WANTED: cutting class

dirtrx(z7nc)July 30, 2006

I was wondering if there is anyone who lives near North Raleigh who would be interested in stopping by my house and teaching me how to take cuttings and root things? I'd pay with lunch and cuttings. I have a couple of books and articles but my plants seem to rot. Is it too late to root cuttings for the Fall swap? I have a couple of salvias and agastaches I would love to propagate. I have collected seeds but would love to learn a new skill. Thanks. Shannon/Dirtrx

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Shannon - I will try to work something out, schedule wise; but I am no master at cutting props. I tend to take a ton of cuttings and eventually get enough plants from them while other people get every cutting to root.

This is the time of year that I take a lot of cuttings - mostly because it is soooo humid, which is what the cuttings (without root systems) need. I don't cover mine with plastic. I just place them in the shade and water them twice each day. Some things take forever, others seem to root that first day. And just because they form roots and start off strong doesn't mean you'll have complete or long-term sucess.

Roots don't grow from regular stem tissue. Look at your brugmansias (Angels Trumpets). Notice the smooth green stems versus the knobby pale and woody lower stems. Roots don't usually form on the smooth green tissue, instead it forms on the woody tissue. Thats why you let cuttings callus over (for some plants but not all). For woodier things they will stick them in a sandy/gritty media instead of soil because it takes a long time for the woody tissue to build up on the cut end. These type of cuttings can take months to perk up. I like to start them now and expect new growth NEXT spring.

On softer plants like herbs or coleus type things - look for the joints where the leaves emerge from the stems. Nodes. The roots are gonna usually form on the bottom sides of the nodes. If you cut the stems half way between the nodes, the stems will rot back to the node. Sometimes the rot takes over the entire cutting and the cutting fails to root. Some people like to take the cutting right below the node to reduce the chance of rot.

When you cut a stem to root, it has to have enough calories in it to keep the plant alive until the callus forms and the rooting begins. Different plants root better at specific lengths - its all in relation to the amount of calories the plant needs. Generally when the books tell you the cuttings need to be 8 inches long, that is the reason.

What I do is trim the cuttings to the desired length (and sometimes I am just guessing because of the way the plant looks - looks like mint, treat it like a mint), and then I remove most of the leaves and I cut the remaining leaves in half. When I check on them weeks later - if I see full leaves I know that they were formed after I stuck the cutting. Too much leaf causes too much water loss. But its a dicey area - the cutting needs green surfaces to photosynthesise otherwise it will starve.

Keep trying

I'll get by someday - besides I owe ya for all the volunteering out at the fair.



    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:38AM
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There are different best times-of-year, types of stem (woody, semiwoody,green), type-of-rooting-media, rooting hormone, on-and-on - depending on exact plant - lots of books like the ones by Bir, Bird, or Druse describe best method by plant. For example, azaelas root over winter best I think, but as John said, I also think most things root best now.

I think the medium and container are important.I use half perlite, half good soiless media or potting soil. (Don't use the miracle-grow "moisture control" potting soil, cuz it will rot your cuttings.)

I cut off top half of plastic milk jug to about 6" tall. Poke holes in bottom and fill with 4" of perlite/soil mix. Soak it really well with water and then drain it.

Take a big bucket (I use a large plastic kitty litter bucket) that the jug will fit inside. The sides should be tall enough that your 8" cuttings will fit down inside. Put a few stones in the bottom of the bucket and put the jug down on the stones. The idea is that some water can sit in the bucket bottom without touching the jug.

Clean your clippers with bleach or alcohol, then water rinse before you use them for cuttings (to destroy fungal spores and other nasties). Cut below a node. Strip off bottom 4" of leaves - pinch or break off leaves, don't pull them off so that a strip of skin comes off the stem. Remove all but 3 leaves on top 4" of cutting. Then dip in rootone if you have it and stick.

I cover with a clear deli plate or something that kind of keeps moisture in but doesn't seal the bucket. You want air movement, but moist air. Water or mist to keep evenly moist but not wet. Sit it in complete shade.

Check them after 2-3 weeks. I use an ice tea spoon to scoop to bottom of cutting, so I don't pull new roots off by pulling cutting out.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 5:51PM
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I'm printing off the instructions so far. I've never heard of the bucket tip. It sounds perfect for my watering schedule. And I am a master at cutting tops off of milk jugs. Okay silly question can I use 2 liter bottles?

And TJ you owe me nothing! I just wish I could get out there more. Once the kids return to school I will have more free time during the day. I owe you so much because you helped me find a passion I can do anywhere and within any time frame, be it 15 min or 12 hour day. I've also had a chance to meet people across the state and in my own backyard. Shannon/Dirtrx

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 7:03PM
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When you talk to horticulturists at botanic gardens they will recite the memorized instructions of when and how to propagate from cuttings whatever plant you are pointing at. But when you volunteer to work at that same botanic garden you learn that they do things whenever they have time, which rarely agrees with the books. So they might prune something later in the year than suggested or fertilize off schedule. Some of the success has to be attributed to the weather which we can't control (so far).

