This article was originally published on the web at myweb.tiscali.co.uk/fuchsias/ however that website is defunct at July 2013. The copyright remains with the original author.
Fuchsias - Soft Spring Cuttings
There are several methods of propagating fuchsias, like taking semi-ripe cuttings in late summer/autumn, hardwood cuttings in autumn/winter or sowing seeds. However, by far the most successful method is by making use of the natural growing cycle and using soft spring tip cuttings. At this time of the year vegetative growth is produced (as opposed to flowering shoots in summer) and the natural growth hormones are concentrated at the tops of the shoots.
The bare necessities to provide are warmth and moisture. Note it says warmth, not heat, and aim for a moist, not wet, rooting medium.
- Overwet compost will undoubtedly lead to botrytis and the whole tray browning off into a sickly mess.
- Too much heat accounts for the other most common cause of failure when attempting to root fuchsias cuttings, they'll just shrivel up completely.
- Cuttings can be rooted in water, moist vermiculite, moist oasis, 50% peat & 50% vermiculite/perlite, 50% potting compost & 50% vermiculite/perlite.
- If cuttings are potted on as soon as rooted the peat/vermiculite mix is fine,
- If you intend to leave the rooted cuttings a little while before potting then some nutrient is desirable and the compost/vermiculite mixture provides this.
- Cutting trays can be placed on a greenhouse bench, in a propagation unit on soil-warming cables or on an indoors window sill.
- Ideal rooting conditions are high humidity with shade.
- Keep out of direct sunlight to avoid wilting.
- Containers, trays or pots with clear lids
- Sharp clean knife/scissors/razor blade
- Labels & marking pen
- Rooting powder (optional)
- Rooting medium
- Strong growing, healthy mother plant
- Mix cutting medium and bring into warm greenhouse.
- Thoroughly wash and/or sterilise trays(or pots) and cutting implement you intend to use.
- Water plants you are going to take the cuttings from the day before to ensure shoots will be turgid. (The water in the shoots is all it has to keep it going till the formation of roots in 2-3 weeks time!).
- Ensure rooting compost is just moist, not wet. (Squeeze a little to test and adjust, adding water if dry, more dry vermiculite if wet). Fill trays to overfill, skim off surplus to level top.
- Give a gentle tap to settle. Do not firm. (roots need air too!).
- Take cuttings one by one or in very small batches only, to avoid them losing their turgidity and becoming limp. If wilted they will not recover.
- Choose a suitable shoot = strong growing, without flower buds, leaves of equal size, from symmetrical growing strong healthy plant (also look at small growth already present in leaf axils to see that these are even too).
- Select soft growing tip with one or two pairs of leaves. Cut cleanly just above a node (where leaves join the stem and new shoots spring from) on mother plant. This ensures you don't leave a short stem that could cause die-back and a source for disease to enter plant.
- Trim just below node and remove lower leaves. If large, also trim next set of leaves.
- Dip bottom in rooting powder if you like using it (not really necessary with soft spring tip cuttings), shake off excess.
- Insert cutting in rooting medium. I just push the cuttings gently into the compost. Not having been firmed it is light and fluffy so it is easily done without any damage being caused. (Other people recommend making a hole with a dibber and firming the compost around the base of the cuttings but I find this unnecessary.
- Botrytis is the big enemy, so ensure leaves are not lying directly on the compost, and that leaves of the cuttings are not touching each other.
- Label - you might think you'll remember, but believe me you do not!!
- Put cover on propagator.(I have vents half open if adjustable).
- Place on greenhouse bench with bottom heat at approx. 15-18°C (60-65°F) if possible, or indoors on north facing window sill preferably, otherwise shade with newspaper or netting.
- Ideal rooting conditions are high humidity with shade. Keep out of direct sunlight. Wilting must be avoided - it only takes half an hour or so to ruin your tray of cuttings, shrivelling them up and rendering them useless.
- Don't remove propagator tops. The moisture contained within the compost and the vapour from the plants transpiring will run inside the covering and be recycled again.
- However, do check, especially when on bottom heat during cold period when cables are nearly constantly on, that compost isn't drying out. Water from below if necessary.
- Cuttings will root in approx. 2-3 weeks at 18°C (65°F), 3-4 weeks at 15°C (60°F).
- It is obvious when they are rooted. They perk up, showing brighter, colour at growing tip.
- Increase ventilation gradually over the course of approximately a week, then remove cover.
- Wean off bottom heat after another week or two.
- When acclimatised on open bench pot up individually as required, or together as they were rooted for growing on the multi-pot way.