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Taking cuttings

August 2012

Supplemental Article to this month's Gardener's Diary

Winter jasmineTaking cuttings of shrubs and some tender perennial plants is an easy and satisfying way of increasing stock for yourself or friends and family. It also ensures a safe supply of any favourite tender perennials that may succumb to our unpredictable winters. I take cuttings of certain plants every year just because I enjoy doing so, and they always get given away if I don`t need them.

Taking cuttings from various types of plants and shrubs is a huge subject which can fill about twelve pages if covered fully, but here I shall be explaining only the very basics - enough for you to be able to experiment with your own plants.


Types of cuttings.

  • Tip cuttings are the most popular type of cuttings from both deciduous and evergreen plants during the growing season.
  • Simple or straight cuttings from long, one year old shoots can be cut into sections. Handy for propagating dormant deciduous plants.
  • Heel cuttings are made from side shoots produced on stems two or more years old.
  • Mallet cuttings are similar to heel cuttings but include a complete cross-section of the older, main stem at the base of the side shoot.

Factors that affect rooting.

  • Time of year may affect the rooting process. Always check when the best time is for the particular plants being propagated
  • Age of the stock or parent plant may be an important factor, as too old or woody plants won`t make good cuttings.
  • Physical condition of the stock or parent plant will affect the rooting process: it must be in peak condition with no infestation or disease.
  • Wounding the basal end of the cutting often stimulates the rooting of certain evergreens.
  • The type of rooting medium used will determine strength of cuttings and quality of the root system produced.

Successful cuttings require:-

  • Water is necessary for cuttings to thrive as they have no root systems to absorb water, yet water loss continues through leaves.
  • Light is important in rooting leafy cuttings. (Hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants often root best in the dark)
  • Temperature control. Most leafy cuttings do well at a temperature of around 65 degrees F. Cuttings need to be kept out of strong sunlight until they have rooted as they will quickly wilt.
  • Rooting hormone helps some types of cuttings to form a new root system.

Procedures for taking cuttings.

Evergreen and leafy deciduous cuttings should be taken during the coolest part of the day and prepared straight away. First check it is the best time of year for the particular plants you wish to propagate. Plant up a medium size flower pot with potting compost which is suitable for cuttings and seedlings etc. With a sharp knife take a portion of stem up to 6 inches long from the parent plant, then remove the lower leaves cleanly. Remove any flower buds and generally clean up the cutting, ensuring the base has a clean cut. Then dip the bottom half inch of the cutting into rooting hormone which may either be powder, liquid or gel. Using a dibber make a hole in the potted up compost, insert the cutting near the edge of the pot, and finally firm the compost gently around the cutting. You will get about five cuttings per pot. Water thoroughly, making sure it then drains away and finally enclose the cuttings in a polythene bag and putting in a cool place for a few days.

Hardwood cuttings from deciduous plants need, in some ways, less attention. Many types are easily propagated and can be planted straight into the ground in the Autumn or Spring. Follow the procedure for taking evergreen and leafy deciduous cuttings as above, but instead of potting them up in a flower pot, put them straight into the ground, and by the Spring they will have rooted nicely and can be transferred to their permanent positions. Types that are more difficult to propagate can be potted up and overwintered under cover, either in a coldframe or greenhouse. When you next do some pruning, instead of throwing the bits away, try sticking some in the ground to see if they will take root.

Certain shrubs layer themselves, and you can bury some of their lower branches in the soil and peg them down. This works very well with the following shrubs which are just a few that will readily layer themselves. Why not give it a try, you will have nothing to lose:-

  • Dogwoods
  • Viburnum
  • Senecio
  • Rhododendron
  • Azalea
  • Forsythia
  • Ceanothus
  • Hebe
  • Jasmine
  • Laurel
  • Escallonia
  • Lonicera Baggesons Gold


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