Jul 17, 2019
By Dr. Bill MacElroy
Early summer is a great time to propagate your favorite plants from cuttings. While many plants are quite easy to root from a cutting, there are a couple of tips to give you the greatest chance of success.
If the plant is showing signs of disease or stress, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the result. Second, making sure your tools, gloves and rooting medium (soil) are as clean and sterile as possible. In both cases, it is bacteria and/or fungus that will thwart the production of new roots. The most common cause of failure is that the portion of the plant cutting below the soil level rots.
The process of taking a cutting is very easy. First, find an area of new growth on the plant you want to replicate. On a lavender, this will generally be on the lower 1/3 of the plant during high growth spurt seasons. In general, you want a four-inch portion of the plant that does not include a bud or bloom stalk. When a bloom bud is present, the plant will put all its energy into the flower, not the roots.
Second, remove about 1/2 of the leaves from the lower half of the cutting. The tiny wounds where the leaves were attached to the stem are where the new roots will emerge once put in the soil. Your local garden shop will have a mix of soil and amendments that are specifically designed for rooting.
Next, you want to help the cutting survive by protecting it from bacterial and fungal infection and to encourage rooting. In some cases, people dip the cutting stem into a synthetic rooting hormone powder. But if you want to have an organic and natural way to both protect and encourage rooting, try dipping the stem (where you removed the leaves) into raw, unprocessed honey.
Raw honey works because it is a natural anti-biotic and anti-fungal. It also contains several highly digestible sugars that help trigger the plant’s growth mechanism. Be sure that you are using raw honey, because a lot of the honey that is available at a local grocery store has been processed or pasteurized, killing off a lot of the natural benefits.
Now, just carefully insert the cutting into your rooting medium in a small pot with holes in the bottom. If you poke the medium with a pencil to make a hole prior to inserting, it will help prevent bruising the stem. Place your pots in a shallow pan to allow for watering from beneath (allowing the moisture to wick up through the soil); that keeps the water from jostling the cutting. Keep the medium moist (not overly wet) and within a week, you should begin to have roots appearing.
One month later, they should be ready to plant outdoors!
Plants that are great for creating clones directly in potting medium (versus sitting in a glass of water) include:
Dr. Bill MacElroy is a member of the Sonoma County Beekeepers’ Association and is the general manager of Monte-Bellaria, a West Sonoma County lavender farm. www.monte-bellaria.com. This is the season of FULL BLOOM at lavender farms so don’t miss this opportunity to see, smell, and purchase plants.
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