By Mark Hoskins, Nursery Supervisor at Thorngrove
At Thorngrove Garden Centre at the moment, we’re busy taking cuttings to build up our stock for next year and this is something you can easily do yourself at home.
It’s a great way to save tender plants over the winter, keep an old favourite if you’re moving house, or share plants with your family and friends.
The first step is to select the right type of plant material to use as your cutting. The type of cuttings we’ll be doing are called semi-ripe, which means the tip of the cutting is soft and flexible but the base is woody.
A huge range of shrubs can be propagated this way: deciduous varieties like Philadelphus, Deutzia and Weigela can be taken from July through September, while evergreens like Hebes and Cistus are best done from September through November. The plants shown in the photos are Abutilons, a lovely tender shrub, great for containers on the patio.
Having chosen the plant you want to propagate, the next step is to gather your cuttings. Always choose healthy, vigorous shoots – ideally with no flowers – but if you can’t find any non-flowering shoots, remove any buds or flowers. The main enemy, when taking cuttings, is drying out. As soon as the cutting is taken, it starts to lose water, so gather them into a plastic bag with a little water inside, and seal the cuttings in it as soon as they’re taken.
You can use secateurs or sharp scissors to take your cuttings. Always cut just above a bud or leaf , so you don’t leave a stump on the parent plant, and aim to make your cuttings about 10 to 15cms long (4 to 6ins). Always take a few more than you need as you may get failures, but if they all grow, they’re great to swap with fellow gardeners.
Now you have your basic cutting material you’re ready to take them to your shed to trim up. Using a good sharp garden knife, cut the cutting just below a node (the point where a leaf joins the stem). Next, trim off most of the lower leaves; again, to help prevent drying out, just leave three or four leaves at the top of the cutting.
With large- leaved plants like Hydrangeas, you can even cut the leaves in half. It’s important to keep your cuts as neat and clean as possible, so always use a really sharp knife or scissors.
You’re now ready to plant your cuttings: use a wide, shallow pot, and for compost use a good multi-purpose compost, mixed 50-50 with either Perlite, Vermiculite, or sharp sand (not builders’ sand). Make sure the compost is firmed down in the pot and well-watered, make holes around the perimeter of the pot with a cane or pencil, then plant the cuttings to about two thirds of their depth, and firm them in well.
Seal the pot and cuttings in a polythene bag (a clean food bag will do) and place in a cool shady place. Check now and again to make sure they’re not drying out, and in four to six weeks your cutting should be rooted. When you can see roots growing from the bottom of the pot they’re ready to pot up.
Take them out of the pot, carefully tease them apart, and pot them in small pots to over- winter. Pot them on again in the spring when they start to grow, and by Summer you’ll have some lovely new plants ready to plant out.