What is your favorite plant to propagate from cuttings, and why?
Written by San Diego Horticultural Society
These gardening ideas titled "Sharing Secrets" are provided by the San Diego Horticultural Society, whose members share their experiences on a different gardening topic every month. You can see the complete archive at www.sandiegohorticulturalsociety.org.
Sheryl Bennett remarked that, “Successful propagation is so rewarding. I've had very good success with Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet). In the spring, I take a cutting about the size of a pencil from new growth, strip off all but a few leaves, dip in rooting compound, and sick in the ground in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade, and then keep it moist. In our San Diego climate, it's an easy propagation. I'm always propagating all types of succulents too; they are by far the easiest plant to propagate and share with friends.”
Tom Biggart had a favorite shrub: “One of my favorite plants to propagate is Cistus x skanbergii. It is a wonderful rockrose! The foliage is grey (a great part of the xerophytic plant palette). The plant grows to 3 feet tall and will spread out to at least 8 feet. I water this area about once a month during the hot, dry season in El Cajon. Now (early April) the plant is literally covered with 1-inch rockrose-type pick flowers. It is a knockout!!”
Ken Blackford posted photos on-line: “I would have to say Sedum nussbaumerianum is my favorite plant to propagate from cuttings because it is SO EASY!!! You don't have to wait for the cut to callus over... just cut and plunk into any kind of soil... even clay! Many succulents share this capability, but you can't argue with the fantastic color of S. nussbaumerianum... that beautiful orange glow! It contrasts nicely with the dark purple of Aeonium 'Zwartkopf', another favorite! Wait! Can we have two favorites? How 'bout 3 ... no, 4, ... 5 ... 6 ... there are so many! Here are some shots of Sedum nussbaum (for short) I've posted on Flickr:
Linda Bresler is another succulent fan: “They are so easy to work with! All you do is cut off a piece, put it into the ground and voila!, another plant. The cuttings root quickly and provide additional beauty and color in the garden for no money at all.”
Jo Casterline had three favorites: “I have 3 plants that I propagate for the Lake Hodges Native Plant Club plant sale in November. They are so easy and usually sell. The best one is a fuchsia that was a cutting from a friend who did not know its last name but said it came from Los Angeles. It quickly grew into a huge bush and frequently needs control. It never gets a disease nor does it succumb to frost. It lives on the northwest corner of a flowerbed in front of the dining room. Also my apricot colored Brugmansia, which always needs trimming back and roots easily. The other one is Justicia (the pink one), a rampant grower that lives behind the fuchsia.
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Barbara Clark is another shrub fan: “My favorite plant to propagate from cuttings is the hydrangea because it is easy to start this way, and is so beautiful in the garden and in a vase as a fresh or dried cut flower. Just take a 6-inch piece from the tip of one strong shoot, remove the bottom few leaves, stick it in moist perlite, and keep moist. After a few leaves have shown growth, add a little potting soil on top of the perlite. When growth shows several inches, transfer the new plant to a six-inch pot when the plant has filled the pot with leaves, or roots can be seen coming out through the bottom of the pot. I have taken cuttings and started them any time of year and they always start. I have started several this way and they will be blooming this spring. The plant makes a dramatic cut flower in the full flower form, or separate the florets and use them in mixed bouquets, or float in a flat dish. In the fall, let the flowers partially dry on the plant, but before the flower turn brown, cut the stalk long and hang to dry for use in dried bouquets; they last for years this way. Or put flower stalks in a vase in an inch of water and let the water evaporate gradually. This is also a way to dry them for latter use in dried bouquets. The dried flower can be used as is (they dry many different colors: green, tan, pink depending on the variety and the drying conditions) or they can be lightly sprayed with flower paint to produce a different color.”
Carol Costarakis says, “Succulents cause they’re sooo easy.”
John Gilruth also likes succulents: “My favorite plants to propagate from cuttings are almost any and all succulents. I sell plants at four farmers markets a week and my succulents are very popular as they do not require much water and are easy for my customers to propagate, too. I sell many small plants to children, and always make the child promise to take good care of their new plant - and I give them tips on proper care. It is very rewarding to me to see the number of children who want to take home a plant, and to see how the parents encourage the little ones with their excitement of having their very own little plant.”
Cheryl Hedgpeth had 2 favorites: “I love tropical gardens, so my favorite two plants to propagate from cuttings are Ti plants and Plumeria. Both are quite easy. I just stick the Ti plants in soil and the plumeria in a mixture of soil and bark, and they take off! I am what is known as a lazy gardener, or as my friend Sinjen used to say, a ‘stepmother.’”
Ron Hurov replied that he likes to propagate, “Pittosporum resiniferum. It produces gasoline -short chain alkanes - in the fruits.”
Wally Kearns wrote, “When I read this question my thoughts went immediately to when I was a kid. I have really warm memories of my grandfather coming to visit and always taking me to the backyard where I lived and sitting me down by our ‘well used’ Aloe vera plant. He would always explain to me the powers it had to heal your cuts. That is when he would cut off a piece and rub it on a scratch I had. Scratches were always easy to come by, being a very active boy. After applying it to my scratch he would then grab this little pot we had and fill it with some garden soil and pop the cutting right into the soil and say, ‘With water and light you can give this plant life, it is up you.’ I do not remember the cutting growing, but I do remember whenever he visited a few more times after that we were always planting the new cutting in that same little pot. Looking back I do not know if the cutting ever lasted past the day we planted it, but I do know that it did root in my memory of precious time I was able to spend with my grandfather, who passed away from cancer a few years ago. So Aloe vera will always be my favorite plant to propagate from cuttings.”
