Plant Propagation – The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Written by Pat Naughton, Master Gardener Volunteer

 The dog days of summer are typically the time for vegetable gardens to go on vacation.  While the vegetable garden is dormant, now is a good time to propagate new plants. 

 If you have been admiring your neighbor’s prized Rose plants, ask permission to take a hardwood cutting.  The cutting should be 8 to 10 inches long. Stems that are neither brand new nor fully mature and have fading flowers (or flowers that just lost their petals) are desirable. A stem with a flower bud showing no color is too young. 

 Take cuttings from the upper part of the plant or from the sides.  Using a razor blade or sharp pruning shears make a clean slice at a 45 degree angle to maximize the rooting area. Most cuttings root best if the slice is made just below a leaf node (where branches come out of the stem).  Remove flowers or buds from the cutting, as well as any lower leaves. Cut the remaining leaves in half to reduce moisture loss through transpiration. Also, less foliage will maximize the amount of energy the cutting can expend on developing roots as opposed to maintaining the leaves. 

 Quickly dip the bottom two inches of the cutting into a cloning solution or rooting hormone. Rooting hormone is not always necessary but will greatly improve your success rate.  Using a pencil make a small hole in the growing medium for the stem to fit into and gently tamp the cutting into place. Cover with a mayonnaise jar or put the whole container in a plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect and maintain high humidity levels.  Roses root best in bright light. Set them in a window.  Providing bottom warmth from a heat mat will help promote root growth.  Avoid overheating the cuttings. 

 Keep the growing media moist and wait until roots appear, usually in as little as three to four weeks. Slowly “harden off” plants before transplanting outside.

  The same steps can be used to propagate soft stem shrubs, annuals, and perennials.  After a couple of months you can give your neighbors a gift of a new plant they can admire.