08 October 2009

The change from summer to fall is taken more gracefully by gardens than gardeners because plants have no regrets about what they did not accomplish over the summer. They are ready for fall even if they did not bloom their best or produce buckets of fruit.

Gardeners can take cuttings of tender perennials now to prolong their gardening activities well into the fall. Those cuttings will grow on a sunny windowsill or under lights and provide plants for next spring’s garden.

Tender perennials include: Begonia, Coleus, Fuscia, Hoya (Wax Plant), Impatiens, Joseph’s Coat, Lantana, Mandevilla, Passion Flower, Pelargonium (scented geranium), Plectranthus, Plumbago, Rosemary, Sage and Salvia, Sweet-potato vine, Torenia (Wishbone Flower), Verbena, etc.

True annuals, started from seed, will not overwinter well from cuttings.

Take a look at how much windowsill space you have for plants after they root. If you have a fluorescent-light bench to grow several plants, consider the size they will become and what other plants you may be starting. That will help you decide whether or not you can grow ten of everything.

Prepare containers and fill them to a an half inch below the top of the pot. In order to help prevent rotting, add sand, vermiculite, peat moss or perlite to sterile potting soil. For succulents, pure sand can be used. For Begonias, pure vermiculite will work.

Each cutting can use only a small amount of moisture. A large pot full of wet soil stays wet. Use small pots or yogurt containers with drainage holes.

Which ever rooting medium you use (soil, sand, etc.), moisten it and let it drain so it is damp not wet.
Select and cut about 6 inches from stem ends. Sterilize a sharp knife or pruner with alcohol. Take a cut just below a leaf node. (A node is where the leaf stems attach to the stem.)

Remove flowers, buds and all the leaves except the top two. If the top leaves are large, they can be cut in half to preserve the plant’s energy.

Check the depth of the rooting container against the length of your cutting. The cutting is inserted into the soil deep enough so that the only part of the stem above the soil is holding the leaves. Cut the stem so it fits the container but be sure there are at least two leaf nodes in the soil.

Rooting products cannot be re-used so put a little of it into a separate container. Moisten the stem and dip it into dry or liquid rooting hormone. You can also put hormone where the leaves were removed. Tap the stem to remove any extra.

Use a pencil to make a hole in the moist planting medium and insert the cutting. Firm the soil around the cutting. Put the pot onto newspaper or an old towel to continue to remove excess moisture.

Cover the containers with plastic wrap or a clear plastic bag to prevent the cuttings from drying out. Clear plastic produce containers (berries, salad, etc.) with lids attached are useful for short pieces and leaf propagation. Keep the leaves away from the plastic.

The roots of your new plants will emerge from the former leaf nodes on the bottom and sides of your cuttings. Since they do not have roots yet to take up water, they have to be checked daily for moisture. Lift the plastic of your mini-greenhouse and mist them if necessary.

Keep unrooted cuttings in a warm place, away from direct light. When new growth emerges, roots have formed.

Transplant your tiny starts into small pots and water from the bottom. Move them into bright light. Keep them compact over the winter by pinching back new growth.

Questions or comments? email me at mollyday1@gmail.com

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