how-to root from a cutting...

airydana(7b AL)June 2, 2009

Wondering the right method to root from cuttings from several different woody shrubs (gardenia, oakleaf hydrangea, pineapple guava).

I am new to propagating, and appreciate the advice. I do know how to root from softer plants in water, such as rosemary, but would like to start some cuttings now for the fall swap from some of my woodier shrubs.

Some additional questions would be:

what kinds of shrubs have y'all rooted from cuttings?

is there a general rule of thumb as to what can be propagated in water, versus plants that require the use of a soil medium?

How and when to use a rooting hormone?

Size of cutting to take?

When to take the cutting - after shrub has flowered?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi dana,
i saved this interesting post by nandina from several years ago. i think it was placed on the "southern gardening" forum.
she posts more frequently on the landscape design forum and i always enjoy reading her informative and well-assembled replies. see how this works for you:

"Today is the first of June and the full moon will be on the 14th. It is during this time period that we in the south can root many plants easily in the following manner. Fill a large, wide pot with good planting soil, water it well and set it out in the full, all day sun. Now, make tip cuttings of plants you would like to root and stick them in the pot. In many cases rooting hormone is not necessary. Water the pot every day. Try rooting annuals, perennials and vines in this manner. You will be surprised at how quickly things root. Try Mandevilla, sages, hydrangeas, salvias, rosemary, pentas or whatever. It will take some trial and error on your part. Yes, some will not root and others will thrive. This technique works best when the cuttings are set to root during this two week period in June before the full moon. Give it a try.

I wanted to bring this post up to the top again to explain what I meant by 'tip cuttings'. These are very short cuttings plucked from the new growth on the plants. They can be as short as 3" up to about 5". Strip off any bottom leaves and then nestle the cuttings down into the soil. Water well when you set the cuttings. In the south this technique works best during this two week period in June before the full moon. Northerners probably could try it now and during the same moon period of time in July, also.
I truly meant hot, all day sun. Seven days ago I took 3" tip cuttings of a very rare Salvia. This morning they are firmly rooted and show signs of new growth. I did not use any rooting hormone. Temperatures have been in the nineties. As I said, you will not be able to root everything using this method. But, it doesn't cost anything to try and you might be surprised."

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'll add nothing to Nandina's great post (thanks to Jeff for posting it) other than to comment on airydana's question about rooting in water.

It's never a good option (for the plant) to stick a woody cutting in water for rooting purposes. Yes, they may develop roots, but those roots will not be readily adaptable to being grown in soil once the transplanting process begins. Your cuttings are much better off going though the process in a solid medium in the first place.

Trying Nandina's technique would be a great way to gain experience.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Why before the full moon? (Just curious.) Thanks for sharing that article!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

don't know... i just re-posted her information.
there are other reports of planting by astronomical events such as listed in almanacs, etc.
perhaps the plants respond to the brightness of the waxing of the moon phase as when they shift to follow the path of the sun.
could be that we don't know why something works a certain way but that it just does. ;-)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tedevore(7b Al)

Ive been able to root many things using a well known method Ive seen used at the botanical gardens and read about in books: a misting bed. I have a square container about 2ft X 2ft square filled with perlite. I poke cuttings of of shrubs or perrenials into the perlite and place the contaier into a place with no more than 1/2 day of sun. I mount a hose over the bed that has a misting nozzle
that sprays a fine mist over the cuttings for about 20 seconds, once every half-hour or so for several hours each day. The hose is connected to a water timer that has a misting setting that makes this easy to do. After a cuple of weeks, things are usually starting to make good roots. The constant humidity, air circulation, and the super well-draining environment makes rooting stuff easier than the old method of putting cuttings in a pot and covering with a mostly-closed plastic dome. Most thing tends to dampen off or fail for me with that method. not very good air circulation is possible that way. Rooting out in the full sun before it gets too hot probably works for the same reason. Its possible to keep a moist environment and still have good air circulation without covering with plastic.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hydrangeas and gardenias will easily root by layering. Fill a "3 gallon" pot with rich soil or sand and put it under the lowest limbs. Do not cut the limb but bend it over and lay it in the pot. Put more dirt over the limb and put a rock or brick on top of the dirt. Keep the soil moist but not sopping wet. You can scrape off some of the bark before covering with soil if you want. This works with a lot of thing, including oleander.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 6:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
airydana(7b AL)

Thanks to all for these great responses. These sound like some good methods, I should be able to implement something that will lead to success with my shrubs. I will try this and let you know how it works out. I'm sure you've saved me a lot of time avoiding failed trials.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
squirrellypete(z7b AL)

I also use the same misting method as Tedevore. I think the term is "intermittent mist" where you mist the leaves for a brief period at regular intervals during the day. It's such a fine mist that it cumulatively uses very little water over the course of each day. I have a 4 x 8 bed that I fill with coarse cheap construction grade sand and I stick all my cuttings in this. I do dip each cutting in an inexpensive rooting hormone powder from Lowe's. I honestly don't know how big a difference this makes but I figure it's worth a shot. I also prefer to use "tip growth" for my cuttings but I have rooted semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings though it usually takes longer. Things I've had alot of success with are:

butterfly bushes
perennial salvias
perennial verbenas
peegee hydrangeas
balloon flowers
hardy hibiscus
rose of sharon
spanish lavender
tall and creeping phlox
false indigo

Others that I've had moderate success with include loropetalums, evergreens like juniper and chamaecyparis varieties, clematis

I've found azaleas and rhododendrons to be difficult but others claim they're not that hard so I guess I need to refine my method for them.

