Now that it has been a few weeks since the Autumnal Equinox, have you had a chance to begin propagating your favorite plants? Well if the answer is “no,” then you’re not alone. But, if you want to have an array of say those beloved Veronicas blooming by next year, then now is the time to get cutting. Prepping is typically the most laborious step in the process. Once everything is set up then you can just run through and “snip n’ dip.”
The first and most important aspect is to prep the mother plant. If there are any pest problems, apply an insecticidal soap and/or neem oil before dusk, making sure to give the underside of leaves a powerful blast as well. One thing to note is that it’s always worth spraying on a small test area first and waiting a day to check for burning before applying to the entire plant. Most likely another application will be needed within a week. During that time, it is a good idea to get started on adding a little extra vigor before cutting by giving one last direct nitrogen-rich fertilizing and a growth stimulant like Liquid Hormex. Make sure to check out the accompanying grow tip this month for a look at mitigating the chilling effects of the coming winter.
The next important step is to decide where to root. With nights getting colder and the days getting shorter, it’s best to go indoors – house, garage, shed or greenhouse. The key is to have the cuttings under a grow light, about 8 to 12 inches from the bulb, for 20 to 24 hours a day. An easy and low cost option is a 4 foot fluorescent shop light with a 40 watt daylight bulb, preferably around 6400k, to mimic the bright spring sun. An optimal setup perfect for the garage, kitchen or living room is a set of 18”x 48”wire shelves (found at most hardware stores) accompanied by a dual 4 foot bulb shop light hanging across the center. With this setup, two nursery trays can be used per shelf. It is highly recommended that if you decide to hang lights from multiple shelves that you invest in a plastic shelf liner specifically made for wire shelves. While these can be difficult to find in most hardware stores, they’re more abundant on the internet. A great resource that I have found is http://wayfair.com. If you do happen to go that route and you require the extra shelf space for your cuttings consider looking into the larger 24” x 48” wire shelves as these give you the option of placing 4 nursery trays per shelf. And of course as one might imagine, there are specially made light stands that hold a single fluorescent tube and can fit on anything from a table to a corner of a room. While these are great out-of-the-box solutions, they can be limited in terms of their small size and higher cost.
In terms of a rooting medium, whether or not you decide on rockwool cubes, coco/peat plugs or a seeding mix, do some research to see what results others have had with your specific cultivars. If going the cube or plug route, make sure to adjust the ph to between 5.8 to 6.8 and then add 2 mL of Liquid Hormex per gallon of water and let soak for five to ten minutes. This enriches the cubes with rooting hormones and stabilizes the ph. And last, but not least, utilize good cultural practices (please refer to our past blog “good cultural practices”) to snip and dip cuttings. When deciding on the correct strength of Hormex rooting powder, check the package and site https://hormex.com/pages/rooting-powder-strength to see what’s recommended for a particular varietal.
Finally, if you are using a humidome, place the starts on the tray and mist the inner walls with the ports closed. It is best to spray the inside of the dome instead of the leaves directly to lessen the chance of your clones being afflicted by their greatest threat; fungal infections.
Go forth, propagate and prosper.