Since I was already cutting herbs for drying last week during the New Moon, I decided to start my asexual plant reproduction experiment, otherwise known as making new plants from cuttings. It is and has always been a very common garden task. However, I have never been really good at doing it. Usually, I’m quite happy having one of a kind plants in the garden, unless it’s a seasonal vegetable. This year, Andrea and I made a pact that we would try to swap and share cuttings as a way of saving money, getting new plants, and also as a learning experience for me. Having had poor results from previous efforts, this time I promised myself to try and do it right. So, I got some Rooting Hormone and some little peat pots and set up a lab zone on the patio. We’ll see how it goes.
The Rooting Hormone will stimulate your cutting to make roots where there are none. There have been times when I skipped this product and have always been rewarded with death and destruction. It’s a common product available in most garden departments.
The potting shed was full to the ceiling with 10 years worth of collected plastic nursery pots in all shapes and sizes. I finally had enough of shuffling them around and sent them away in a recycling bin. These are my new organic, biodegradable, single use peat pots and they are so clean and easy to use, take up no space, and make me so happy I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner!
When choosing the right specimen for cutting/rooting make sure you know your plant. Not every plant is appropriate to propagate this way. Then there are differing degrees of ideal woodines: soft, hard, semi-ripe, ripe etc. Google your plant and you’ll quickly know what time of year and what type of stem to use. My choices were from stems that were mature enough to survive, were in the middle of growing so I know there’s LIFE in there, and not from parts that were blooming, since I want the flowers and seeds of these plants later.
You want to cut your stem a couple inches below a leaf crotch. Not all experts will tell you about the leaf crotch, but in my experience it’s an important zone. The leaf crotch area will get buried and from there down to the end of the stem is where your new roots should grow, providing your plant can change gears from leaf growth to root growth before it dies. It’s a tricky process for a little plant just taken away from it’s happy place.
Right in the crotch between the stem and the leaf is a bit of plant called an ‘axillary bud’ and this area should be trimmed flush to the stem.
Now we make a wound in the plant with a knife so the Rooting Hormone can get inside and stimulate the plant’s root-making skills. This is the part I don’t like, maybe because it’s called a wound.
Make sure this entire area is moist and then dip it in the Hormone Jar, swirl it around to make sure some gets into the wound, then tap off the excess.
Plant in the appropriate Rooting Medium. There are different products for this part of the plant’s journey and it may be worth looking them up if you’re going to do this type of thing with all seriousness. Not one for seriousness in the garden, I’m using some potting soil I had laying around. Fingers crossed. Press the soil just enough to make the plant secure without rubbing all the Hormone off.
Now it’s time to look at what you’ve got and trim off what you don’t want. The ‘terminal bud’ – or very tip of the plant where all the ‘tallness’ growth happens, needs to come off. Any extra big leaves, stems, and flowers need to come off too. The plant needs a couple leaves so it can continue to make food for itself, but not so much that it drains energy away from making roots.
On this Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) the leaves are really big so I cut one off, leaving one medium and one small sized.
I should probably also cut the remaining top of the stem down a little further, now that I’m looking at the photo.
Place your cuttings in an area where they get a little Sun, but not too much. Too much heat and Sun will accelerate the transpiration process (water loss through the leaves) and that isn’t good when a plant has no roots. So keep your little plant preschool moist but not too moist – we don’t want moldy squishiness either – and give it the right amount of Sun and Love and cross your fingers. Remember that cuttings typically wilt or rot very easily, so don’t feel bad if it happens to you. The internet is full of hundreds of slightly different methods for this type of propagation. There are many methods much more advanced than mine, but this is the way I’m trying it this time…after all, it’s an experiment! If all is lost, we still have our Mother plant and the rest of the Summer to have another go.