Cut­ting ob­ser­va­tions may do you good

Hannah Stephen­son of­fers a cost-cut­ting ex­er­cise

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREEN SPACES -

LIVING in a frost pocket, as I do, it’s in­evitable that each year I lose plants which are on the ten­der side, leav­ing gaps in my beds and bor­ders which need to be filled.

Vis­its to the gar­den cen­tre each year to re­plen­ish stock can be a costly ex­er­cise, but if you want to save money and gain a great deal of sat­is­fac­tion, now is the time to have a go at tak­ing soft­wood cut­tings, which will take a lit­tle time but won’t cost you any money apart from a few small flower pots and a lit­tle com­post.

Easy-to-root plants in­clude lavat­era, he­lianthe­mum, choisya, deutzia, es­cal­lo­nia, hebe, hy­drangea, laven­der, philadel­phus and weigela, as well as fuchsia and olearia.

You take cut­tings about 8-10cm (3-4in) long in late spring and early sum­mer, be­fore the stem be­comes hard and woody, put them in a con­tainer of com­post and cover them with clear poly­thene to pre­vent them wilt­ing. When the cut­tings have rooted - which can hap­pen in around six weeks - they can be re­pot­ted or planted up in the gar­den.

With this step-by-step guide to soft­wood cut­tings, you won’t go far wrong:

Al­ways take the cut­tings from a healthy plant, us­ing a sharp knife or se­ca­teurs. Check there are no pests on the leaves or stems and that there is no dis­ease.

Cut the stem just be­low a leaf joint and re­move the lower leaves, leav­ing the bot­tom half of the stem bare. If the re­main­ing leaves are large, for ex­am­ple hy­drangea or lau­rel, they can be cut in half to re­duce loss of mois­ture through tran­spi­ra­tion.

Plants which flower on young growth, such as hebes and fuch­sias, may have flower­buds at the tip of the cut­ting which will need nip­ping out along with the tip.

As soon as you have taken the cut­ting, put it in a poly­thene bag or bucket of wa­ter to stop it wilt­ing un­til you are ready to prop­a­gate.

Dip the cut end in hor­mone root­ing pow­der or liq­uid, cov­er­ing the lower 6mm (1/4in) of the cut­ting be­fore in­sert­ing it in a pot filled with seed com­post. You can fit five cut­tings around the edge of a 10cm (4in) pot.

While most plants will root with­out the aid of hor­mone root­ing pow­der, more dif­fi­cult species such as rhodo­den­dron and hol­lies need a boost to pro­duce roots. Root­ing pow­der also con­tains a fungi­cide to pro­tect the new plant against dis­eases.

Make sure the con­tainer’s drainage holes are not blocked be­cause a wa­ter­logged cut­ting is un­likely to take.

The com­post should be moist. Use your fin­ger or a small stick to make a hole for the cut­ting and in­sert each one 2in (5cm) apart, but don’t firm them in.

Wa­ter them with a fine rose to set­tle the com­post around the stems and al­low the ex­cess wa­ter to drain. La­bel each pot. Thin-leaved plants such as fuch­sias root best if the pot is placed in­side a large, loosely tied plas­tic bag or clear poly­thene as it keeps the air around them hu­mid, but don’t use this method for plants with sil­ver, hairy leaves or they may rot.

Stand the pots out of di­rect sun and draughts while they root, but in a warm hu­mid spot and wa­ter them enough so that the com­post doesn’t dry out.

If you no­tice any faded leaves or flow­ers on rooted cut­tings or plants in the next few weeks, re­move them to pre­vent the spread of fun­gal dis­eases such as botry­tis.

In six to eight weeks they should have rooted and you will be able to repot them or plant them in the gar­den.

Black-eyed Su­san make for large swathes of colour

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