You’ve got a favourite plant and you want another one just like it. But you can’t find it in any of the garden centres, or you don’t want to fork out the cash (and why should you?).
No problem. There’s a simple and very cheap way of reproducing that favourite plant – grow it from a cutting.
But isn’t that something only experienced gardeners and presenters of gardening make-over shows know how to do? Not at all. A ten year-old could do it. Here’s how.
Taking the Cutting
Look for some relatively new growth on the plant you wish to replicate. You want a shoot that hasn’t become too woody and that is still actively growing.
Using a pair of secateurs or pruning shears, snip off a shoot about 15 cm in length. Cut at an angle just below a “leaf node” (where the leaf joins the stem). Ideally, there should be 3 to 4 “leaf nodes” on the piece you take.
Note: Take your cuttings in the early morning. At this time, the shoots of a plant are richest in moisture and nutrients.
Preparing the Cutting
Strip away the leaves from the lower two thirds of the cutting and dip the cut end in rooting hormone (also called rooting powder or rooting gel).
Starting the Cutting
You can’t plant cuttings straight into the garden or a pot of potting mix. They need to be nurtured carefully until they have developed roots.
Two Ways to Do It
1/ Stand the cutting in a glass of water mixed with a very small amount of liquid fertiliser (just a couple of drops will do). Place the glass in a protected area out of direct sunlight (to protect the roots from UV rays). This method affords the added enjoyment of being able to watch the roots grow – something children, particularly, find interesting.
2/ A more common method is to use a mix of half sand/half potting mix or half sand/half peat moss. Plant the cutting in a pot of this mix, leaving the top third of the cutting above the soil. Ensure there are no leaves below the soil-line. Water the cutting well.
At this point you can place an open, clear plastic bag over the cutting and the mouth of the pot (freezer bags work well). The bag should fit loosely enough to allow the passage of air, but it should not rest on the cutting itself. In effect, you are creating a mini greenhouse.
This step is not always necessary, especially in moderate climates, but the humidity inside the bag will help your cutting grow roots.
Keep the cutting in a shady area while it is rooting. If you use a plastic bag, remove it after three weeks.
Transplanting the Cutting
In 5 to 6 weeks your cutting will have grown sufficient roots to allow it to be transplanted safely into a pot of potting mix. You can test the amount of root growth (if you’ve used the sand method) by gently tugging the cutting. If it doesn’t come out of the sand mix when you do this, it’s roots are ready.
Remove your cutting from the sand mix or water glass, being careful not to damage the new roots.
Plant the cutting in a pot of potting mix. The pot should not be overly large. A 1.5 litre pot or plastic potting bag is about right. Water the cutting.
Keep your cutting moist over the following weeks, but do not over-water. If the soil around the cutting is constantly waterlogged the roots will rot.
A Whole New World
Once you’ve grown one cutting you’ll wonder why you never did it before. You’ve opened the door to a whole new gardening world – one which won’t drain the family bank account. Got a friend with a plant you like? No need to buy one, just ask them for a cutting (a little damp cotton wool wrapped around the cut will see it safely home).
With a little time and patience your garden will become a richer and more varied place. And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that the plants your neighbours admire so much weren’t bought from a shop, but were grown from scratch by yours truly.