10 April 2008

Spring Flowering Shrubs - Make More by Propagating


Published April 09, 2008 06:37 pm -
Gardening: You can propagate softwood cuttings By Molly Day

Everywhere we look right now there is something blooming. Forsythia, flowering almond, flowering quince, bridal wreath, and other shrubs grab our attention as we drive through neighborhoods.

Most of these spring blooming shrubs should be trimmed right after the flowers fade to be replaced by leaves.

But the removed cuttings can have a better fate than landing on the compost pile or in the trash bin. The tips of the branches can be rooted to make more plants to use in your own yard or to give to someone who just bought a home or who needs replacement shrubs.

Branch cuttings taken in the spring for the purpose of propagating more plants are softwood cuttings.

Softwood is not the new tender growth shrubs have now. Test for softwood stage by bending the stem near where you would be taking cuttings. If it snaps it is ready to use. If it is flexible and does not snap it is still too green. If it is not flexible at all it is too old to use.

The methods for propagating these shrubs are as numerous as the people writing about the process.

Most agree that a sharp cutting instrument must be used in order to avoid crushing the end of the stem. All but the top few leaves are removed from the cutting so no green material is under water during the rooting process.

Rooting hormones are sold in most home improvement stores. Their effectiveness diminishes with time and they no longer work at all after six months. If rooting hormone is used, the cutting is dipped into the powder or liquid and shaken off. Too much rooting hormone reduces the possibility of rooting.

Cuttings are placed in a pre-moistened sterile medium such as perlite or in sharp sand that has been well rinsed. Which ever rooting medium you use, make a hole in it with a pencil and put the cutting into the hole, then firm it in by pressing sand, peat or perlite firmly around the cutting.

Here are directions for a rooting bucket from “Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden.” Put two inches of gravel in the bottom of a one gallon plastic bucket. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the bucket just at the top of the gravel. Fill the bucket to the top with sharp sand. Fill with water and let drain until the water is clear. Make holes in the sand and stick the cleaned cuttings in the sand. Keep the rooting bucket in the shade and check for water periodically.

Some gardeners keep the cuttings moist and warm by covering with a plastic bag or the top of a clear plastic bottle.

Forsythia, bursts with yellow flowers in early spring. Experienced gardeners find that they can take branch end cuttings and stick them in the ground where they want them to grow. They can also be rooted in peat moss, perlite, peat moss and sand.

Flowering Quince or Chaenomeles speciosa, locally called Japonica can be rooted the same way. The old-fashioned variety has pink-orange-reddish flowers that bloom at the same time as Forsythias. New cultivars: “Texas Scarlet,” has tomato-red blooms; “Cameo” has pink flowers; and “Jet Trail” has white flowers.

Roots grow on branch end cuttings in peat moss or sand, within one or two months. Carefully check one cutting after a month. Plant rooted cuttings in pots and then in the ground next fall.
Pink Flowering Almond or Prunus glandulosa rosea plena has powder pink flowers at the same time as Forsythia and Flowering Quince are blooming. It is also called Sinesis. Thomas Jefferson planted these shrubs in his Monticello garden in 1794. Take cuttings after flowering ends and leaves emerge; root as above.

Bridal Wreath Spirea or Spiraea vanhoutti, has branches of white flowers the same week all of the above shrubs are blooming. Take Spirea softwood cuttings are taken when the leaves emerge and root in moist sand and peat moss.

Making new plants is most likely to succeed when the cuttings are taken from a healthy plant. The desire to replace a dying plant by taking cuttings is understandable but may not work.

Propagation summary: Use a sharp knife and take three to four-inch cuttings from the growing tips. Make the cut at a slight angle just below a leaf node. Remove all flowers and the lower leaves. Dip the end into rooting hormone and put the cutting deep enough into the medium (sand, vermiculite, peat moss, etc.) that the cutting will stand up. Roots emerge from the former leaf nodes so be sure there are nodes down in the medium. Water and create a greenhouse effect with plastic bag, glass jar or clear plastic box. Place in a semi-shady spot out of direct sun. Cuttings root best at 65 to 75 degrees. Remove the covering to check on their progress, allow air to circulate and the top of the soil to dry a bit.

For rooting other types of plants, refer to the Rooting Database at the University of California, Davis Web site http://rooting.ucdavis.edu where you can search by Genus and Cultivar.


Nancy J. Bond said...

I would very much like to try this! Thanks for the easy to understand instructions.

Martha/All the Dirt said...

Hi Nancy --
I'm working on two projects now - a black lace elderberry and a bucket of forsythia cuttings.

As soon as that bridal wreath has good cuttings, I'll do that too.

Should I post a photo of my completed cuttings buckets? Would that help?

Good luck with your make more plants projects!

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Great article, Martha. I've never read clearer instructions.~~Dee

Ben said...

My latest cuttings are Moses in the cradle, they're a green and purple plant that grow strap like foliage. Very pretty and need little care or water once established.
The other beauty of these plants is that they propagate very easily!

Molly Day said...

Hi Dee - Thanks so much for your generous comments.
Are you propagating anything this spring?

Molly Day said...

Ben - Hi
I love that Moses in the cradle and kept a few pieces alive over the winter, too.
Last year I grew it in a hanging basket. A piece fell off and took root under the oak tree.
That green/purple leaf was pretty until the first hard freeze.