Cuttings of several kinds of desirable ornamental plants can be rooted easily at this time of year, including roses, evergreen azaleas, forsythia, English ivy, ligustrum, mock orange and viburnum.
New growth (this year's), called softwood cutting, is used for cuttings. Cut a four-to-six-inch piece from the tip end of a branch (provided there is that much new growth), or in some cases, a little less.
They are suitable for rooting if they snap like a fresh stringbean when bent nearly double. If they are soft and rubbery and bend instead of snapping, they are not quite ready and may rot before rooting. Wait about a week and try again.
On the other hand, do not use old wood. You can distinguish it by its color, and it is woody and hard. It takes too long for roots to develop on old wood, and a cutting can live only a limited time without roots, which is why it is almost impossible to root a branch that has been broken or cut off a shrub.
Early morning is the best time to take the cuttings. Take them with a sharp knife. Remove the lower leaves, leaving only two or three at the top, and put the cutting immediately between moist newspaper or in a moist plastic bag to keep it from drying out. If a cutting wilts, it may never root.
It is a good idea to use a root-inducing substance such as Hormodin No. 1 or Rootone. Follow label directions for use. These materials, available at large garden centers, lessen the time required for rooting and stimulate root development. The power (talc) form is preferred.
Use a six-inch pot to root the cuttings. It should take six to eight cuttings. Good drainage is essential. Use a mixture of one-half peat moss and one-half plaster grade sand.
Cuttings should be planted about one-third of their length in the medium. Plant them just far enough apart so they will not touch each other. All leaves should receive light.
After inserting the cuttings, water thoroughly. Enclose the pot and cuttings in a plastic bag. Use wire supports to keep the plastic from touching the cuttings. Seal the plastic bag to prevent escape of moisture from it. They may not need watering again.
Put the potted cuttings where they will get good light but no sunlight. Cuttings should root in eight to 10 weeks.
Before transplanting, condition the cuttings to the outside world by opening the plastic bag for longer periods each day for about a week. During this period water often enough to keep the cuttings from drying out.