Do you love a particular shrub in your yard and wish you had more of it? Rooting cuttings is the one of the easiest and least expensive ways to reproduce plants that are exactly like the parent plant. The keys to success at propagating landscape plants by cuttings is to take the cuttings at the right time and to provide the right environmental conditions to promote root growth on the new plant before you plant it in the landscape. You can learn how to turn your favorite plant into multiples!
June and July are an excellent time of year to take softwood cuttings for rooting. Softwood cuttings are taken from new growth on woody plants from the tips that are still flexible and have not hardened into woody growth. Many plants can be propagated from softwood cuttings; some include camellias, azaleas, hollies, tea olive, boxwood, butterfly bush, crape myrtle, aucuba, gardenia, weigelia and vitex.
Paulding County Master Gardeners will host a Cutting Swap at their June 23 meeting at 10 a.m. at the Paulding County Extension Office. To share some of the beautiful plants in your yard and receive some new ones from Master Gardeners and other participants, prepare by taking cuttings 3-4 inches long with about 5 nodes above the cut. The nodes are the budlike growths at the base of the leaf (See figure), at the junctions where the stem and leaf connect. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle. The best time to collect cuttings is when it is cool outside in the morning. To protect your cuttings for their trip to the cutting swap, put them in a clean plastic bag, with a small amount of water and store the bag in a cool place—it would be best to transport them in a small cooler or insulated bag with a cool pack. If you have a picture of the plant you are sharing cuttings from, in flower, please print and bring it, so that the recipient may know what to expect from their new plant.
You can prepare for the cuttings you bring home by creating a container in which to root them. The container must drain well and be able to hold the rooting medium to a depth of 5 inches. In this container, put vermiculite or a mixture of vermiculite and sphagnum peat moss to a depth of about 5 inches and water the rooting medium so that it settles down in the container and holds its form when a pencil is pushed into it. Having rooting hormone on hand will speed up the rooting process if applied to the cuttings before inserting them into the rooting container.
Make sure you place your cutting in the rooting container in a shady spot. For each cutting, remove the lower two to four leaves. Leave one or two large leaves and a few small leaves around the growth bud on your cuttings. Using a pencil, make a hole in the damp rotting medium. If you use rooting hormone, dust the lower part of each cutting, just before you place the cutting into the hole and gently press the medium to the cutting to secure it. Plant one cutting in each hole. If you are rooting many cuttings, put them 1 to 2 inches apart in the container. Gently water the cutting and construct a small “hot house” using clear plastic (a Ziploc bag or drycleaners bag works well). Make sure the plastic stays at least 6 inches above the cuttings—you can prop it up with a pencil placed in the rooting medium.
Water the rooting container gently every day for two weeks. Keep the medium moist, but not wet. Remember that the “hot house” you have constructed helps contain the water, so you won’t need a lot. After two weeks, water every other day and after about six weeks, remove the clear plastic. Continue gently watering the cuttings every two or three days. At eight or nine weeks after the initial cutting begins rooting, it will be ready to be potted or planted directly in the ground. Be sure to treat the new plants with care for the first few months, watering them as needed.
For more information on your lawn and gardening questions, contact Paulding County UGA Cooperative Extension at 770-443-7616 or look for us online at www.ugaextension.com/paulding.