Perfect time for cuttings

Tip cuttings can help you multiply plants, for free

Life & Style
Begonia Bonfire is easily propagated from tip cuttings, flowers all summer and is great for hanging baskets. And now is a great time to be taking tip cuttings.

Begonia Bonfire is easily propagated from tip cuttings, flowers all summer and is great for hanging baskets. And now is a great time to be taking tip cuttings.

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Spring is the perfect time for tip cuttings (but protect them).

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New growth on plants says spring is here, time to get cracking with cuttings.

All gardeners love free plants, it's not so much the money as knowing, aha, we can have so many more.

Tip cuttings are an easy method of propagation, especially for woody shrubs and semi-woody salvias, artemisias and furry grey ballota (B. pseudodictamnus).

They're also among the fastest and can produce sturdy plants within six months, provided you can nurture them through summer.

A tip cutting is literally the end 10-15 centimetres of stem that includes the leafy tip.

Strip off enough lower leaves to give you a clear length of stem to stick into your cutting medium.

Early spring when plants are putting out new shoots is an excellent time for taking tip cuttings, as plant cells are hyperactive and raring to reproduce.

Early spring when plants are putting out new shoots is an excellent time for taking tip cuttings, as plant cells are hyperactive and raring to reproduce.

No special equipment is required but there are a few basic guidelines.

The most important one is to keep your cuttings damp.

Insert them as soon as you've taken them or they'll wilt and won't grow.

I sometimes nip out exceptionally soft tips, it doesn't seem to affect the success of the cuttings.

To form roots, plant stems need air and moisture but not nutrition, that comes later when they are growing.

A good cutting mixture is a combination of peat to hold moisture, and perlite or coarse sand or grit to allow air circulation.

I use half and half coir peat and perlite though if I'm short of peat, I dilute it with sterile potting mix.

One $2 coir peat brick expands in 4.5 litres of water to fill a 9l. bucket.

(Coir peat comes from coconut husks and is a waste product from the exporting countries; no logging or peat bogs are involved in its production).

As cuttings need constant moisture you need to cover them with a plastic bag but leave silver and grey foliage uncovered as it can rot.

Cuttings also need light but not too bright or they'll burn, especially in our ferocious Aussie sunshine.

Filtered light under a tree or shrub is perfect and pots stay damp from capillary action from the soil beneath.

Hormone rooting powder or liquid helps to produce stronger roots.

Or try a teaspoon of Vegemite or honey mixed in a cup of water.

Prepare pots of cutting mix before collecting cuttings.

One 15cm pot holds 10-12 cuttings.

Push a 20-25cm length stick into the middle of each pot to hold up the plastic bag, rather than wiggling it in when the cuttings are already in place.

Check every week to see if shoots are developing and to give them a breather to prevent fungal attack.

New shoots usually indicate roots, but the acid test is to peer under the pot.

If you see a tiny white root in a drainage hole, success is yours.

Geraniums, impatiens and begonias are all quick and easy from tip cuttings.

But there are zillions of others: lavender, rosemary, Teucrium fruticans, 'Jackmans Blue' rue and abelia are all worth a go.

This spring I'm trying my variegated leaf daphne. I'll keep you posted.

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