By Amy-Lynn Albertson
NC cooperative extension
One of the benefits of gardening is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money growing great plants. If you have a little time and patience, you can propagate a large number of different perennials, shrubs, and trees. Summer is the perfect time to try your hand at breeding this lilac bush or crabapple. The best time to take “coniferous” cuttings is in June and July and sometimes in early August. The term “conifer” is used to describe the stage of growth of a deciduous woody plant that is not the new green growth at the end of a shoot or the rigid woody growth at the base of the stem. Softwood is in between. The best way to tell if a shoot has reached the coniferous stage is to bend it. If it cracks, the shoot is ready to be taken as a cutting. If the shoot is very flexible and does not crack, it is too green. Finally, if it’s not flexible at all, it’s too old. Soft shoots are quite tender and extra care should be taken to prevent them from drying out. However, the extra effort pays off because softwood cuttings usually root very quickly. If you are rooting a few cuttings, you can use a flowerpot or a small dish. To maintain high humidity, cover the cuttings with a bottomless milk jug or place the container in a clear plastic bag. Some plants that are easily propagated by conifer cuttings are azaleas, blueberries, flowering cherries, crepe myrtles, dogwoods, forsythia, hydrangea, rose and many more.
Rowan County Master Gardeners will be offering their annual propagation course on July 16 and July 29 from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost is $ 15. Bring pruning shears and a knife along with trimming any shrubs you wish to propagate. The cuttings should be of softwood and be 6 to 8 inches in length. Store cuttings in water or in a cooler. You should wait to cut them until the morning of class. Experienced master gardeners will guide you through the process and help you cultivate your garden. Plants should be watered well before making cuttings. Stressed plants will not do well. Cuttings from old wood or aged or declining shrubs will be difficult to propagate. The shrubs must be free from insects and diseases. Cuttings should be taken in the morning of the workshop if possible. Participants are encouraged to bring enough plant material to share with others.
Plants recommended for propagation include most ornamental shrubs, including all varieties of butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and azaleas, false orange, crepe myrtle, spirea, weigela, gardenia (upright and creeping varieties), holly, roses, chaste tree (vitex), Kerria, viburnum. and the bay of beauty. Some conifers will do well, others less. Camellias will spread; they take a long time to mature. Don’t forget the vines and herbs. Two examples are clematis and lavender. Once filled, the propagation trays will be fed in the greenhouse until the fall. At that time, a repotting session will be scheduled, with the help of the master gardeners, and the new plants will be ready to take home. Participants are encouraged to come and check their cuttings during the summer to see their growth and development. The Master Gardeners will also have cuttings of certain plants from the demonstration garden. Each lesson is limited to 12 people and will take place outside, rain or shine, under the pavilion. Go to http://go.ncsu.edu/rowanpropagation to register, payment is made online or on the day of the course. Make checks payable to Rowan County Master Gardeners. For more information on plant propagation or other horticultural topics, contact the Rowan County Extension Center at 704-216-8970.
Amy-Lynn Albertson is the Rowan County Extension Manager.