Marla Keith said, “I propagate many plants but begonias are my favorite. Each spring begonias benefit from pruning. It is so easy to put the cuttings into perlite, vermiculite or loose potting mix to have them root. Free plants result, which can be shared with friends, planted in my garden or grown to sell at our annual begonia show and plant sale the first weekend in October at Balboa Park.”
Kathy LaFleur’s favorite is scented AND tasty: “My favorite and easiest plant to propagate are scented geraniums. I can always find another place in the garden to tuck one in. Wonderful to use in lemonade or ice tea in the summer.”
Sue Martin loves a low-water perennial: “Gomphrena decumbens "Airy Bachelor Buttons" is a newer entry into my garden and I've happily been able to share cuttings and rooted plants with many friends. My plant came from Garden Glories Nursery (at a Hort Society meeting). It's very easy to root. A handful in a cheery bouquet by my kitchen sink will root well within a few weeks and all before the flowers fade. The cut flowers are great fillers in bouquets. In the garden they tread lightly and weave plants together. Kelly Kilpatrick, propagator for Annie's Annuals describes the plant's virtues on their website (www.AnniesAnnuals.com). He found it at a small out-of-state nursery and characterizes it as ‘one of the coolest plants I've grown.’ I agree.”
Cathy McCaw shared her idea for using cuttings as wedding favors for her son’s wedding: “I planted succulent cuttings for everyone with a note on a bamboo skewer that said: ‘From my garden to yours… These cuttings are like relationships…with love and nurturing they will blossom and grow. Thanks for sharing this special day!’”
Al Myrick had a fun choice: “It is so easy...and so exotic: so-called SPANISH MOSS! Of course, it is an epiphyte bromeliad. You take a gob or strand of it, hang it from a tree limb or nail or hook or wire, in light shade, or eastern sun, or filtered sun. Make sure it has good air circulation. Drench it once or twice a week and when you think about it give the strands or gobs a few poofs of fish emulsion spray. Or don't. And then it grows and multiplies and you can pull the newbies apart and keep doing the same thing to them until your entire backyard and ponds and trees and bushes all have this great hanging curtain of Spanish moss! So that is what we have...this wonderful tropical curtain amongst everything else. And hey, it even blooms (but you have to look closely)!”
Robin Rivet’s favorite plants from cuttings are “the ones that eventually remind me of the friends or places that ‘donated’ the greenery. One of the easiest plants to propagate from even a large woody stem is the Brugmansia spp. or Angel’s Trumpet. My latest adoption (from a good friend and deposited at my doorstop this winter), has already doubled in size and re-bloomed twice. All I did was stick the broken, naked branch of the fallen ‘Charles Grimaldi’ fragment into an empty large pot. Since I am a tree lover, some of these perennials can become most tree-like in habit, and oh what fragrance! Go out at night and share the perfume with the pollinating bats and moths.”
Diane Scharar said, “I like to propagate Cuphea micropetala because the humming birds love it and it is pretty. Just chop off 6 inches and place cutting in a moist shady place with a topless bottomless frosted milk jug over it and it will root quickly. Run a planting stake down through the top and into the soil to keep the hot house jug from blowing off.”
Sue Ann Scheck loves “propagating scented geraniums. Lemon and Chocolate are my favorites. They are terrific in salad and are easy to grow, almost drought tolerant after they are established.”
Jackie Seidman likes a challenge: “My favorite plant to propagate from cuttings is Impatiens sodenii. I am not sure why, but I get a very poor success rate, so that when I succeed I am extremely happy. Plus, I love that plant so I can never have too many.”
Ron Stevens replied, “The easiest plant I ever propagated by cuttings was Russelia equisetiformis, which is sometimes called the Firecracker Plant or Coral Plant. As a matter of fact, the propagation was entirely unintentional. One afternoon as I was doing some garden trimming, I inadvertently broke off a few blooming branches; and since they were so pretty, I decided to put them in a glass of water in front of the kitchen window just to see how long they would last as a cut flower. To my amazement, not only did they hold their bloom well, but in a couple of weeks they began to put out roots and grow. They even broke new buds and continued to flower. It was amazing. And all this happened in a glass of water in the windowsill behind my kitchen sink. These plants do very well in my hot Escondido garden and provide an almost year round display of pretty coral colored flowers. Sometimes in the late afternoon when the light is just right, they seem to explode into color. And as an added bonus they thrive on very little water.”
Katrin Utt likes, “the rose of course!!! I have over 100 roses in my garden. Many of them are old or Heirloom roses, dating back to the eighteen hundreds. I have cloned many of them and given them to friends. Old roses are usually very fragrant, disease free and easy to grow. One of my favorites is "Eugene de Beauharnais", a dark red China bred by Napoleon's wife Josephine in 1838.”
Marilyn Wilson is one more fan of, “succulents. It takes absolutely no brains to propagate a succulent from a cutting.”
Melissa Worton likes “Geraniums and Pelargoniums. These drought-tolerant plants are easy to propagate, forgiving to grow and the rewards are colorful. A cutting of a Regal Geranium (Martha Washington type) is a wonderful way to get new gardeners started. These easy to share plants can withstand a piece being broken off and pushed into the ground to start another plant. Once established, the water quantity is minimal and the blossoms fantastic. With thousands of varieties, the sharing is endless.”
Tynan Wyatt does best with, “anything that is a succulent because my luck with everything else is miserable! My advice is that if you want to feel like an expert propagator use succulents and work on your skills with herbaceous plants once you have the time and wherewithal to do so.”
The San Diego Horticultural Society (SDHS) is a dynamic group that reaches residential and professional gardeners throughout San Diego County. Since our founding in 1994, we have grown to over 1300 members, including passionate backyard gardeners, designers, nursery owners, writers, landscape architects, and other horticultural professionals. Our mission is to promote the enjoyment, art, knowledge and public awareness of horticulture in the San Diego area, while providing the opportunity for education and research.