Rooting salvia cuttings

gerris2July 3, 2005

I have tried all aspects of technique for rooting salvias, from dipping cut end in rooting hormone and putting in moist medium, putting cuttings in water, to the rooting gels, all to no avail. Then this spring I was transplanting a Salvia corrugata plant and it was a bit brittle and I broke off the leading tip. In frustration at my clumsiness, after planting the main plant, I put the broken off end into moist soil and let it be in the shade. A few days later it perked up and it must have rooted because it is growing quite nicely now. I guess I was just working too hard! I thought it was funny, and had to share.


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I bought S van houttii last year and worried about it surving the frosts we often get. That winter I took several cuttings. Only one managed to root. When I planted it, I, too, snapped a piece off. I was annoyed and just stuck it in the ground near the cutting. Both of these took off, bushed out, and look even better than the parent plant.

I've been advised that cuttings strike according to the seasons. I know someone who is experimenting with bottom heating and she says she's been taking cuttings out of season and rooting them successfully using this method. I know someone else who's taken many cuttings of Hot Lips and is really happy with how easy they root but I've yet to be successful! What strikes, what doesn't, when and how remains a mystery to me.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 1:11AM
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CA Kate

I seem to have had better luck getting sticks to root in the spring... perhaps less stress from our high summer heat.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 11:56AM
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wardw(z6 NJ)

I turn my lights on in the basement when I'm rooting cuttings in the summer. Down there the rooting medium stays wetter and the temperatures are cooler.

Now I'll add a question. I had very mixed success with rooting some of my bush sages. Rasperry Delight seems to take ok, but Raspberry Royal has been almost a total failure. Has anyone noticed that cuttings from fatter stems seem to take quicker and better? Many of my cuttings were from wind broken stems from which I could take up to four or five cuttings. The lower fatter stems seemed to root quite well on the "Delight", while the thinner upper parts of the stems rooted slowly if they rooted at all. Perhaps it is not worth the trouble to root those thin cuttings?

The above being said, I took cuttings of all sizes from San Carlos Festival and Wild Watermelon over the weekend. I'm hoping for the best since I'll need those rooted plants next year.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 9:05AM
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rosewomann(z7 MD Montg. Co)

Joseph & Cait, I have long known that I couldn't root things in the house or if I paid any attention to them at all(read overwatering). Outdoors, I just tuck bits of plants into my pots in a shaded position & water every couple of days & like magic they root! In the house, it's the same scenario each time, they look great until one day they lose all their leaves(or they lose them one at a time). It seems that neglect works best for me!

wardw, I've never been able to figure out which part of the stem does best, so I try them all! I suspect it's more the time of the year that matters as Westelle pointed out.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 7:08PM
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I agree with you, Rose. Often 'neglect' is the best rooting agent. I've had the most success by potting the cuttings then leaving them under my rosemary bush! The bush is about 4 ft high, 2 stakes on either side with a string attached. The string holds the stems upright in the middle but there's a kind of umbrella effect from the stems that fall over the string. I guess it works as a kind of cold frame.

I've also had success when rooting cuttings and leaving them in the house. I've only just started experimenting with taking cuttings in winter - it's winter for me now - and the winter-flowering salvias seem to strike ok. But I have more winter flowering species to experiment with while last year I only had the van houttii. The greggii cuttings I've taken seem to strike better when taken in spring and early summer. The same with buchananii.
As you said, I, too, have never been able to figure out which part of the stem does best when it comes to cuttings. And for me that's part of the fun - to just 'do it' and see what happens!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 7:57PM
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wardw(z6 NJ)

Thanks for the feedback folks. And certainly the unexpected is one of things that keep things interesting. These chat areas are still fairly new to me. In the old days you either had to buy a book, learn from gardening neighbors, or just go with the old trial and error method. If nothing else these sessions have steepened my learning curve.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 8:49AM
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CA Kate

DH broke off some Mulberry Jam, which I promptly took to the potting area and stuck in a new pot. I paid more attention to what I was doing because of this thread.
1. I agree that the larger cuttings seem to root better.
2. I always strip-off the lowest one or two sets of leaves; this seems to be where the new roots come from.
3. I make a tent out of a plastic bag held up off the cuttings with a stick. I leave that on for a week or so, or until the cuttings seem to not be wilty anymore.
4. Finally I put the pot in a shadier area.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 12:43PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Joseph, that is the only way I have ever rooted a Salvia cutting -- accidently breaking a stem, sticking it in soil in semi-shade, and a few weeks later it perks up. Even the cuttings in the sunnier spots (even in pots that I forget to water) do the best.

