Monday, 10 May 2010

Free plants (well sort of), softwood cuttings

I love this time of year all the garden centres and nurseries are awash with bedding plants. This year I've toned down my bedding plant buying and have sown a lot of seeds and the plants I have bought have been from small local family run nurseries. I've decided to stop buying plants from big garden centres, I want to support the smaller places and not give my money to the big boys. So I'm avoiding the garden centres and stocking up at nurseries, gate side stalls and village fetes. I'm very lucky to have the amazing Hill house nursery close by and they sell the most amazing selection of everything all grown on site. Anyway I've veering of point.

So bedding plants, about now they would have put on a lot of growth, if you want really lush, full plants instead of long leggy thin plants, cutting them back with encourage lots of side shoots and lots of good growth. It may seem drastic to hack back your newly bought plants (especially if they have flowers on them) but trust me, you'll be glad you were brave in a months time when you hanging baskets look gorgeous.
Now this is the really cool part turning you little plant in lots of little plants.

Softwood cutting tutorial

Lots of people find propagating plants a bit of a mystery, something only old men in green houses do (I was always a bit daunted by it when I started gardening) but it's really easy.

So Here is a lovely little cherry red million bells, lots of nice growth perfect for taking cuttings from.

So you need to cut the plant near the side shoots (this will encourage the little side shoots to grow on the plant, giving you lots more flowers)

so this is what you have to work with.

Trim the bottom of the stem to just below the two side shoots, this is where there roots with grow from. Remove the leaves

Its a good idea to remove the top shoot, this will help the cutting put its energy into forming roots instead of top growth,

Then its a case of filling a pot with nice damp soft free draining compost (add some grit to prevent the compost getting waterlogged and the cuttings rotting) and making a little hole using a plant label of chopstick or knitting needle (something long and thin) and inserting your cutting, don't just push the cutting into the compost as its quite delicate and you can damage the base. I rarely use hormone rooting powder, but you can, it contains fungicide to help prevent the cutting rotting.

if you put the cuttings around the side of the pot they stand a better chance of the roots striking, as the roots hit the side of the pot they will branch out and grow stronger. Also you can fit quite a few in a pot and save on space. Try to avoid the cutting touching each other.

If you have a lot of large leaves on your cuttings (like with these mint cuttings) cut the leaves in half. This will cut down on water loss from the leaves (OK science bit coming up.... the cells in the leaves put a pressure on the roots to suck up water, respiration. buy reducing the surface area you reduce the force of the pressure.)

You need to keep your cuttings moist until the have formed roots (to check gently turn the pot upside down and you'll see little roots poking out the bottom) They need humidity to keep the leaves moist (look out more science.... the leaves in plants are surrounded by an invisible film of moisture, when this film is lost they put pressure on the roots to replace it and your little cuttings haven't any roots yet so it will be curtains for them) mine are in my little greenhouse or you could put a clear plastic bag over the pot kept secure with an elastic bag, make sure the cuttings don't touch it.

So heres my little collection which hopefully in a few weeks will be ready to be planted out.

I even used the mint leaves I removed on the cuttings to make a cup of tea
which was lovely except for the bits of compost floating about in it.

Jess x

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, this is probably the fifth tutorial on cuttings I've found and the first that is clear to me as a beginner. Also love how fuss free you keep it. No rooting hormone, domes and such.


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