Monday, May 2, 2011

Project Propagate: My Adventure in Rooting Cuttings

This post was written for Yard Farm Austin's lovely blog, where I am a frequent contributor. Please enjoy the post here, and visit Yard Farm's page for lots more great info.

This week I'll start a new series of posts covering a project i'm working on: propagating new plants from plant cuttings. It's amazing that you can cut off a branch from an existing plant, pot it up and have a brand new plant take root! I have high hopes of quickly propagating a whole fleet of sage plants and bay trees, but first things first. I've never rooted cuttings before, so this is a learning experience for me as well. I started by doing some research. I just love Chiot's Run, and the author of that blog posted some excellent articles on her technique for rooting cuttings. I'm doing a larger, more commercially oriented project: rooting enough cuttings to supply the demand of Yard Farm's growing clientèle and thus had to work around some tricky details: where to find pans big enough to hold 5 flats of 100 cell seedling trays!? I'm also working on some personal cuttings and will continue to try propagation with many more plants as the years go by.

In order to root plant cuttings you need a few supplies:
  • Mother plants
  • Soil (a mix of peat, sand, and vermiculite works well)
  • Seedling trays, little pots, any container to put the plants in
  • Tray to hold water
  • Optional plastic done or plastic wrap
  • Mister
  • Rooting hormone
  • Sharp scissors, knife or shears
The technique i used:
  1. Fill seedling cell trays with soil mix. My goal was to start as many plants as possible, so i used this smaller cell trays. Once they've rooted i'll move them to larger 4" pots. If i was rooting fewer plants at a time, I'd probably start with 4" pots - as most gardeners usually have about a billion of those floating around. Moisten the soil. I used water with well diluted fish emulsion.
    Note: that's rooting hormone in the Grey Poupon jar.

  2. Poke holes with a pencil, sharpy or your finger in all the pots. These holes will keep the rooting hormone from being knocked off when you place the cuttings into the soil.

  3. Clip sections of new growth from the mother plants, 2-8 inches long, just below a branch or node. Avoid flowers or overly woody branches.

  4. Strip off the leaves from the bottom 2 inches. Roots will grow from these leaf nodes

  5. Dip The stripped end of the plant cutting into your rooting powder. Try to avoid inhaling the powder and wash your hands well afterwards. I of course licked some off my cup thinking it was sweet'n'low, so we'll see if i develop any tumors or extra ears anytime soon.

  6. Carefully place the dusty end of the cutting into the hole and pack the soil closed around it.

  7. Place the cell tray into a water tight tray.

  8. Place a quarter of an inch or so of water in the tray. You may dilute fish emulsion or seaweed in this water as an extra nutrient boost.

  9. Cover your cuttings with a plastic dome, place in a green house or sheltered sunny area in your home, or cover with plastic wrap. These cement mixing trays work great both as bottom up watering, and insulation/plastic wrap platform.

  10. Mist several times daily. Misting is key! Water from the bottom, but keep the cuttings moist with a mister.

That's it! Now I wait and baby them, checking to see the rooting progress every so often. Won't you join me to see the progress next week? Spring is a great time to do cuttings as there is a ton of brand new growth on most the plants. Please leave me a comment if you're rooting cuttings too.
This post is also found at the Barn Hop!

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