Saturday, June 7, 2003

Share favorite plants via cuttings



If you want to increase your supply of a favorite plant - or obtain one you covet from a neighbor's garden - take cuttings.

Starting new plants from parts of established ones will save you money, and although seeds do not necessarily produce identical plants, rooted cuttings always produce the same characteristics as the parent.

Softwood stem cuttings are taken from semihard wood or from greenwood produced when the plant is actively growing in the spring or early summer; they root in a matter of weeks.

Suggested steps:

• Mix equal parts premoistened sand, peat moss and vermiculite. Fill pots, plastic trays or wooden flats and tamp down lightly by hand. Using a pencil, make holes 2 inches deep and 2 inches apart in the mixture.

• Take cuttings early in the day using a sharp knife or scissors. For herbaceous (non-woody) plants, cut a piece of side branch at least 3-5 inches long with two leaf buds.

• Strip the leaves off the lower third of the cutting. If the remaining leaves are quite large, cut back part of the leaf surface to lessen transpiration.

• Dip 1/2 inch of the cut stem into water, then into hormone powder. Shake off any excess powder.

• Insert the cuttings into the holes you have poked in the soil mix. Use your fingers to firm the potting mixture around each cutting. Water gently to settle.

• Cover the cuttings with clean glass jars or plastic bags. Place the cuttings in a well-lighted place but not direct sunlight.

• Check your cuttings every two weeks. Gently tug on the top of the cutting to see if roots have formed. When the roots are 11/2 inches long, the cutting is ready to transplant.

If rooted by midsummer, the cuttings can be planted directly in the garden; if they don't root until fall, place the cuttings in a cold frame and plant in permanent locations the following spring.

What to cut

If you are visiting a garden and offered cuttings, ask your host for a potato.

Poke holes in it, then insert the cuttings. The moisture in the spud will preserve the cuttings for 24 hours.

Perennials that can be propagated from cuttings include amsonia, anthemis, artemisia, asclepias, aster, boltonia, chrysanthemum, helianthus, heliopsis, hibiscus, lavatera, lobelia, lysimachia, monarda, nepeta, phlox, physotegia, platycodon, salvia, sedum, solidago, tanacetum, tradescantia and veronica.

Contact Tim Morehouse by Web site:; mail: c/o Cincinnati Enquirer. (If writing, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)

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