Share your garden with other gardeners

It's the perfect time to take cuttings of perennials like penstemons, impatiens and passion flowers.

Tips for success:

  • You want fresh, semi-soft growth. The stem should be flexible, but not floppy. It should snap when bent. If it just folds when bent, it'll rot before it roots.

  • Avoid taking cuttings from plants currently in bloom. Plants will be sending their energy up to the flowers, and you want them sending their energy down to where the roots will be.

  • The stem needs to have at least five or six nodes on it. Nodes are the little bumps or ridges along a branch from which leaves and flowers grow. The new roots will sprout from the nodes.

  • Take several cuttings of the same plant -- six or so. Use the sharpest knife or scissors available. You want a very clean cut.

  • Don't let your cuttings dry out. In fact, cuttings should be taken in the morning when plants are still full of water and have not transpired (plant perspiration) their moisture away during a long day.

  • Wrap the ends of your cuttings in wet paper towels and slip them into a plastic bag. If you're taking cuttings from a friend's garden and plan to hang out for awhile longer, slip your wrapped, bagged cuttings into your friend's refrigerator until you're ready to depart.
Cuttings: The Best Way to Share Your Best Plants

Rooting a cutting is a great way to share plants with friends and fill your garden with all the fabulous plants you see in your friends' gardens. You can create a new plant by encouraging roots to grow from the bottom of a twig or stem which you've cut from a healthy plant. What you're doing is making one plant from another.

Some plants are more successful candidates than others. They require much less effort and sprout roots quicker.

Easy Rooters:
Penstemon, impatiens, passion flowers, scented geraniums, fuschias and salvias are all good rooters.

Selecting good cutting material is one of the keys to success.

  • Look for shoots and stems from the current season. You want fresh, semi-soft growth. The stem should be flexible, but not floppy. It should snap when bent. If it just folds when bent, it'll rot before it roots.

  • Avoid taking cuttings from plants currently in bloom. Rooting and flowering are processes that are hormonally antithetical. Plants will be sending their energy up to the flowers, and you want them sending their energy down to where the roots will be.

  • The stem needs to have at least five or six nodes on it. Nodes are the little bumps or ridges along a branch from which leaves and flowers grow. The new roots will sprout from the nodes.

  • Take several cuttings of the same plant -- six or so. Use the sharpest knife or scissors available. You want a very clean cut.

  • Don't let your cuttings dry out. In fact, cuttings should be taken in the morning when plants are still full of water and have not transpired (plant perspiration) their moisture away during a long day.

  • Wrap the ends of your cuttings in wet paper towels and slip them into a plastic bag. If you're taking cuttings from a friend's garden and plan to hang out for awhile longer, slip your wrapped, bagged cuttings into your friend's refrigerator until you're ready to depart.
The Rooting Medium
At the Botanical Garden we work with a rooting medium composed of five parts perlite to one part vermiculite. This means five cups to one cup, or five tablespoons to one tablespoon depending on how many cuttings you have to root.
  • Remove the lower leaves as well, leaving only one or two sets of leaves at the top of the cutting. Use a clean razor blade or scissors to remove leaves and to re-slice the bottom end so it is surgically neat and clean.

  • Cut off half of each of the remaining leaves to reduce the surface area from which the cutting can lose water. Retaining water is a primary goal.

  • Fill your pot with your rooting medium about half an inch from the pot's rim. Pack it fairly tightly. Don't use your cutting to poke its own hole. Use a tool -- fancy dibble, pencil, screwdriver (wipe them with alcohol) -- to make the hole, and then gently insert the prepared cutting.

  • Bury your cutting two to three nodes deep into your medium. You can put several cuttings in each pot. Securely close the hole around each cutting.

  • Be sure to add a label with the date and name of the cutting. It's important to know how long something has been rooting or rotting.
And here's the big secret -- cover it all with a plastic bag. This retains moisture and keeps a stable, warm environment. Be careful taking your bag on and off the pot. You don't want to disturb the cuttings.

Don't let your cuttings dry out. Mist them daily with a sprayer. Keep your cuttings pot in indirect sunlight. It will fry right up in direct sunlight.

In a couple of weeks, your stem should be putting out roots! Give the stem a gentle little tug. If you feel some resistance, that's a sign there are roots down there. Wait a month or so then pot the new plant in your favorite potting soil.

San Francisco Botanical Garden
9th Avenue at Lincoln Way
San Francisco, CA 94122
Phone: (415) 661-1316
Website: http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org
Gardening blog: http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org/hortiphile

>> The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society is the non-profit support organization for the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

About Lisa Van Cleef:
Lisa Van Cleef's life mission is to spark a passion for plants in people. Like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, Lisa sows the seeds that inspire curiosity and a love for the plant world. A long-time SFBG Nursery volunteer, she wrote the Green Gardener column for the SFGate, has worked with the Conservatory of Flowers and The Nature Conservancy. Today, she supports the Society's marketing efforts.

Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.