Here are some pics of my setup for anyone interested:

Has some cuttings stuck. There are times when this bed is completely full of cuttings

I designed my system with two "legs" of water line to give adequate coverage to the entire bed. Each leg has 3 misting nozzles. The legs join together at one end with 90 degree bends. The other end of the legs are capped off with plumbing cement. The following pics were taken during the winter after I have removed the solenoid valve and timer for storage during cold weather.

Here you can see the solenoid valve hooked up to the supply end of the water line legs.

Here's the special misting timer housed in a waterproof box. It was a bit pricey...around $100 when I bought it 4 years ago but well worth the money. It essentially babysits my cuttings all day and keeps them misted every 20 minutes. They root and grow even in full on sun as long as they are misted frequently. I replaced the box's metal cover plate with a scrap piece of plexiglass screwed into place overtop of foam weather stripping around the edges to keep the timer from getting wet. This timer has a photo sensor to turn it on in the morning and off at night which is why it needed to have a clear window to detect light.

The actual water line is the 3/4" horizontal run. However I wanted to design this entire setup so it could be easily moved around if the sand ever needed to be replaced or the bed relocated. So I drove rebar into the ground inside and outside the bed at 4 locations underneath each leg of waterline so it sticks up a foot or so above the sand. Then as I assembled and glued my pvc and nozzles together I first slid the 3/4" pipe pieces through larger 1" T's, put a 1 foot section of empty 1" pipe at the bottom of each T and then this pvc sits down over top of the rebar and holds the 3/4" pvc waterline up above the bed. That way the entire misting system can be lifted straight up off of the rebar by two people and set aside if needed.

If anyone wants more info on this setup feel free to contact me through Gardenweb.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 4:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
airydana(7b AL)

Wow these pictures and descriptions are awesome. Thanks Danielle! I personally don't have the room for such a "pro-grade" setup, but I bet there are many in our group who could implement something like this. Dana

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 11:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"You can scrape off some of the bark before covering with soil if you want. This works with a lot of thing, including oleander."

Be careful with oleander.

From Wikipedia: Oleander is one of the most poisonous plants in the world and contains numerous toxic compounds, many of which can be deadly to people, especially young children. The toxicity of Oleander is considered extremely high and it has been reported that in some cases only a small amount had lethal or near lethal effects. The most significant of these toxins are oleandrin and neriine, which are cardiac glycosides. They are present in all parts of the plant, but are most concentrated in the sap, which can block out receptors in the skin causing numbness. It is thought that Oleander may contain many other unknown or un-researched compounds that may have dangerous effects. Oleander bark contains rosagenin which is known for its strychnine-like effects. The entire plant, including the milky white sap, is toxic, and any part can cause an adverse reaction. Oleander is also known to hold its toxicity even after drying. It is thought that a handful or 10-20 leaves consumed by an adult can cause an adverse reaction, and a single leaf could be lethal to an infant or child. According to the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System (TESS) in 2002 there were 847 known human poisonings in the United States related to Oleander. There are innumerable reported suicidal cases of consuming mashed oleander seeds in southern India. In animals, around 0.5 mg per kilogram of body weight is lethal to many animals, and various other doses will affect other animals. Most animals can suffer a reaction or death from this plant.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 6:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Curious about something. I've always been afraid to start cuttings in a communal bed, thinking that it would disturb the roots of cuttings too much when it came time to transplant. Obviously, this is not the case, if so many people do it this way. I always just put each little baby plant in it's own little container. Do the plants have any set-backs if you have to dig them up to transplant in a permanent place? Been kinda halfway wondering about this one for a long time. Thoughts on the subject?
P.S. Fantastic pics of the watering system!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
squirrellypete(z7b AL)

heaven4441 - thanks for the compliment! As to your concern, even planting in close proximity as I do, I have not had much root interaction between plants so I haven't noticed any apparent set back caused by this. My cuttings are usually planted 2-3 inches apart which is pretty close. Even things like butterfly bushes that quickly send out a large root clump don't spread too far out from the cutting within the first 2-3 weeks time which is usually when mine are ready to come out and be potted. If I left them a couple more weeks I probably would have problems with the roots growing into each other and causing extra stress on neighboring cuttings when I try to remove them. I actually use one of those hand tools that pry weeds up to gently and slowly lift my rooted cuttings out of the sand box. Some lift right out readily, others you have to get under it with the tool in one hand while gently pulling the cutting up by the stem with your other hand. I seem to lose very few roots to breakage doing it this way and most of the sand still remains in the box. You could also use a trowel but you'll be scooping up extra sand unnecessarily.