Pelargoniums also root very easily in the same way.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 4:06PM
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I work at a nursery and we have several salvias that we grow from cuttings. It's really pretty easy, and of all of the plants we grow from cuttings, Salvias and Pelargoniums are probably some of the easiest. Here is how we do the cuts.

1. We take about a 3/4" cut from the tip. You want to get new growth that's healthy looking.
2. Strip off all but 2 or 3 sets of leaves. Take off all flowers. You want the plant to produce roots, not try to flower.
3. We don't usually use rooting hormone, but we do use heat mats.
4. We also use a seed/cutting starter mix. It's finer than regular potting soil.
5. They don't need to be covered, but do mist them a couple of times a day.

We have really good results this way. The only real stinker this year was Chiapensis. Maybe it's because the stems are thinner.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 11:44PM
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wardw(z6 NJ)

I had thought of using bottom heat, but last year I had mixed results with that method. It looks like it is time to try it again. Anything that will get these things rooted so they can go out in the nursery bed. My second set of cuttings from San Carlos Festival and Wild Watermelon seem to have rooted, at least they don't yield to a gentle pull. The earlier June cuttings of Raspberry Delight are now ready for the nursery bed, that is once the temperatures quit being in the upper 90s late this week.

Thanks to everyone for their advice.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 10:26AM
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I finally successfully rooted 2 salvia guarantica Black & Blues! Both in small pots and only one had a clear plastic covering with holes. Just kept them moist for a few weeks and now they are about 3 times the size. I left them on my porch which gets full sun for about 3 hours of the hottest part of the day, but theyre mostly semi-shade. I would say it took over a month.

also stuck a Salvia Leucantha cutting that was about 6 inches long and stuck it in a full sun area. The thing is about a foot now.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2005 at 1:16PM
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I have been rooting salvias for years now and have found them to be one of the easiest of all the things I root. I try to take a cutting with at least two nodes on it. I was told by a professional that you need at least two nodes so that the cutting will return the next year in the garden. I trim all of the leaves off except at the very top. If the leaves are large, I cut them in half. I stick the cuttings in a mixture of perlite and sand. I spritz with the hose twice a day and in about two weeks, they are rooted. They are in the shade but that is about all I do to them. If your cutting bends when you try to stick in your medium, it is too thin. Move a little further down the stem. It works for me. Trina

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 10:37PM
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Hi, Trina and all,
I like the two node idea. I've taken some cuttings where there were a several nodes and try to get as many of them as possible under soil.
This reminded me of something that was said to me about planting salvias - that you can plant them deeper than they were in their original pot. Because I live in a windy area and have had plants blown over I try do this this whenever possible, especially with the taller growing salvias. Makes for a much sturdier plant.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 6:23AM
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CA Kate

This morning I moved all the rooted babies from their communal pots into individual pots. I trimmed them all back too so I would have denser plants.

Then I filled-up the big communal pots with fresh soil, striped the leaves off the prunings and stuck those in the ground too. We'll see how well they all take in the shade at 110º.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 6:57PM
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amgrant(Z5 CO)

For Salvia greggiis, try to get vegetative cuttings before they set flower. For Salvia nemerosas, they are very susceptible to variuos kinds of fungal diseases and root rots. It may not show up in the Mother plant, but the cuttings will wither and die. Surface disinfect them with hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore dilted 1:2 or household belach diluted 1:20. I prefer the hydrogen peroxide as it is easy to overdo it with the bleach. Also, the hydrogen peroxide doesn't need to be rinsed, which you should do with the bleach

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 8:15PM
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I need to print this thread out for reference! Wow!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 1:18PM
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