It’s an easy and interesting way to propagate
It’s that time of year when many of your plants are in their dormant stage, overwintering in the ground nicely before waking up to produce a spectacular display next year. While they’re at this stage, you can be propagating them by taking root cuttings, an easy and interesting job to carry out. Basically, lots of plants are very willing to regrow from cuttings taken from various parts of their anatomy, and acanthus, Oriental poppies, phlox and verbascum are just some of the flowers that respond really well to this root method. This is because their roots are particularly fleshy and robust.
But why take root cuttings now instead of by other means? This is because they’re low maintenance. You simply need to place your cuttings in a cold frame and kept lightly moist until spring. Also, being propagated straight from the root means new plants grown from these cuttings will be extra strong and vigorous – just be sure you initially choose a healthy plant’s roots to start with. Not to mention that cuttings taken now frees you up during the rest of the year to get on with all those other garden jobs that need doing. Next spring, be sure to pot up your well-rooted cuttings, grow them on and then plant out the year after.
Snip away now to get more plants for free next year
A good way of propagating fuchsias at this time of year is by taking semi-ripe cuttings. It’s an easy way of creating new plants for free and you won’t need anything special to do it with, just a sharp knife, some pots and good compost. Follow the steps below and then place your trays or pots of cuttings in a greenhouse, making sure they’re warm and in a bright position. Keep compost damp but not overly moist, as too much water means fungal infections are more likely. Get rid of any wilted or clearly unhealthy cuttings as soon as possible to prevent infection spreading. If you’re taking cuttings a bit later in the year, into autumn, they may need some bottom heat in the form of heat mats. Summer cuttings taken now should be fine though. Give it a few weeks and you’ll be able to tell if your cuttings are working well. They’ll look healthy and green, not wilting, and as if they’re growing a little. This is a good sign that roots have formed well. Leave your new plants to harden off in an unheated greenhouse before potting them on in spring.
1 Pick a fresh, healthy-looking, non-flowering shoot from this year’s growth.
2 Remove all the lower leaves with a sharp knife, leaving just the top ones.
3 Trim just below a leaf node and cut top new leaf growth off, so there are two leaves left.
4 Dip in hormone powder and add to pots of good cuttings compost. Water well.
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They’re particularly useful for propagating mahonia
It’s key semi-ripe cutting time, but there’s more than one form of this useful propagation technique. A mallet cutting is slightly more unusual, but worth knowing about. It’s particularly useful for mahonia, but can be used for any shrub. These cuttings are essentially new sideshoots with a piece of older, woodier stem attached and, if held upside down, looks like a little mallet. With plants that have opposite buds, there will be two shoots protruding from each ‘mallet’ section. In this case, the mallet can be split down the middle to create two cuttings. Once prepared, place your cuttings somewhere warm and bright, but out of direct sun. A shaded greenhouse is ideal, or a bright windowsill that doesn’t get hot, midday sun.
How to take your cuttings
1. Find sections of healthy stem (here pictured on a mahonia) with woody, hard growth and new sideshoots that are green. Cut down to a leaf node so regrowth is neat and healthy.
2. Trim the stem down to a short 1cm (½in) section, with the shoot in the middle. Trim off all the leaves except the top two or three. If leaves are large, snip them in half to reduce moisture loss.
3. Dip each mallet cutting in hormone rooting powder and plunge each one, mallet side down, into a gritty mix of cuttings compost. Water well and cover with a plastic bag.
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