The easiest, most effective way I know to root my favorite double apricot bloomer is a little different, too. First, I do not use true tip cuttings. Instead, cut a sturdy stem no bigger around than a pencil with 8-12 inches of brown stem. Trim off green stems and all but 3 leaves. Slice a fresh diagonal cut through the lower end of the stem at a joint (or node) and roll that end in Hormex Rooting Powder #3. Stick the cutting 3 or 4 inches deep into a small pot of damp perlite or cluster a group of 5 stems into a tall quart sized pot.
When a cutting fails to root, consider whether the problem might be the age of the wood. I tried to get starts of the antique Scotch rose to grow a low hedge, but the tip cuttings were just too green. They wilted before they could root, even with a weekly drench of Liquid Hormex Concentrate. By taking cuttings from rather more mature wood, dipping each in Hormex #8, and rooting in ground bark, I was successful. My driveway now has a line of them that is so thick I use hedge shears to prune it. After all, I’m sure your mother taught you that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. My mother would add – just don’t make the same mistake twice. Happy Mother’s Day!
With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about how we choose the plants we want to propagate and why we cherish them enough to make more of them. Professionals call these plants ‘stock’, but the rest of us fondly dub them ‘Mother Plants’. Yes, they are the progenitors of generations of new plants but they bring beauty and inspiration in and of themselves. Sometimes they are stern and challenge us to be our best selves, to keep the rooting bench in good shape and be successful. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why we call them Mothers.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned from my Mother Plants.
- Practice thrift. When I wanted a hedge of the low-growing but pricey antique Scotch rose, I tried digging up the little sprigs that came up next to the one in the garden. They were too green to root properly and the project was a flop. By taking cuttings from rather more mature wood, dipping each in Hormex #8, and rooting in ground bark, I was successful. My driveway now has a line of them that is so thick I use hedge shears to prune it. When you invest in one plant, you can propagate it for your own use in the landscape, for plant swaps, and for gifts. This Mother Plant has children all around the neighborhood – when someone admires it, I give them a rooted cutting. I always want more than one plant, for insurance against a loss if for nothing else, but cannot always buy as many as I need. Thank goodness necessity is a Mother.
- Hone skills. I’m sure every mother challenges her children as mine did. My children thought that cursive writing and thank you notes were terribly old school as was my insistence that they master both. In the plant world, it may seem passé to propagate since most desirable plants are readily available, like my African violets. Still, it is true of most skills that one must use it or lose it rather like cursive writing in an age of keyboards. Adaptations are important, too, as learning proceeds. That’s why I no longer dip leaf cuttings in powdered Hormex since I tried watering them with Hormex Liquid Concentrate (1T/gal) weekly for a month and got more results faster – lots of babies at the soil surface below the leaf! I haven’t reared great cursive writers, but hopefully they will keep practicing and someday write me a thank-you note. Yes, I have been described as one tough Mother.
- Spread oddballs around. Sometimes very fine plants are largely unknown or have become immensely unpopular over time. I confess to loving some of both and propagate them to persuade others to my eclectic taste. The green vine known as Malabar spinach, for example, brings at least something dark and leafy to summer salads. Saved seed are fine, but rooted stem cuttings make a meal much faster. I watered 3 inch starts into a flat of sand with a drench of Liquid Hormex Concentrate mixed 1T/1gal. In 2 weeks the vines began to sprout and were ready for transplant in another fortnight. My love affair with the variegated wax begonia called ‘Charm’ began years ago with a 4 inch pot of the shiny, round, bright green and yellow leaves that soon added classic pink flowers hanging like earrings from every stem and tip. It has become one of my go-to plants, a cheerful presence always there when I need a smile. I dip green cuttings like Charm into undiluted Hormex Liquid Concentrate; they root in sand or potting mix and begin to grow in a month. Whether it’s greens or grins, these are the Mothers of my Invention.
- Profit perhaps. A fellow I knew got deeply involved with angelfish and soon found his hobby expensive yet also fertile. He began selling the offspring and was able to fill his home with ever more exotic fish. If your plants are not patented, you can propagate and sell them to create your own Mother Lode.
