A few days ago, I started taking cuttings from my collection of standard roses in the garden. This is something that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time but was simply too busy to get around to doing, especially in the run up to Christmas. I’ve lost count of the number of customers who have come into my plant nursery and asked to purchase roses from me. Many customers have admired our collection and asked for the same varieties we have. For a long time, I’ve been aware of the fact that it’s quite easy to propagate roses by cuttings and the strike rate is generally good. As any rose grower will know, you need to prune your roses regularly in order for them to retain their shape and re-flower. Half the work for taking cuttings is therefore already done!
I’ll elaborate on the reasons why gardeners take cuttings of plants below, but here are the main reasons in a nutshell. It’s easy, cheap and isn’t terribly time intensive. Most plants strike very easily from cuttings. Look at it this way: you don’t have much to lose if they don’t take. If they do, then you’ve generated extra plants which you can either plant in your garden, give away to other gardeners or sell for some extra money.
You may recall that I touched on propagating lavender by cutting in my growing guide for lavender which I wrote late last year. While I was working on taking cuttings of my roses, I decided that it would be a good idea to write a more general guide to propagating plants by cuttings so that other gardeners can also give it a go at home.
Reasons to propagate plants by cuttings
Here are some reasons why you may wish to propagate plants by cuttings:
o to save yourself the cost of purchasing a plant from the garden centre!
o to duplicate a nice plant you’ve seen in someone else’s garden
o to duplicate a plant that is no longer being sold or is difficult to find
o to generate extra plants for your garden so you can fill in any gaps
o to generate extra plants for hedges such as buxus and lavender, which tend to require a lot of plants and/or replacements for any plants that have failed to survive
o to create extra plants to share with other gardeners
o to create more plants to sell for some extra cash
o to have a back up for when the mother plant dies or in the case of lavender, becomes very woody after five or so years and the parent plant needs to be replaced
Plants which are easy to propagate by cuttings
If you don’t have any experience in propagating plants by cutting, it might be a good idea to start with some of these first in order to build your confidence. You’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment when some of your plants take successfully and you’ll then be able to move onto plants that are more difficult to propagate by cutting.
Here is a list of plants that strike easily from cuttings.
o buxus (box hedge)
For more advanced gardeners:
When to take cuttings
Cuttings are probably best taken between spring and autumn when the weather is warmer, although in theory you can propagate plants by cutting at any time of the year. Just be prepared to be patient, as it can take a while for cuttings to “take”.
Plant variety rights
Don’t get in trouble with the law! Before you start taking cuttings from your plants (or those in another garden), it’s a good idea to check if the plant has registered Plant Variety Rights (PVR). Some plant breeds register the exclusive right to the propagation of certain varieties, meaning that it’s illegal to propagate further plants by cuttings. You can conduct a search for whether PVR have been registered in respect of a particular plant on the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office’s website: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/pvr/search/
What you will need
I like to use long plastic troughs filled with potting mix for taking cuttings. I don’t take cuttings very often, so these containers give me quite a bit of space to insert cuttings. If some don’t take, it doesn’t matter. However, you can take cuttings in any number and use any plastic pot or container for the purpose. It pays to use fresh potting mixture to provide fresh nutrients to the plants for the first few months of their life and during the critical stage of when they are developing their own roots.
Method for taking cuttings
Cut off pieces from the plant with sharp secateurs and try to take the cuttings on an angle. You can dip cuttings in some rooting gel to improve the strike rate if you wish, but you don’t have to do this in order for cuttings to take successfully. With your finger, make a hole in the potting mix in the trough or container you are using to place your cuttings in. Bury the stem of the cutting with the potting mixture and water well.
You can also make your own rooting gel with willow water, if you want to use something to aid the root development process but don’t want to use a commercial rooting gel. Willow water is made from young green or yellow twigs and stems soaked in either boiling water overnight or cold water for a few days. It can also be used to water your cuttings once potted up. Manukau honey is also another good DIY option, especially for difficult cuttings.
Check cuttings after a few months to see which ones take and developed roots. As noted above, be patient as this can take several months. As the plants which have developed roots get bigger, you may wish to repot them into separate containers or plant them directly into the garden.