Experimenting With Propagation

April 14, 2010

I decided to try taking stem cuttings of some of the plants that I bought at Richters.  Here’s what I used:

  • assorted plants from Richters for cuttings
  • really sharp scissors
  • Root-A-Maker natural rooting powder from Richters
  • Wilson’s Roots liquid root stimulator from Lee Valley Tools
  • cut up vinyl mini blinds for plant markers
  • a flat of 9-cell trays filled with damp germinating mix
  • a clear dome
  • a water sprayer
  • a seed spoon from Lee Valley Tools used as a dibble
  • a Sharpie
  • two small bowls

I’ve never properly propagated stem cuttings before.  My process before this adventure was to put a stem cutting in a glass jar with some water, hoped it developed roots and then stick it in some soil.  With all these new herb plants I decided to make the process more formal, even throwing in a good test on top of that: which would root stem cuttings better, powder or gel?

I gathered my supplies:

Read through my propagation book to make sure I was doing it right:

There was a lot to go through, especially the different types of cuttings: greenwood, softwood, semiripe, hardwood, conifer, cane, leaf petiole, leaf vein, upright leaf, monocot leaf and root.  I realized that I wouldn’t be able to propagate all of the plants by cuttings, especially the Society garlic.  At some point, after flipping back and forth through the book, I decided to just take cuttings of different plants and see which ones rooted.  Of course I couldn’t just root something, I had throw in a test between two different rooting products:

The powder on the left was chalky and the gel on the right smelled funny.  I put a bit of each into separate small bowls so as to not contaminate the main supply.

For each cutting I made sure that it was a minimum two inches long with at least one inch of stem.  Here’s a shot of a zaatar cutting where I snipped off the lower set of leaves:

I took the cutting and dipped it into the gel:

And dibbled a hole in one of the cells of the tray and put the stem into it.  I gently tamped the soil so that it would have good contact with the gelled stem.  For each plant I did three cuttings with gel and three cuttings with powder (the powdered zaatar isn’t shown).  I labeled each cutting with the plant name and if I had used powder or gel.

The whole process took a while as I needed to select a good stem to cut and be gentle with each.  Here’s a finished tray of both gel and powdered cuttings:

There’s zaatar, Greek oregano, Rex rosemary, Piss Off plant, hummingbird sage and mojito mint.  I was so happy with finally taking cuttings (I’ve been meaning to do this experiment for years) that I experimented with a few more:

That’s pineapple sage, BBQ rosemary and variegated marjoram.

I watered and spritzed the cuttings with my water sprayer and put a clear dome over it.  I placed them out of direct sunlight on a table.  So far none have wilted and died so I’m hoping that the cuttings have started to root.  I’m so excited about the idea of making more plants that I’m going to take some more stem cuttings.  Not only will I have more plants, the main plant that I’m taking the cuttings from won’t be spindly and will be forced to bush out, creating a healthier plant.  Woo.


2 Responses to “Experimenting With Propagation”

  1. I am giddy with anticipation! I half-heartedly tried propagating a bush via this method and failed (of course). I can’t wait to see your results.

  2. Kathy Says:

    Hi David, what type of bush was it? There might be an entry in my book.

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