Our gardens can give us a rich harvest of new plants for free. This is especially useful if we have to replace some after a particularly harsh winter or because a few of them are short-lived or are spreading too much. Or you might simply want more of a specimen that’s doing really well. 

When money is tight, you can take cuttings from perennials, divide some well-established specimens or take seed from annuals. I’ll look at cuttings this week and some other methods next week.

Like pruning, taking cuttings isn’t difficult. The methods are pretty straightforward and you’ll succeed with most cuttings when you do it in the right way and at the right time. 
Many of our favourites like dianthus, lavender (above), pelargonium and salvia are either short-lived, get woody or straggly over time, or are tender and there isn’t enough space to protect them over winter. Getting new plants from your own cuttings solves all these issues.

Either use cuttings compost or your own compost mix. Add a generous amount of coarse grit to your own very well rotted and soil-like compost. Add compost to 7cm pots, either terracotta or plastic and water. Let it drain so the compost is moist but definitely not wet. Then take the cuttings. 

Select fresh healthy shoots that, preferably, haven’t flowered and ideally 7cm long. Using a sharp knife or scissors take five or six shoots and place in a plastic bag to prevent evaporation.

Prepare each cutting by snipping immediately below a node. This is where roots will start to grow and there will be very little stem to rot below the new roots. Aim to sink the cutting 3-4cm below the surface, after very neatly removing all leaves below this point. This helps prevent rotting. 

From what will sit above the surface, reduce the number of leaves to just a few to reduce evaporation. With larger-leaved cuttings, like salvia or honeysuckle, cut the remaining leaves in half to further reduce evaporation.

I then use a pencil to make holes in the compost for cuttings, placing them close to the pot’s perimeter and sprinkle coarse grit on the surface . This prevents leaves from touching the soil or being splashed during occasional watering. 

Keep out of direct sunlight in a frost-free greenhouse or shed. Some or most of the cuttings should strike within a few weeks but a few varieties take longer.
You could also take cuttings from shrubs such as fuchsia and hydrangea earlier in the year. Timing does vary between species, as it does with pruning.  But you can check for specific advice. 


Plant of the week:

Lythrum salicaria ‘Robin’ has been developed from our native Purple Loosestrife and is very hardy. Like it, it needs it needs moist or fairly wet soil and an open position. ‘Robin’ bears deep pink flowers that are very attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators and grow to about a metre tall. It forms a large clump at least half a metre across so give it plenty of space as it will “elbow out” more modest plants.