The easy way to propagate plants in your garden
If you have a favourite plant or two that you’d like to re-plant elsewhere in your garden, you don’t need to splash out on seeds or young plants – by taking plant cuttings now, you can easily propagate new plants from your own stock. Hydrangeas, lavender, philadelphus and forsythia are plants that tend to root from cuttings particularly well, and all you need are some items most beginner gardeners will have around the home.
Cuttings taken effectively at the right time should root well in potting compost with very little effort, but it’s a good idea to take several cuttings from your favourite plant just in case. There are two times of year where you can do this: cuttings taken in the springtime (known as softwood cuttings) will root well in time for summer, and late summer cuttings (semi-ripe) can be overwintered indoors to plant out next spring.
Here, we’ll be looking at the method for taking semi-ripe cuttings. This describes cuttings from this season’s growth, where the base of the cutting is hard and woody but the tip is still soft and fresh. There are a huge range of garden plants that will root from semi-ripe cuttings – climbing ivy and passion flower, box, laurel and holly, bay, lavender, rosemary and sage… the list goes on!
It’s worth noting that the technique for taking softwood and semi-ripe cuttings are pretty much identical, so don’t worry about learning loads of new skills! The main difference is that semi-ripe cuttings are woodier, so generally take a bit longer to root. Here’s how to get going:
Taking semi-ripe cuttings
- Select non-flowering shoots that look young and vigorous, with a good growth aspect and not too much stem space between leaves.
- Giving yourself a cutting of between 15 and 20cm, cut at a horizontal angle with clean, sharp secateurs.
- Next, trim the cuttings just underneath where a leaf meets the stem, leaving about half an inch of darker, woodier looking stem at the base. The ideal length for your prepared cutting is between 10 and 15cm.
- You can now trim off any lower leaves and thorns, leaving a bare stem that can be planted on.
- Dip the base of the cutting in hormone rooting powder, making sure that the cut is totally covered, and shake off any excess.
- Fill suitably-sized pots (about 10cm is usually about right) with a 50/50 mixture of perlite and potting compost, and plant the cuttings. Water in well and leave to drain.
- Cover your pots with plastic bags (sandwich bags are ideal), secured with an elastic band, and place in a warm, dry area out of direct sunlight. This will keep them warm and moist.
- Shake out the plastic bags every few days to avoid the cuttings getting too damp, but make sure the compost remains well watered.
- Rooting should occur in 3-4 weeks: when the whole pot is filled with roots that are visible from the base, the cuttings are ready to plant out again.
Taking cuttings from your garden is a thrifty and rewarding way to propagate your own plants. It’s a great feeling to see new, healthy plants grow forth from cuttings you’ve lovingly nurtured. I’d love to know how you find this process! Let me know over on Twitter or Facebook.