Propagating plants in a Sierra foothill garden
Propagating plants is making new plants from existing ones in your garden.
Anyone can be a plant propagator with these easy, traditional and low-tech techniques that are perfect for our California foothills. It’s fun and economical, and you’ll be surprised to see how easy it is with these plants and techniques.
The dry seedheads of some plants like Lamb’s ears, grasses, coreopsis and lavender can be simply laid down in good soil where you’d like more, and next spring you’ll see sprouts growing. Water them well when you lay them down and then just forget them. Nothing could be easier!
Try this with seed-filled flowers of buddleia, asters, Black-eyed Susans, zinnias, pansies and violas, Jupiter’s beard, feverfew (rampant reseeders), foxglove, euphorbia, CA fuchsia, columbine and evening primrose.
I use Lamb’s ears to edge my flower beds and as I stroll through the garden deadheading, I lay the dry stalks down along the edges as I go.
Note: As you trim perennials in Fall, try this method with any plant you especially like. You may be surprised what sprouts!
Take a cutting this way: Make a clean cut of a growing tip, one that has two or three leaves, or in the case of succulents, one ‘chick.’ Dip the end in rooting compound powder then carefully poke into a mixture of soil and perlite.
Some cuttings can simply by stuck into the ground if the soil is soft and friable.
Try cuttings of these: Geranium (pelargonium), succulents, euphorbias (be careful of the white sap when taking cuttings,…it can be irritating to skin), true geranium, Japanese maple and Box elder. Of these, succulents are the easiest,…just pinch off short branches and stick them in the ground or the soil of a container.
Propagating succulents from leaves
Let the leaves dry out and callus before you put them on dirt and water them. If they don’t callus they will absorb too much water and die.
Fill a tray or other container with cactus or succulent soil that drains easily. Put the leaves on top of the soil.
New plants with a tiny rosette of leaves will sprout from the base.
This method can also be used for begonias, African violets and pepperomia, if rooting compound is used.
The simplest way is called ‘compound!’ This is when you have an existing shrub or perennial and create a new plant from one of the lower branches. Sometimes you’ll see this happening already in Nature when plants have low hanging stems or branches. Be looking in your garden for low hanging branches,…some may have roots already!
A common way to propagate this way is to make a cut halfway through a low branch where it will touch the ground. Loosen the soil where the shoot will be buried. Simply set a rock on the branch to ‘pin’ it to the ground and make good soil contact. Keep the soil around the layer moist. Dig it up, keeping plenty of soil around the roots, and move it to its new spot. Try this with rosemary, artemisia, forsythia, berries, grape, hazelnut, rhododendron, rose, spiraea, and lilac.
Rooting in water
Allow roots to grow in water, including tomatoes, geranium, hydrangeas, and many culinary herbs, such as rosemary, marjoram and oregano. Warm temperatures are best, so do this indoors. Once these have rooted, transplant them into small containers with a mixture of soil and perlite and they’ll be easy to transplant into the ground later.
Also try impatiens, willow, coleus, mint, basil, African violets, oleander, snowball bush, hydrangea and lamium. Many people have recently discovered that green onions will continue to grow in water as will celery, good experiments for kids!
With a shovel or spading fork, loosen the soil a few inches around the base of the entire plant. Slide the shovel under the roots, then lift up the whole clump; keep as much of the rootball intact as possible. (If clumps are too large or heavy to move, divide them where they are.)
Shake or gently brush off the excess soil from the plant’s rootball.
Then divide the clump into two or more sections. Use sharp pruning shears to cut apart smaller clumps, and a shovel or spade to carefully poke through the base of larger or more fibrous-rooted clumps.
Pull divisions apart by hand ― each with a mass of roots and foliage attached. Continue dividing if you want even smaller clumps.
Snip off any damaged roots or foliage, and then replant divisions as soon as possible in well-amended soil in the ground or in containers. Water well.
Divide these plants in fall
- Agapanthus Lily of the Nile
- Armeria (Thrift)
- Dianthus deltoides
- Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
- Germander (Teucrium)
- Geum chiloense
- Heuchera (Coral Bells)
- Lamb’s ears
- Lychnis coronaria
- Monarda (Bee Balm)
- Santa Barbara daisy