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Propagating Plants with Stem Cuttings

May 7th, 2010

I’m a thrifty gardener. I like save money in any way I can, so I use material I can find in my local area (like all those rocks), mix my own potting mix, make compost, collect leaves, and pretty much anything that will help save me money when it comes to gardening. One thing saves me a bundle is propagating my own plants.

Spring is when I’m busy propagating plants for the new garden areas. Most perennials can be propagated either by saving seed, dividing them when they’re mature, or taking root or stem cuttings. My favorite way to propagate plants is by stem cuttings, it really couldn’t be any easier.

I’m using a catmint plant for this demonstration. Catmint is one of the workhorses in my garden, I find myself propagating tons of these and using them everywhere.

Fill some pots with soil mix or vermiculite then water and poke a hole it in with a pencil. You want the holes so that the rooting hormone doesn’t get wiped off when you put the cutting in it. I like to use my own mix of 50% peat and 50% medium vermiculite, sometimes I use 100% vermiculite (you can use perlite instead of vermiculite, I’m just not a fan of perlite feels too much like styrofoam for my liking).

Take some stem cuttings from the plant you want to propagate, make sure it’s new growth (unless you’re doing hard wood cuttings for things like hydrangeas and boxwoods). I like to cut pieces that are 3-6 inches long. You can to cut a centimeter or two below a leaf node, then strip off the lowest leaves. Roots will form from these nodes, so you want to make sure you have at least one of these under the soil level.

Dip the stem into rooting hormone making sure to get some on the nodes. Then insert the cutting into the pot and press the soil gently around the cutting. (make sure to not breathe rooting hormone and wash hands thoroughly when finished, or order natural rooting powder from Richter’s – I’ll be getting some when I use up this bottle of rooting hormone)

Place tray of cuttings in a sheltered location and keep well watered and if desired covered with plastic or a dome (I don’t always cover mine I just mist with water). I like to keep mine in a tray and water from below and mist the leaves frequently to keep leaves moist. Make sure they’re in a shaded location or in the garage by a bright but not too sunny window, if they get too much sun the plants will lose too much water or cook under the plastic. Right now I have all kinds of trays of cuttings in various sheltered spots around the garden and in the garage. At the moment, I’m trying to propagate: lemongrass, dumb cane, hydrangeas, viburnum, clematis, boxwood, black elderberry, salvia, sedum, thyme, kennelworth ivy, and catmint.

Remember to propagate more plants than you think you want, you’ll have some that don’t survive. I usually have a 75-80% success rate depending on the type of plant. Some plants propagate better than others, so don’t get discouraged if you fail. Try again with a different kind of plant. Sedums, catmint, hydrangeas are pretty much no-fail when it comes to propagation.

Do you or have you propagated plants for your gardens?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.