Cuttings from roots, taken now and until about March, can provide fresh new plants for the summer. It’s an indoor/outdoor job that makes spring feel a little nearer, helps lift your mood (for more ideas on that, read our blog on beating the January blues) and keeps you in touch with your garden.
Which plants grow from cuttings from roots?
Lots! In your flower bed try: acanthus, brunnera, crambe, eryngium, Japanese anemone, pasque flowers, primrose, primula, phlox and verbascum. These are the perennial plants that you can divide in autumn and winter by lifting the whole plant out of the soil, dividing it into chunks and re-planting each chunk as a separate plant.
Shrubs that grow out from their centre by producing suckers also grow well from root cuttings. Try clerodendron, rhus and rubus.
Ingredients to grow new plants from cuttings from roots
- Gritty compost – mix in equal proportions garden compost and small sized horticultural grit or perlite.
- A place to grow that is frost free and warmer than the garden. A greenhouse or cold frame is perfect. If you don’t have one, use a purpose built or DIY propagator in a shed, garage or porch. And if you don’t have one of those, use a pot inside a plastic bag on a window sill in a shed, garage or porch.
- Patience, because the new plants develop underground and you can't see what's going on.
- Labels (believe me, this is essential because some months down the line you may not remember which plant is which).
- A pencil.
How to take cuttings from roots
- Use a garden fork to ease up the plant you want cuttings from. Make sure you lift up as much of its roots as you can. Some advice suggests washing the roots. This can make a muddy mess. Instead I gently shake off the soil.
- Use a sharp knife and, from the outside edge of the plant’s roots, cut off a few roots about 5cm (2.5 inches) long. Make sure you know the top (nearest the plant) and bottom (deeper in the soil) of the root. Top tip: lay the cut roots down as soon as you cut them, with the ‘top’ furthest away from you.
- Fill flower pots with the gritty compost, and use a pencil or your finger to make 3 or 5 holes in each.
- Cut each of your roots into smaller pieces, about 1 to 7.5cm (0.5in to 3in) long; the thinner the root the longer the length.
- Use a sharp knife to peel away the outer layer of the root at one end, to about ¼ the length of the cutting.
- For all but the finest roots (such as from primrose, phlox and primula) drop each root cutting into a hole in the compost, peeled end down. Fine roots should be laid on the surface of the compost. Water well and finish off with a layer about 1cm (between ¼ and ½ inch) deep of grit or perlite over the compost.
- Replant the parent plant and water well.
- Keep a look out for shoots emerging from the compost, and roots creeping out from the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. When you see roots, carefully pull each plant away from the others in the pot and replant each one in its own pot, using multi-purpose compost.
- Keep the pots in a greenhouse, cold frame or sheltered spot in the garden and when your new plants are growing well plant them where you want them, swap them with friends or donate them to plant fairs and sales.
And it feels good to be out and about creating plants in January!
Want to read more? Try this article from Gardeners' World.
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