First steps in taking plant cuttings
Following on from my seed collecting a few weeks ago, I’ve been out in the garden again, trying out some methods in plant propagation through cuttings. I’ll confess: I have never done this before! Propagating plants from cuttings has always seemed like a fine art; something you graduated to after many years’ hard labour in the garden. How wrong I was – a little research online showed that producing new plants from cuttings is one of the most reliable, easy, and inexpensive ways to multiply the number of plants in your garden. It also has the added advantage that it allows you to produce plants from those that you are finding it difficult to grow from seed.
So I have turned my hand to a few of the plants growing in my garden, I think I did an alright job! Read on to find out what I did.
The BBC Gardeners’ World website has a fantastic section on propagating plants through taking cuttings, collecting seeds and dividing plants. I would highly recommend having a look there, and the expert advice has been invaluable in helping me to develop my gardening skills. You can access that part of the website by clicking here.
With all of these methods, you should use a clean, sharp knife or clean secateurs. For soil, it's fine to use regular garden compost or soil, but special potting compost can be purchased. You can also buy rooting hormone to help encourage the cuttings to develop roots. Again, this isn’t essential, but can help.
The first plant I attempted was rosemary. Rosemary is a wonderfully useful culinary herb, and the flowers are a great source of food for bumblebees in spring and early summer. The method of taking cuttings was straightforward too. Simply find any stem without flowers, and which are this year’s growth. First cut a length of stem about 10cm long, then remove all of the leaves that are on the lower half of the stem, so that you have a clean length of stem. At this stage, you can dip the bottom of the shoot in rooting hormone, if you are using it. Then simply push the bottom of the stem into the soil, so that about 1/3 of the length of the stem is in the soil. You can put several stems in one pot, as you can see from my crowded example here!
Now on to the next one!
The process for lavender was similar to that for rosemary, because both are fairly woody plants with strong stems. Find a stem without flowers (side-shoots are the best) and simply pull it downwards, so that it separates from the main stem. Remove the leaves on the lower part, and pop into the soil. I have used two varieties of lavender for my cuttings, so let’s see how each variety performs.
I then used another, slightly different method for taking cuttings of campanula and verbena. This method is called taking basal cuttings, and involves taking a stem from the plan which is close to the roots. To show me how to do it, I watched this video from BBC Gardeners’ World. I found it a little difficult to find a suitable stem on my campanula plant, as it was quite densely clumped. But I was able to get a few stems that were growing around the perimeter of the plant, As you can see from the photo, the stems I cut off already had a few roots growing, so hopefully that helps the cutting take root.
After taking and planting the cuttings, you should cover the pot and cuttings with a clear polythene bag (sandwich bags are perfect!) after you have planted the cuttings. They should be stored away from frost, preferably indoors. Keep the soil moist, and roots should have fully formed after eight weeks, after which you can put the cuttings into larger pots.
I’ve now put all of my cuttings indoors, so I’ll be updating this blog with their progress and anything I learn along the way. I’ll be planting my containers of bulbs this weekend, weather permitting!