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Propagate Your Favourite Plants By Taking Cuttings

Published: 27th September, 2017

taking cuttings to propagate plantsSeptember/October is the ideal time to take cuttings from your favourite strains of tender perennials to increase your stock for next spring or to make sure they live on if the parent plants do not survive the winter. There are a large number of plants that can be propagated from cuttings; Examples include Pelargoniums, Fuschias, Begonia, Hydrangea, Boxwood, Lavender, Chrysanthemum and Gardenia.

You will need a healthy mother plant from which to take the cuttings, clean sharp secateurs, a small plant pot or tray filled with compost and sharp sand, a polythene bag and a label and pencil with which to mark up your completed cuttings.

Begin by watering the compost so it is slightly damp. Cut off a fresh healthy, non-flowering side shoot from the mother plant just below the first set of leaves on that shoot. Don’t take a long cutting – the healthiest part is always near the growing tip so short cuttings are best. Remove the lower leaves, including any tiny, new ones. Then make another clean cut just below that exposed leaf nodule. This is where a lot of growth hormones are contained and is therefore the best place for the new roots to grow from. If it is a particularly leafy shoot remove a few more leaves to reduce the stress on the cutting. Excess leaves will just sap the plants energy. You must leave some leaves on however, or the cutting will not be able to breathe at all! If the only leaves you have are very large, then just cut them in half.

Many plants will form roots without rooting hormone, but the use of a rooting hormone increases the chance that the new plant will thrive. Before putting the plant into the compost, pour a little rooting hormone out of the container, moisten the end of the cutting and dip or roll the bottom few inches in the rooting powder. Do not dip the cutting directly into the rooting hormone container. Don’t apply the powder any higher than the planting depth. Shake the excess powder off by lightly tapping the cutting against the edge of the container.

Using the pencil upside down make a hole in the compost, alongside the side of the pot where the roots will find it easier to grow. Slip the cutting into the hole and gently firm the compost around it. You can fit several cuttings into one container, but space them so that the leaves do not touch one another. Mark up your cuttings by writing the name of the plant and the date you took it on the label and insert it into the compost alongside the cutting.

Place the polythene bag over the pot and this acts as a mini propagator, helping to prevent too much evaporation and keeping the moisture in the pot which will encourage the new cutting to grow. Take the bag off to let in air if it looks too humid inside, and don’t let the bag touch any leaves or they will just rot. In the case of geraniums, they are best left open to the air but keep them moist and warm. Covered geraniums are very prone to rotting.

Once the roots have taken you can remove the plastic bag and the new plants will survive just fine. Don’t expect 100% success rate as some cuttings will always die. The best way to keep your successful cuttings healthy over the winter is to keep them on a windowsill indoors, but they should also survive in an unheated greenhouse or porch if you keep the compost almost dry from October until late March.

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