Softwood cuttings are made from soft, succulent new spring growth. The softwood condition lasts for several weeks in the spring and early summer. This is the most common form of cutting propagation for deciduous species especially deciduous shrubs.
Softwood cuttings generally root easier and quicker than other types of cuttings and for some difficult to root plants, this is the only commercial method used.
Softwood cuttings stress easily and are usually rooted under mist to prevent the succulent leaf tissue from drying out. Softwood cuttings are usually rooted in outdoor mist beds, but are also commonly rooted in greenhouse structures.
Depending on the species, softwood cuttings may respond to auxin application and usually root better with bottom heat if the medium is below 75°F.
Individual softwood cuttings are usually 3 to 5 inches long and the lower leaves are removed from the base of the cutting that is to be stuck into the medium.
Cuttings can be stuck into individual cells in a flat or directly into indoor or outdoor ground beds.
Commercial nurseries can stick many thousands of cuttings a week. Speed and efficiency are important as well as providing the proper environment for rooting. In some cases workers are paid an hourly wage, while some nurseries opt for piece work and pay workers based on the number of cuttings stuck per day.
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Softwood cuttings rooted in containers must either be planted to the field or over wintered in a protected structure. It is common for cuttings to be over wintered in poly houses with or without minimal heat.
The containers should be well-watered and protected from freezing. This can be a critical stage in the cutting propagation sequence, that can result in substantial losses unless handled properly.