If you transplant them out of the box in the morning before the heat sets in and get them potted right away and watered most cuttings don't seem to be phased at all. Obviously you can also pot in the evening. Some kinds of plants are a little more sensitive than others but even if they get a little wilty from the move they usually bounce back by the next day as long as the roots aren't exposed for very long before potting and once potted, you put them where they are protected from hot afternoon sun.

The main concern I have with sticking cuttings so close together isn't the roots, but rather the potential to spread disease from one cutting to another if they touch. Airflow around each cutting is reduced the closer you plant them together which can encourage disease. I just try to be watchful of any diseased looking foliage and if things seem to be staying too damp for too long I adjust my misting timer accordingly. For most perennials and shrubs this hasn't been an issue except with some of the roses I propagate which are prone to black spot.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 10:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Elizabeth Guyton

This is my first time to post & this was exactly the question I was going to ask! What wonderful information and answers from everyone! Thanks to everyone, including you, airydana. I'm a total novice when it comes to hands-on gardening. Since I'm disabled, I'm unable to really get down in the dirt like I want to, but I can do little things and I'm great on makin' "honey-do" lists for my recently retired lovable hubby, lol. Think I'll root some gardenias (my absolute favorites) and maybe a hydrangea or two. Then I'll lurk (and learn) some more from this wonderful site.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 4:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The cuttings don't go through a set-back, as far as I've ever observed. One reason for using propagation flats is that the type of medium used to root cuttings is often different than that which will used to grow the finished cuttings on. The environment location is likely to be different, too.

It's pretty easy to over water even a small container when trying to keep the moisture level up to what it needs to be when encouraging a woody cutting to develop roots. Trying to do this with the typical peat-based potting soil can cause lots of problems. Squirrelly uses sand as her medium of choice. I'll use sand, or perlite, or Turface (or a combination), maybe with a dash of bark fines mixed in.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 10:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tedevore(7b Al)

Danielle, you have a really nice setup. If I had room (and room for all the plants I'd like to root) I'd love to have one just like it. Do you have a huge garden, or do you like to sell plants? Thanks for the pictures.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 8:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
squirrellypete(z7b AL)

Thanks Todd,

sorry I haven't been on Gardenweb in a few days to see your reply. My actual garden, nursery bed and propagation bed right now stay within the confines of about 1 acre and it's partitioned into different kinds of beds and areas, the largest of which is a small daylily field with around 200 or so varieties. We own 3 acres which is mostly wooded and are surrounded by another 100+ acres of mostly wooded property belonging to my husband's family so I have room to expand the garden down the road which is nice.

I have not yet started selling plants though I'd like to. I thought this year might be the year but I waited too late to start dividing and potting daylilies and other sale-sized shrubs so they looked too stressed for me to try to sell. They're ready to go for next year though assuming I can keep them alive in their pots through this awful heat! In the meantime I give alot away to family, friends and at plant swaps which is always fun. It's amazing how many cuttings 1 4x8 rooting bed can produce in one season! Sometimes I get too far ahead of myself and then can't care for them all as well as I should once they're rooted. I'm trying to learn restraint lol. My main love is the daylilies though and I am a hobby hibridizer which is a bit time consuming. I had to take a year off from it this year to play catch-up with everything else.

Happy Gardening everyone!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 3:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know this thread has been silent for many years, but I do have a few questions for Danielle if she is still around: (1) Do you put your propagation box in full sun, part sun, part shade, or full shade? (2) Do you think your propagation box would work as well for germinating seeds?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 3:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The professional nurseries I have visited recently have long raised beds with sand. In some cases they have heat tape underneath for the very coldest weather. they cover the length of the bed with fabric which is held off the cuttings by hoops (18 in. high max) They stated that temperatures attain 100 degrees plus during the day so they mist constantly to maintain humidity. They take cuttings from older tree stock that will be sold as bare root or B&B in the early spring season. I saw arborvitae coming out of the rooting bed for transplanting in March. It likely went in the bed during the fall growing season for evergreens. Offered the above for what it is worth. I am a strict novice and have a lot to learn about rooting seasons but expect to be growing all winter here in North Alabama.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 11:30AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Spring Swap 2015: food sign ups
Please sign up here to bring food to the May 16 spring...
Spring Swap 2015
Ken's message about veggies reminded me that we need...
Best glue for terracotta pots?
Yes I did. Left some of my pots outside and now they...
Moving from Ohio to Alabama
We will be moving sometime this year to northern Alabama,...
Veggies for Spring Swap
I am ordering seeds to grow vegetable starts for the...
Sponsored Products
Avanity Windsor 36" Vanity - White
Modern Bathroom
BLux | L Floor or Wall Light
Hollis Rug
Ballard Designs
Additional Bistro String Light Strand
Grandin Road
Currey & Company Parker Pendant
Monaco Blue Bold Stripe Double Gourd Table Lamp
Lamps Plus
Nanimarquina | Kala Rug
Sunset Rug 5' x 8' - SUNRISE
$389.00 | Horchow
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™