How to take cuttings – with expert tips from Monty Don

Discover how to take cuttings and you can get new plants free – and now’s the time to do it

How to take cuttings
(Image credit: Squire's Garden Centres)

Learn how to take cuttings and you can fill your beds and borders without having to shop for seeds. It means you can get more of the plants you know grow happily in your garden, and that are particular favourites. You’ll also save yourself the puzzle of identifying plants that arises when you’re buying because you’ll already be sure of what a particular rose, for example, looks like.

Taking cuttings may sound like a potentially tricky garden task, but it really isn’t hard to do. What’s more, right now is the moment to get cracking, so take the opportunity to get more gorgeousness in your garden, and with no spend at all needed. For more garden ideas, check out our dedicated page. 

How to take cuttings

September is ideal for taking cuttings. Do the job now and you’ll be taking what’s called semi-ripe cuttings. Why semi-ripe? They’ll be woody at the base and soft at the tip. The woody base means the possibility of rot is less of an issue but the plant should root and grow successfully.

Method:

1. Look for healthy plants, and select a fresh and healthy shoot to cut. Make sure you avoid those that have flowers or their buds. 

2. Using secateurs that are sharp and clean or a sharp knife, cut off a shoot that’s around 10cm in length. The base will be firmer, while the top will be softer.

3. Pot up your cuttings straightaway. They’ll require a well-drained sandy or gritty compost in a pot or tray. Cuttings can share a container, but space them out so the leaves aren’t in contact with one another.

4. To prepare the cuttings, take the stems one at a time and trim off the soft tip. Then trim just underneath a leaf node at the base. The cutting should now be around 8cm in length. Remove the side leaves including any that are very new and small, but leave some leaves at the top.

5. Put each stem into the compost to around half of its depth. 

6. You can grow the cuttings in a propagator if you have one, but they could also be kept on a windowsill indoors. Once they start to grow, cuttings sharing a container should be potted on individually. Plant out in spring.

Monty Don’s tips for taking cuttings

Monty Don gave his advice on how to take cuttings on his website, and we’re sharing his top tips. 

Rosemary-flanked path Monty Don

A photo posted by @themontydon on Jul 21, 2020 at 6:04am PDT

1. As well as secateurs and a sharp knife, Monty advises adding a plastic bag to your kit. Once you’ve taken a cutting you can put it into the bag which will minimise moisture loss, he says.

2. The best time of day to take cuttings? The morning, Monty says, because the plant is full of moisture. However, this isn’t essential so don’t worry if this doesn’t suit your timetable.

3. Monty advises that plants like rosemary can root successfully from side shoots peeled from the main stem, but his preference is for taking those with the growing tip intact.

4. When it comes to judging how much foliage to leave on the cutting, Monty’s tip is to leave an inch or less – we’re talking less than 2.5cm, if you think in metric.

5. Avoid putting your cuttings on a south-facing windowsill, Monty says, as the result could be scorching. But somewhere warm and bright is essential. As for care, he advises watering well then keeping them moist with a daily misting after that.

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