How to Take Summer Cuttings

Jo.Baker
Published on July 4th 2020
175
A person potting up a rose cutting.
Sharpen your secateurs and read on for our top tips on taking summer cuttings.
For many of us, the arrival of sunny weather presents a window of opportunity for multiplying our plants and the easiest way to do this is to take summer cuttings. During this crossover period, seed sowing slows down and gardeners are on the lookout for firm, healthy shoots.
The best time to take cuttings from plants depends on where you live, but as a general rule, you can take softwood cuttings from mid-spring to early summer and 'semi ripe' cuttings in late summer.
If the idea of taking summer cuttings leaves you stumped, don't despair.
This propagation method is a simple way to bulk up your plant collection for free and there are many plants that are particularly good to take summer cuttings from at this time of year, including Buddleia, Roses and Fuschias. You can find many of these popular plants on the Candide Marketplace today.
In this 'how to' video Helen Lockwood teaches you how to propagate some well known and lesser-known houseplants via cuttings, including a step by step guide to taking Aeonium cuttings in summer.

What are semi ripe cuttings?

As temperatures heat up, this year's new growth starts to develop woody tissue at the base. This hardening is the plant's way of preparing for winter and ensuring it is strong enough to carry next year's new growth. In this moment, the tips of these shots are still nimble but can no longer be described as softwood. The state just before the whole shoot has hardened can be described as being semi ripe. You can root your semi ripe summer cuttings in perlite, vermiculite, sand or use a free-draining cutting compost.
A close up of semi-ripe Hebe cuttings, one prepared ready to be planted.
Hebe cuttings, one of which has had its lower leaves removed ready for planting. Photo by Neil Bell

How to take semi ripe cuttings

There are four different ways to take semi ripe cuttings.

Basic summer cuttings

This is the same process that you would use with softwood cuttings. This entails cutting the stem just below a leaf joint to give a cutting between 10 and 15cm (4-6") long. Remove the lower leaves and pinch out the tip before placing your cutting in a container of free-draining cutting compost.
Check out our "How To" guide on softwood cuttings for more details.

Heel summer cuttings

You can take heel cuttings by taking a shoot from the parent plant with a small amount of the stem still attached. This heel will contain higher levels of 'auxins' - growth hormones that speed up the development of roots. This method is typically used for older plants or plants with pithy centres, such as elder.

Basal summer cuttings

For these cuttings, the shoot is cut away at the very base of the plant - through the slight swelling where the shoot has emerged from the stem. Generally used on lupins and delphiniums in late spring to take cuttings from the crown at ground level. Basal cuttings can also be applied to plants such as Broom.

Mallet summer cuttings

Mallet cuttings involve trimming older stems back to new side shoots, leaving only a small amount of older stem left on either side. More frequently used as a hardwood cutting method, semi-ripe cuttings with Mahonia leaves respond well.
2 croquet mallets and balls lying on the grass next to a croquet hoop
The mallet cutting method was so named because the trimmed shoot with two small sections of older stem either side resembles a mallet.
For in-depth guides on root cuttings and hardwood cuttings see below:

General tips for taking successful plant cuttings

  • To ensure your summer cuttings have the best chance of survival, you need to have healthy, strong shoots.
Always check the plant you're planning to take plant cuttings from. Is it healthy and undamaged? You don't want to spend ages growing on a young plant, only for it to perish from inherited disease. Make sure to also check for pests before taking any plant cuttings.
  • Use clean, sharp tools and take cuttings in the early morning.
Stems will contain more fluid in the morning and won't wilt so quickly. If you can't plant them straight away, place them in a sealed container to stop them losing too much moisture.
  • Trim the leaves of large-leaved plants in half to reduce water loss.
A field of Buxus plants clipped into ball shapes
Box can easily be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings. But make sure to remove any fallen leaves straight away to reduce the possibility of disease
  • Use a cloche, small low polytunnel or shade netting.
The advantage of summer cuttings is that we don't have to provide any additional heat for the roots to develop. In fact, hardy shrubs can be rooted directly into the soil, provided they have protection from drying winds and scorching sunlight. If doing this, protect your cuttings with a small polytunnel or netting. The downside is these cuttings can take longer to root and may not be ready to move until the following spring. If rooting in pots, remember to harden off your cuttings before potting them on.
  • Watch out for fungal moulds and rots, especially if you have more then one cutting in a pot or container.
A rubber tree cutting in a pot of compost.
At the first sign of any problem, remove any diseased cuttings and provide proper ventilation. This will help to reduce any excess moisture and hopefully prevent any further losses.

Best plants to take cuttings from

These are just a few of the many plants that can be successfully propagated via summer cuttings and are a perfect excuse to make the most of the sunny weather. For a slightly extended list, check out our 'Plants for Summer Cuttings' collection.
Perennials perfect for summer cuttings
Shrubs ideal for summer cuttings
Climbers perfect for summer cuttings
Herbs ripe for summer cuttings
If you've something in your garden (or a friend's or relative's) that you like and want to propagate, why not try your hand at gathering some summer cuttings?
Nature doesn't stick to the rules, and many plants survive when the books say they shouldn't. In my experience, I've either had loads of spares to rehome or lost everything. But, the point is I'll always give it a go, and you should too!
On the search for a specific plant you'd like to propagate? Browse a huge variety of plants from verified independent sellers and nurseries on the Candide Marketplace today.

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