15 July 2009
In The Garden With the Fluvanna Master Gardeners
By Irene C. Burke - Fluvanna Master Gardener
Fluvanna County Extension Office: 434.591.1950
For a recession-proof garden, increase woody and herbaceous plants with stem cuttings from your healthiest plants.
Maturity level, not the calendar determines rooting success; however, many are mature and ready for propagation mid-summer. North Carolina State U. provides a comprehensive list of best times at their consumer horticulture web site at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/
Find even more research-based information at web sites ending in .edu with a Cooperative Extension Service link. Remember to match your gardens hardiness zone to the advice-6 or 7 for the Virginia piedmont.
First sharpen, then sterilize your pruning tool using a cotton swab saturated with isopropyl alcohol. Its important to maintain sterility with more swabbing throughout the process. Lubricate with WD-40 after the last swab to keep the tool rust-free.
Make slanted, 6"cuttings, just above a leaf node to avoid dieback, and then insert the slanted end in garden soil or finely screened compost in a pot, or directly in the garden.
Improve the vigor and density of new roots with a powder-based rooting hormone, preferably with a fungicide. Place a quarter teaspoon of powder on a piece of paper, dip and tap off the excess from the part destined for rooting. Discard leftover powder in the trash.
For propagating to a 4"-5" pot, cover with a plastic bag held upright with a twist tie to a 12" stake. To prevent rot, maintain good air circulation with a few small holes in the covering. Transplant to successively larger containers as roots fill one half the pot, then to the garden after at least a growing season.
To propagate to a permanent location, anchor the cutting in a 2" cube of floral foam; place in the soil; insert the cutting with trimmed leaves, no flowers or flower buds; cover with a clean, bottomless translucent milk jug with the cap off. Replace the cap when temperatures sink to 40.
Nestle rocks at the outer edge of the cover to discourage critters from investigating. Remove the greenhouse jug as the cutting shows new growth, but continue to protect it from garden munchers with a foul smelling spray or a physical barrier like netting.
These root quickly throughout the growing season. Cut a 6" stem from the parent plant. Chrysanthemum, coleus, dahlia, lavender, sage, sedum, and French tarragon are but a few. Experiment! But follow the propagation tactics.
These root quickly if kept moist with plenty of air circulation. Choose soft new growth, older leaves removed from the bottom third, new leaves trimmed at the top-camellia, cotoneaster, gardenia, privet, viburnum, wisteria.
Select just after new growth has completed, with mature leaves and firm, yet supple wood-abelia, azalea, barberry, boxwood, holly (all kinds), jasmine, magnolia, yew.
Too busy for this summertime chore? The semi-hardwoods will do well in the cooler months along with euonymus. They require less care because root formation is the only function of the cutting. Hardwood stems will root outside, uncovered in a sheltered location away from wind, full sun and freezing. The wood should be firm and rigid, with no signs of leafing.
Tip of the Week
Often confused with Queen Anne's Lace, all parts of Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) are deadly to both humans and animals when eaten. Avoid contact with any openings in the skin. Wear protective clothing and thick disposable gloves when removing by hand. Burn or dispose in the landfill. Do not compost. Though not my favorite herbicide, in this case, use glyphosate, an effective herbicide when used according to label directions.