will inevitably be behind the schedules outlined below, and an allowance must be made accordingly.


At this time the plants are beginning to grow strongly again after a period of slow growth or dormancy in winter. There should not, at this stage, be any signs of flower buds forming. When the new shoots have readied 2 1/2 inches in length, the end 1 1/2 in is cut off using a very sharp knife or razor blade, leaving approximately 1 in remaining on the plant. The two lower leaves are removed, and the cutting is ready to be inserted (click on illustration to see it full size). It is unimportant whether the cutting is taken immediately below a leaf axil or not, as either type will root easily at this time of year. A hormone rooting powder is not essential as this type of cutting will root easily without it, but a preparation containing a fungicide such as Captan can sometimes protect the cutting from rotting.

At this time of year and for optimum results a soil temperature in the region of 64 Fahrenheit is necessary, so some form of greenhouse propagator should be used to reduce heating costs. Under optimum conditions progress is rapid and rooting will be well advanced in seven to ten days. If access to a simple propagator or heated bed is not possible, or if the stock plants from which the cuttings are to be ?taken are not sufficiently advanced, the cuttings are best taken later in the year; alternatively, they can be rooted on a windowsill in a warm house. 


Once the new shoots produced in the spring have enlarged and started to show flower buds, cuttings taken from them will root more slowly and the losses will he greater. Flowering occurs when the level of various hormones within the plant changes, and this process unfortunately also slows down vegetative growth and the production of roots. 

Cuttings taken during the summer will need to be longer than those taken in the spring: shoot tips approximately 2-3 in long are ideal. The lowest pair or two pairs of leaves are removed and the lower end of the cutting is trimmed to just below a leaf node; any flower buds should be removed as they will continue to grow and weaken the cutting. A hormone rooting powder should be used for this type of cutting
In the summer no extra heating or special apparatus is required for rooting purposes, and many amateur growers choose the warmer months for propagat?ing their favourite plants. This is the basis of the so-called biennial method, where plants are propagated in one year to mature and flower the next season. This system has the advantage that the plants that need to be carried through the winter are relatively small, but will produce large specimens for the next year. Many exhibitors prefer to take summer cuttings because of this. 


The weather in early autumn is often almost the same as in late summer; the type of cutting material obtained and its treatment is also the same at this time, but later in the autumn the plants will produce semi-hardwood, non-flowering cuttings. These cuttings, which can be any length up to a maximum of about 7 in, are torn off the stock plant so as to form a heel, the lower leaves are removed and the cutting is dipped in hormone rooting powder and inserted in the usual manner. Cuttings taken in this way are slow to root. They will often lose their leaves during the winter, and will not start to show new growth until the following spring. These cuttings must be kept at a minimum temperature of 7?c (45?F) throughout the cold weather or they will probably die.

In early winter, semi-hardwood cuttings can be taken as described for the autumn period. As they are unlikely to root until spring they must also be kept at a minimum temperature of 7?c (45?fah). Depending on the temperature maintained, in late winter young cuttings of new growth become available, and these are treated in the same manner as spring cuttings.

One of the most important principles involved in plant propagation is to take cuttings only from the very best plants. The potential mother plants should be carefully selected for freedom from disease and for their vigour, quantity and quality of flower, and whether they are typical examples of the particular species or cultivar. The cuttings taken from such plants will perpetuate these desirable characteristics. It is a mistake to raise a number of plants for display or exhibition and to use the misshapen failures for propagation. This will probably reduce the quality of next season's specimens and cause a gradual decline in the quality of the collection.

After the cuttings have been selected and prepared as described, they are ready for planting. As soon as they have been inserted they should be thoroughly watered overhead with a fungicide containing benomyl or iprodione to prevent formation of botrytis (grey mould), which is encouraged by the close, humid conditions required for rooting. 


The choice of rooting medium is a matter of personal preference, but it is important to use a compost or other material which is specially formulated for the purpose, or results can be very disappointing. Ordinary potting composts usually contain a high level of fertilizer, which will inhibit good root formation in the early stages of growth. Soil-less seed sowing or cutting composts generally give best results, but John Innes cutting compost, if available, works well.

The cuttings can be planted a few inches apart in trays, or a smaller number can be planted round the edge of a pot. Small individual containers or partitioned trays in which single plants can be rooted have always been popular with commercial growers, and many are now available to the amateur. The advantage of the small individual containers is that the plants raised in them can be transplanted with the minimum of root disturbance, and they will grow away more quickly when potted on.

Cuttings can also be inserted in other materials such as vermiculite or perlite, which can either he used alone or mixed with an equal volume of moss peat. These materials contain no fertilizer at all, and it is vital that cuttings rooted in this way are moved into a normal potting compost as soon as possible to avoid a check in growth. 

The small, softwood cuttings available in the late winter and spring are often preferred as they tend to root very easily, but they also have a tendency to wilt, particularly in hot, dry weather. If this process occurs it will seriously impair the ability of the cutting to root, and it is of paramount importance to take all steps possible to prevent excessive wilting. In hot weather, plants intended for propagation should be kept well watered, and as soon as the cuttings are taken they should be dropped into a container partly filled with water. This will ensure that they do not deteriorate before being inserted into the rooting medium. 

Once the cuttings have been planted it is still necessary to take every precaution to prevent wilting, and in summer a minimum of a 50 per cent reduction in the light level will be required. They will also need to be enclosed in a propagating case or some sort of transparent or translucent tent to provide a close, humid atmosphere. Individual pots can be enclosed in polythene bags to provide the correct micro-climate around the cuttings. Do not forget to enclose a suitable label with each batch of plants. These special conditions apply mostly to spring and summer cuttings; the more woody cuttings taken in the late autumn and winter are generally given open greenhouse conditions from the start.

When the plants are well rooted they should be uncovered as soon as possible, but the shading must be retained for a few more days until they have become accustomed to the drier air. Cuttings that have rooted can, with a little practice, be recognized by their healthy, turgid appearance, which is quite different from the dull look of a cutting that has failed to root. Once the young plants arc fully rooted and are showing signs of new growth, they should be potted up before there is any check to growth, as this can seriously affect the future potential of the plant.

Although the use of a greenhouse or similar facility is desirable, it is still possible to propagate fuchsia plants entirely in the open. Semi-hardwood cuttings are best for this purpose; they can be found on outdoor plants in mid to late summer. The ideal cutting would be about 4 in from the tip to where it joins the main branch. This junction will probably be beginning to turn brown as the wood begins to mature. The cutting is torn off the main branch leaving a small heel at the base of the stem. A few of the lower leaves and any flower buds are removed, and the base of the cutting is dipped in hormone rooting powder and then either inserted directly in the open ground near the mother plant or placed in a small container that can be sited in a shady position elsewhere in the garden. The cuttings should be watered after they are planted and re-watered as necessary in dry weather. A number of such cuttings should be taken, as losses can be high.

The plants will be well rooted in autumn, and they can either be dug up and given winter protection under glass or, in the case of the hardy cultivars, can be heavily mulched with peat and allowed to remain in position until the spring. When new growth appears the young plants can be carefully removed and replanted into their final position.

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Last modified: October 09, 2003 14:31:14


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