One of the great advantages of growing new plants from cuttings is that they will be exact replicas of the parent plant from which they were taken. Stem cuttings is the most common method of vegetative propagation and Autumn is a good time to take semi-mature tip cuttings from your favourite shrubs.
|Select healthy young strong shoots from the upper portions of the branches. Those which receive the best light on outer parts are the best propagating material. Avoid flowering stems because the buds inhibit the production of roots.
|Cut off shoot tips 5-10cm long. Remove the lower leaves using a clean sharp knife. If the remaining leaves are larger than a finger tip, reduce them by half in size to decrease water loss.
|Fill a pot with a proprietary cutting mix or make your own using clean compost and lots of sand or pumice.
|Make a diagonal cut across the base of the cutting just below the lowest leaf node. If using, dip the lower 2cm of the cutting into rooting compound.
|Insert cuttings around the edge of the pot into the mix, spacing them so their leaves don’t touch. Firm gently, water and allow to drain.
|Cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag. To keep the plastic clear of the foliage, use two wire hoops inserted at right angles, then close the bag to form a mini greenhouse. Keep in a warm light position out of direct sunlight.
|Check them frequently for signs of mould in which case remove the mouldy ones and provide more ventilation.
|Once the cuttings have rooted (look for roots in the holes of the pot and fresh growth at the tips), harden off the cuttings by gradually opening and removing the plastic bag.
|When plants are growing strongly, transplant into potting mix in individual pots and feed with a liquid fertiliser. Plant them in the garden when they have a strong root system and are large enough to handle easily.
NOTE: Conifer cuttings usually root better if they are taken with a heel – a small sliver of wood from the parent stem.
Ready to plant azalea and conifer cuttings
Prepared cuttings showing the 'heel' on the conifer (right) and a scrape off the stem on the azaleas to stimulate root growth.
Four week old fuchsia cuttings showing signs of new growth