Green Fingers: Something from nothing - free plants

James Vaughaun


James Vaughaun


Green Fingers: Something from nothing - free plants

Ithought that a headline like this would grab your attention! In fact, I have been getting free plants in my garden for many years.

At different stages of the year we can all take cuttings from plants that we own. In this way we can easily increase our stock at practically no cost.

Start with cuttings from your plants or ask friends for their cuttings. Plant cuttings are grouped into four basic categories: softwood, greenwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood and are taken at different times of year. The plants are sectioned into the four categories, depending on which time of year you are taking them.

Softwood Cuttings

Softwood cuttings come from fresh, new growth, usually in spring or early summer. Plants such as dogwoods root well from these types of cuttings.

Greenwood Cuttings

Greenwood—also called herbaceous—cuttings are from plants that have non-woody stems. All annual plants, for example, are herbaceous because they are non-woody plants.

Semi Ripe/Semi-Hardwood Cuttings

Semi-ripe cuttings are tougher and more mature. These are the types of cuttings I am taking at the moment. They’re usually taken from midsummer to fall. Plants such as camellia and honeysuckle often root well from semi-ripe cuttings.

Hardwood Cuttings and Other Plants

Hardwood cuttings include deciduous shrubs, climbers (like vines), fruits (such as gooseberries), and trees.

Tips and Hints

The plant that gives you the cuttings is called the mother plant. Look for a healthy house or garden plant. Plants with non-woody stems are easiest to propagate. The mother plant should be large enough that removing one or more cuttings will not harm or kill it.

Select green, non-woody stems for taking tip cuttings. Newer growth is easier to root than woody stems. Locate a stem that has a node, this is simply the point where the leaves join the stem. The node looks like a joint on the stem and it is the area that will generate new roots. Use a sharp scissors or a razor blade that has been sterilized in alcohol to make a clean cut, just below a node. The cutting doesn’t need to be very long, a single node with a couple of leaves will be fine.

Preparing Cuttings

After cutting off a piece of the stem, place the cutting on a flat, hard surface and make a clean slice through the middle of the node. Plant stems send out their new roots from the stem nodes. Making the cutting at the node increases your chance of successfully rooting the cutting. I would always use some rooting powder - this also increases your chances.

Remove all but one or two leaves. The cutting needs some leaf growth to continue photosynthesis since it can’t take in any food from roots it doesn’t yet have. But too many leaves will sap energy from its efforts to create new roots. If the leaves are very large in proportion to the stem, cut them in half.

I then place the cutting into a pot containing some compost and some grit or sharp sand. This will mean the compost is free draining and the cuttings are less likely to rot. Cover the pot with a clean plastic bag - in effect creating a mini greenhouse. Keep an eye on the cuttings and water occasionally until you see roots emerge from the bottom of the pot.

Contact James