One of the most magical things about gardening is taking a cutting and watching it suddenly start to grow into a whole new plant. That moment when you can’t resist the temptation any longer and you tug on it gently. If it resists you know it’s been a success and has already rooted and started to become a fresh new version of the plant you admired in the first place. It‘s wonderful.
Late summer is that time of year when you can take cuttings from many garden plants. It’s been such a warm, wet summer that many plants have put on even more growth than normal, and this is ideal cuttings material. Summer cuttings can be rooted from this season’s shoots of many garden shrubs such as hydrangeas, lavender, and salvia also from garden perennials such as penstemons, phlox and sedums. These are generally called semi-ripe cuttings and many will root pretty quickly, sometimes within three or four weeks so they are an excellent project for the school holidays.
It’s a really easy thing to do and when you have a greenhouse you have the perfect conditions to root them.
Gather your material
Choose fresh, side shoots of suitable plants that are not bearing flower buds and cut them off as long as possible, at least 10cm, with clean, sharp secateurs. If you are doing a lot of cuttings then place them into a damp, plastic bag while you are gathering material to stop water loss.
Prepare the cutting
Trim off the growing tip, this will encourage your new plant to branch out. Trim the base of the stem just below a leaf node; this is where the leaves join the main stem. Remove the lower leaves, leaving just the top one or two pairs.
Prepare the compost
To get the best results use a dedicated cuttings compost. This is specially formulated to be well drained and gritty. It’s essential that new roots don’t become waterlogged and the grit irritates the stem of the cutting and encourages root growth.
Fill small, clean pots with fresh cutting compost.
Settle them in
Push the prepared cuttings into the compost, until half of the stem is submerged, one to a small pot. Cover over the pot with a polythene bag to reduce water loss and put the pot somewhere warm but out of direct sunlight; under the greenhouse bench is ideal. You can also root them in a heated propagator set to about 20C.
Check them regularly and keep the compost moist. When they start to root they can be potted up into larger pots and over wintered in an unheated or cool greenhouse for planting out in the spring.