Time to get more for less

This is the ideal time of year to increase your stock of plants, all for no more than a few hours’ work. Two easy methods are cuttings and layering.

The golden rules of cuttings are to take the material first thing in the morning and work on it straight away, to use cutting powder, to remove nearly all the leaves, and to keep everything very clean. Semi-hardwood cuttings are the ones to take now. They are the growing tips with a base of firmer, more mature stem growth below.

Make sure each piece has at least three growth nodes, trim the base just below one of those nodes and dip the cutting into hormone powder (or gel). Put the cuttings to half their depth into new propagating mix in a clean pot and water them in gently. Keep the pot in a sheltered place – out of direct sun and wind – or cover the contents with a plastic bag to maintain moisture until the cuttings produce roots.

Layering suits sprawling shrubs, such as dwarf tibouchina, gardenias and hydrangeas. Pick a low-growing branch that can be bent down near the ground. Fill a clean pot with new propagating mix up to the rim. Put under the selected branch and make sure you can bring the two into contact.

All being well, make a small wound on the bark so you can see the green cambium layer. Dust the wound with hormone powder, and push the branch down so that it is half buried in the propagating mix. Hold it down with bent bits of wire or a rock and leave it there. Over time, roots will grow down into the pot. Then you can sever the new plant from its parent – grow it on in the pot until you’re satisfied that it is strong and healthy.


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