I take cuttings all the time when I am pruning things back. A lot of them don't do too well because it is the wrong time of year, but what-the-hay, I was pruning anyway. I also grow a lot of large patio tropicals (actually an obscene amount) which prefer to sprout or root in high temps with high humidity. People with greenhouses can do this in the winter but all I have is a hoophouse barely kept above freezing. I like to have smaller rooted cuttings well established before cold temps set in. They might look awful by next spring but they pull out of it.

My theory is a lot like my theory on winter sowing. Its great to let mother nature handle the stratification process to get those seeds to sprout - but, you end up with a gajillion seedlings all needing to be potted up at the same time, which is a lot of work! So, by sowing seeds and rooting cuttings throughout the year I am rarely swamped with garden work.

Right now I am taking cuttings of tropicals, herbs (rosemary because it take forever to root), dahlias (you can root the stems), gardenias and St. John's wort. Soon I will be sowing seeds of fall/winter veggies, papayas for next summer (they are far easier to overwinter as little babies), Delphiniums, Calendula, Stock, and Violets & pansies for next spring.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 1:42PM
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jeane(7b Garner NC)


When I take cuttings I look for leaves I can remove, I make the cut just below a node. Roots will grow from the nodes of the leaves I've removed. I have a small spot in my garden (dappled sunlight) that I think of as the nursery. Here I put things I didn't mean to pull up, pruning peices or plants I intentionally want more of. Sometimes I use a root conditioner, sometimes not. The plant sort of tells me if it wants it. lol Don't know how else to explain this decision.

Anyway, I try to always use a pencil or stick to make the hole, may sure the cuttings are snug and give them some water. Then after the first week I promptly forget them. I do look at them once in a while to see if they need watering. When I see new growth I wait for the plant to get to planting size before I move it. Honestly I don't take it very seriously but have had good luck. Most of the bushes in my back yard are from cuttings Some cuttings go in where they won't need to be moved, the tempermental ones. Needless to say, I lose more than I get, average is about 40% survive.

I have constant bad luck with seeds, they required too much fussing. The only ones I grow are the ones that can be sown directly in the soil,like marigolds, zinnas and morning glory. Sticking cuttings in the ground is much easier!

I am sure John will give you the best advise, but I had to put in my 2 cents. Good luck
See you in a few weeks,

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 4:48PM
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TJ gave me a crash course in cuttings at the fairgrounds. I'm really excited! I learned alot now if I can just remember it all. When I look at my container I can see so much potential. I can see that this could really lead to a habit, but at least it would be a cheap habit. Now I have to move on to other possibilities such as where do I put the cuttings and rootings. I have a bed which is not being used. It is located between the driveway and the neighbor's yard on a slope. It is shaded in the summer and sunny in the winter. I was thinking about filling it with mulch about 6-8 inches and putting my cuttings(in pots) in the mulch and let them overwinter out there. I mean the hardy plants not my tenders like coleus. Will this be a good place? It would be accessible and easy to water or do I need to keep the cuttings inside this winter? This is really important because I don't have room for alot of plants inside. I know I am way over thinking this. You should have seen all my questions regarding wintersowing! Shannon

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 9:44PM
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Only some of the cuttings will be well rooted by winter time (first hard freeze). Even then a lot of them won't make it even through a mild winter. This is partly why I take so many cuttings - I don't expect all of them to survive to the following spring. I would leave them in the tray and place it up against the wall of the house or a thick stone or brich wall facing the south. I would keep them in the shade for now. But once it gets really cool I would sorta half bury them in leaves or mulch either on the slope you mentioned or up against the house. They do need protection but they also hate living indoors so don't even think about bringing them inside. I have trouble overwintering them even in a temporary greenhouse. They want to be cool but not frozen and a lot of light but not too much... so I take a lot of cuttings and usually only a few of them make it. When the first hard freeze is predicted I would just bury the whole collection of cuttings in a deep layer of leaves and leave it alone unless we are gonna have a long warm spell.

One thing I do with a lot of potted up seedlings and cuttings (all of these are at least a year old) is I take bales of straw/hay and make a narrow box with them. Kinda like bales lined up making a wall with two bales (one on each end) making the end pieces. It is only about 2 feet wide. I stuff all the potted plants down inside this box. They handle most of the winter fine. If the weather calls for extra cold or ice I run out and toss a deep layer of leaves ontop of the plants. Once the bad weather has passed I go out and pick the leaves off. Its amazing how many plants you can overwinter this way. But the whole thing looks pretty ugly.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2006 at 1:27PM
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