Nellie Neal is a passionate propagator and owner of GardenMama, Inc. She advocates for gardening 24/7 at her website, www.gardenmama.com. Ask questions and comment about this blog on the Contact Us page of www.hormex.com.
When someone gives you a plant and asks you to root it for them because it is the most precious plant in their collection, the pressure is on no matter whether it is a common plant or a real rarity. The goal in this case is to root English ivy, but it also applies to any vining ground cover like perennial vinca or jasmine. All will root in just a few weeks if you put their flats in the shade and water them weekly with Hormex Liquid Concentrate mixed 1 T/1 gallon of water. Many times the goal is to plant vining ground covers under trees, so to root ivy that is easily transplanted to the landscape is also important. It is also true that vines can develop roots at each joint as well as at the tip of the cutting. That combination of factors calls for rooting in a shallow flat to accommodate 4-6 inch pieces of vine and to encourage roots to grow wider than deep. Mix a rich mix that will drain well, too. You can combine a good quality potting mix with ground bark, coarse sand, or perlite to fill the flats. Roll the entire cutting stem in Hormex Rooting Hormone #3 or #8 if the vines are woody. Nestle the cuttings into the flat of damp mix and water them in. Remember to put them in the shade and water weekly with Hormex Liquid Concentrate.
We all have a friend or relative who is absolutely dotty about a particular plant and will go to any extreme to keep it from dying. It might be a rarity, but more often the attachment is purely emotional as is the case with some English ivy from a particular wall. Right now there are two window boxes full of little plants on my grow rack and they are beginning to trail. Why, you might ask, does anyone want to grow or have more of this all-too-common plant? It is even outlawed in places like Atlanta, GA, because of its rampant, choking growth. I am growing it as a favor, of course, for someone who had but a sprig left from a very special patch.
The ivy grew on the brick of her sweet home that was destroyed in a storm, knocked down by the wind and flooded with the water. Since there was so much destruction, the economy suffered and they decided to move rather than rebuild on the same site. There wasn’t much to take, but she saw the ivy sprouting a new leaf while still stuck to a piece of a brick wall and had to have it. She dug up the ivy, stuck dirt, vine and all into a plastic bag and took to her new home where she grew it up a tree. After two decades, that tree fell over in yet another big storm and the sudden sunlight plus a summer drought nearly killed the ivy. She tried to keep it going, but finally asked me to take some cuttings and try to grow a new stand of the plant so she can once again grow it – or better to say IT, this plant and only this plant. No pressure there!
The goal here is to root a vining ground cover like ivy, perennial vinca, jasmine, or most any other so it is easily transplanted to the landscape. It is also true that vines can develop roots at each joint as well as at the tip of the cutting. That combination calls for rooting in a shallow flat to accommodate 4-6 inch pieces of vine and to encourage roots to grow wider than deep. Mix a rich mix that will drain well, too. You can combine a good quality potting mix with ground bark, coarse sand, or perlite to fill the flats. Roll the entire cutting stem in Hormex Rooting Hormone #3 or #8 if the vines are woody. Nestle the cuttings into the flat of damp mix and water them in. Put the flats in the shade and water them weekly with Hormex Liquid Concentrate mixed 1 T/1 gallon of water.
The English ivy is doing fine since I moved it into the window boxes two months ago. The boxes will fit nicely on her porch and the ivy might even climb its columns with a little encouragement. Yes, I will tell her to pull it off every few years and repaint! It was easy to lift the rooted plants from the flat and they took right off. I’ve added impatiens for color and the ivy makes a nice skirt for them. She may want more, so I’ll fill another flat to give to her along with the window boxes.
Years ago, there was a regular column in one of the so-called ‘woman’s magazines’ that asked the question, “Can this marriage be saved?” It always seemed that the answer was yes, if the couple took their issues seriously and worked to bring romance back into the relationship. Likewise, most plants can be saved and when there is a sweet sentiment or great passion involved, it is important to try.