Growing plants from cuttings
Who says that you cant get something for nothing these days? While many people are terrified by the very idea growing plants from cuttings, it is a very simple process that will cost you nothing but a bit of time and effort. Growing plants from cuttings is probably the most reliable way of reproducing your favourite garden plants. Now is a great time of the year to try your hand at propagating new plants from semi-ripe cuttings as the weather is still quite nice for the job and your cuttings should root very quickly.
When taking cuttings it is very important to be selective about the plant material that you are going to use. It is usually best to take cuttings early in the day, as in the morning the stems and leaves of plants are full of water. When selecting stems for cutting you should look for, vigorous, non-flowering, side-shoots that are free from any signs of pests or diseases. The wood at the base of these shoots should be beginning to harden while the tip may still be soft. Your cuttings should be at least four inches long.
When you have taken your cutting you should remove the lower leaves as this will help to reduce moisture loss. The base of the cutting should then be cut just below a leaf joint with a sharp knife or shears and dipped into rooting powder hormone. This powder is available from garden centres and greatly helps with the rooting process. When using rooting powder it is very important not to be too heavy handed as excessive amounts can damage your cuttings.
When rooting it is vitally important that cuttings are kept moist and humid. With this in mind you should fill your pots with a gritty moisture retaining compost. An ideal compost for cuttings can be got by mixing equal parts of peat with sand or grit. Several cuttings should then be pushed into each pot and watered in well. It is also usually advisable to add a fungicide to this initial watering as this can reduce problems later on. Following this watering the pot should then be covered with a clear plastic bag supported on sticks and tied with an elastic band which will keep up the humidity around the cuttings by acting as a small green house. The pot should then be placed in a warm spot out of direct sunlight until the cuttings have rooted.
While every one encounters a few failures when they begin propagating plants from cuttings it is worth remembering that pretty much any shrub can be grown in this way and that some plants will root more easily than others, so be prepared to experiment.