Stem cuttings

The easiest and least expensive way of propogating many plants is from cuttings, and the time for doing this is nigh (April to June, depending on where you are). Many make it seem complicated, but it’s really quite simple. You taking a piece of this year’s succulent new growth, snip it off, and root it in a moist environment. Vegetative cuttings – as from coleous, impatiens, and geraniums – are done the same as for softwood cuttings – azeleas, lilacs, and the like.

            I mean why buy lilacs, forsythia and such when you can ask your neighbor for a few samples of theirs? And cuttings are clones, in effect: what they had, you get. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano and many others also work.

            Find a terminal branch and cut about 3-6 inches of its end off with sharp scissors or clippers. Cut the wood cleanly, at a steep angle, so much surface is exposed on the bottom. Bring it (or them; it’s good to hedge your bets) home in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel so they won’t dry out. Then all you need is pots and any good potting mix. Strip all leaves from the lower end of the cutting, leaving only one or two small ones on the top. Remove any flower or bud that is present. This is to keep the cutting from losing more moisture and energy through leaves and buds than it can absorb through the newly-cut end.

            Stick a pencil into the pot to make a hole, dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone (or willow water; coming up next), insert the cutting in the pencil hole, snug soil around, water the pot, and put something over it to keep moisture in. A milk jug with its bottom removed is perfect. Or those plastic flats with a clear top also work. Keep the cuttings out of direct sun until they root.

            And that’s it. Roots should appear in less than a month, often faster. You’ll know they’re there when you tug gently on the cutting and it doesn’t give. Then just harden off and plant.

Day at the beach.

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About lifegrower

Peter V. Fossel has been gardening since he was nine, and has been an organic farmer for the last 20 years. His most recent book, “Organic Farming, Everything You Need to know” was published by Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, 2007. He’s written numerous gardening articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Country Journal, Out Here, and American Profile among others. He was Gardens Manager for The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee before returning to Cape Cod to start his newest organic venture, Swan River Farm in Dennisport, MA.
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2 Responses to Stem cuttings

  1. Carol says:

    Thanks, Peter! I’m going to try this with my lilac bush this weekend!
    — Carol

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