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Propagate Plants


  • 1.
    Soft tips of plants about 4 -5 cm long. These may include perennials, shrubs and indoor plants.
  • 2.
    Compost that is suitable for cuttings. A mixture made from half sand and half coir, is ideal. (Coir is now available in briquettes from the IPCC, see instructions on label).
  • 3.
    Trays and pots
  • 4.
    A sharp knife or blade. Craft knives are useful for this purpose.
  • 5.
    Plastic shopping bags.
  • 6.
    Coat hangers or short bamboo canes.
  • 7.
    Jeyes fluid or methylated spirits.
  • 8.
    Rooting powder. (Optional)
  • 9.

The Cuttings

Try everything! Most plants can be propagated by this method. Easy ones are tradescantia, pelargonium, box, hebe, honeysuckle and euonymus. Experiment too with your favourite wild plants. If the cuttings are not going to be used immediately, put them into a plastic bag to conserve moisture. Tie the top of the bag securely so that no air gets in. The longer you leave the cuttings like this however, the less the chances of success.

A Final Task

Fill small containers, such as yoghurt cartons which have drainage holes with potting compost. Water well and leave for a while to drain. Make a hole in the compost with a pencil. Hold a cutting by the leaves and insert it in the compost. Firm it in gently and leave it in a warm place out of the way of direct sunshine. Make sure to label each one.


Node A knuckle on the stem where side shoots join it. Heel Cutting A side shoot that is pulled off the stem of a parent plant with tissue at the end resembling a heel.

Shopping Guide

Peat Free Gro Brics can be purchased from the IPCC (Irish Peatland Conservation Council) at 119 Capel Street , Dublin. Ph: 8722397 or can be ordered through their email address:
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Rooted Cutting

How to
Propagate Plants
from Softwood Cuttings

This project is supported by the Department of the Environment Environmental Partnership Fund.
May and June are suitable months for taking softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings are taken from the tips of young shoots. They root very easily and can be potted on, before the school holidays. The plants may be given to children to look after during the holidays or taken home by green-fingered parents or teachers. They will be ideal, for an autumn plant sale to raise money for school funds. Parents invariably like to buy plants that have been raised by their own children.


  • 1.
    Mix the sand and coir, in equal parts, thoroughly. Children love doing this activity.
  • 2.
    Fill a tray, almost to the top, with this mixture. Leave about 1 cm free at the top for watering purposes.
  • 3.
    Water well and allow to soak for about five minutes.
  • 4.
    Use a sharp, clean blade and cut a soft stem, about 10 cm long, off a healthy parent plant. Trim this to about 4-5 cm long. Make sure to cut immediately below a node. A node is a joint where two leaves grow.
  • 5.
    Take a heel cutting by pulling off a side shoot, leaving a piece of the parent plant attached. Trim the scraggly bits at the end.
  • 6.
    Cut off the lower leaves. If this isn't done, these leaves may touch the compost and rot, or cause a fungus to spread and destroy the cuttings.
  • 7.
    Put some rooting powder into a lid, if using, and insert the end of the cutting in the powder. Shake off excess powder.
  • 8.
    Make a hole in the compost with a pencil.
  • 9.
    Pinch out the tips of the cuttings and insert them to about one third of their length and firm them in well.
  • 10.
    Do not allow the leaves to touch.
  • 11.
    Label the cuttings.
  • 12.
    Use a coat hanger or short bamboo canes to make the support for a "tent" made with plastic shopping bags.
  • 13.
    Gently ease one bag over the support and then another from the opposite direction so that they overlap in the centre.
  • 14.
    Leave it in a warm indoor place that gets plenty of light.


Good hygiene is very important when taking cuttings. Poor hygiene management could destroy all your good work.
After all the cuttings from one plant have been inserted into trays, the cutting equipment should be disinfected with Jeyes Fluid or methylated spirits.
Dip a tissue or clean cloth into the disinfectant and clean the blade or knife.
This will prevent any diseases or viruses from spreading from one plant to another. A parent plant may look healthy but one cannot be sure from an external examination.
Plants should never be dipped into a container of rooting powder as this is a very wasteful exercise. The whole container would have to be discarded after all the cuttings were taken. It is much more economical to empty some powder onto a lid as you need it. Discard any powder that remains on the lid, after the work is done.
NB All composts, disinfectants and used rooting powder should be discarded after the job is completed.

After Care

Every now and then check the cuttings for signs of wilt or fungus. Remove any cuttings that are affected.

The Great Moment.........

After about three to four weeks the cuttings should have rooted. A gentle tug at the leaves will confirm this. If there is some resistance the operation has been a success. There is a great feeling of satisfaction when this moment arrives.

node cutting

Heel Cutting

Text:Patrick Madden
Illustrations:Eileen Fleming
Editor / Photographs:Marian Rollins
Web Page Design:Taran Pyper 2013

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