Last week we had a great time propagating at the station (hmm, perhaps a comment more worthy of London Road Station’s slightly naughty alter ego @LRBstation).
It’s a great way to ensure a stock of plants for the next season because it’s free. We’ve done it before, but this time, we’ve recorded our demonstration of propagating techniques – probably the first time it’s ever been done at the station! See below for the video.
Softwood cuttings – for tender perennials and shrubs
- First, get your sprigs from the ‘mother’ plant. Choose – preferably – a non-flowering healthy-looking shoot of around 8-10cm. Cut above a leaf node so that the ‘mother’ plant grows on happily.
- Prepare your cuttings. Cut just beneath a leaf node because this is where the growing hormones are concentrated. Remove any lower leaves which might rot as the plantlet tries to establish itself. Place cutting in a pot of water while you prepare potting compost and hormone rooting powder.
- Prepare pots of compost. Fill 9cm or 7cm pots with either sowing and potting compost or multipurpose compost mixed with perlite/vermiculite. Make three holes around the edge of the pot – ‘dibbing‘ – to stick the cuttings in.
- Dip in hormone rooting powder and plant. Dip the end of the wet cutting in the powder and shake off any excess. Stick the cutting in the hole and pat compost around it.
- Water with a fine rose – just enough to get the compost moist and bring the compost around the cutting.
- Place in propagator. Now seal the pots in a propagator with the lid on to preserve the moisture and place out of direct sunlight in a warm place such as a greenhouse. You can cover pots with plastic bags, it’s the same principle.
- Wait – it’s a good idea to ventilate the plantlets from time to time by lifting off the propagator lid for 10 minutes or so at least twice a week. This is to stop them rotting but you also need to conserve moisture to stop them shrivelling up. When the plantlets start to look happy, you can increase ventilation or remove the lid altogether. My cuttings have often had to survive out of the propagator in a cold greenhouse or even outside.
- Look for signs of growth: new bright green buds and leaves at the top, white roots at the bottom of the pot. Getting a good root system established can take between 6-10 weeks. When it’s clear that the plantlets are growing, you can pot on – i.e. remove the three rooted plantlets from their collective home and give each one an individual pot to grow on …