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There are two main types of stem cuttings:

Softwood cuttings (leafed cuttings) are young soft succulent cuttings with leaves (sometimes pruned).

Hardwood cuttings are made of matured, dormant hardwood after the leaves have been shed. Tip cuttings possess terminal buds; basal cuttings are without terminal buds.

Some general characteristics of the two types are mentioned below:

Softwood cuttingsHardwood cuttings
Leaves on the lower part removed, those on the upper part retained and often pruned.All leaves are shed.
Young branchlets. Always tip cuttings. Best cuttings have some degree of flexibility but, is mature enough to break when bent sharply.Young branches. Central and basal parts of the shoots (basal cuttings), or end of the shoots (tip cuttings).
75–125 mm long with two or more nodes.10–75 cm long with at least two nodes. 6–25 mm diameter.
Basal cut made just below a node.Basal cut made just below a node. In basal cuttings the top cut is made 15–25 mm above the node.

The cuttings can sometimes be reduced to consist of only a small piece of stem with a single leaf and an axillary bud attached, i.e. a single node. Such cuttings are called nodal cuttings. They are especially useful when the cutting material is scarce.

Softwood cuttings
Branch indicating places to select hardwood cuttings.Four types of hardwood cuttings: a – c: Basal cuttings (a: “mallet”, b: “heel”, c: “straight”); d: Tip cutting

Note: There is a strong polarity in cuttings. When rooting hardwood cuttings, care should be taken not to plant the cuttings upside down. When it is difficult to distinguish between the top (distal end) and the base (proximal end), it is advisable to make one of the cuts a slant.

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