Local Master Gardener Kimberly Sevilla answers your questions!
What are some things I can do to enjoy my garden year-round, and to save heirloom and favorite plants?
It’s still a little warm outside and in a few weeks it will be the perfect time to sow your fall and winter crops. Until then, you can prepare your favorite plants for gardening all year long by taking cuttings for next season. Taking them now will ensure that the plants are actively growing and have not started to slow down, you will get better results than if you take them later in the season. Cuttings are a great way to propagate plants and to extend your season. It is also a great way to share your plants with friends and family.
I have cuttings from plants that were given to my mother, by her grandmother, and who knows where she got hers; I think it is pretty special to have the same plant that was enjoyed by someone over 100 years ago. Talk about heirloom plants.
Most soft-stemmed plants like coleus, begonias, geraniums, ivies and pothos are easy to propagate in a glass of water. You can also take cuttings from mints, basil and other herbs to bring some of your herb plants inside to enjoy. Succulents also respond well to rooting. Woodier plants may require the use of a rooting powder or gel which are available in different strengths and can be purchased at a specialty garden store, my favorite is Olivia’s cloning gel, this is also preferred by people who are growing special hybrid plants. Cloning plants by taking cuttings is the only way to propagate some types of plants. There are a few advantages to taking cuttings from your garden plants rather than bringing plants inside. You can save a lot of room by just bringing in cuttings, some plants like begonias, geraniums and begonias get HUGE in the garden. If you live in an apartment, you probably don’t have room to house these giants over the winter. Keeping the large plants alive and healthy can also be a challenge; smaller plants are easier to manage. In addition to saving on space, by taking cuttings you are eliminating any soil born pests and it is much easier to examine the leaves to see if they have any bugs on them. (It is always a good habit to isolate any new plants, including cuttings, to make sure that they are not infested with anything before you mix them with the rest of your plants.)
How to Take a Cutting
Start by selecting the plants you want to cut. Stems that are closer to the base of the plant will root faster than stems that are towards the top of theplant. Using a sharp knife or a pair of florist shears cut off a piece about 4-8 inches with at least 2-3 sets of leaves. Using sharp tools will give you a clean cut and minimize infection of the mother plant and the cutting. Examine the cuttings for any signs of infestation from spider mites, scale or whiteflies. Check under the leaves. If you do see anything, throw it away and take another cutting. Wash your cuttings in water in the sink to rinse off any unseen insects. Remove the bottom pair of leaves leaving about 1” or more of the stem exposed. Never put leaves in water, they will rot. Use a rooting powder or gel, or place your stems directly in a bottle of water. Put the cuttings in a window with bright or indirect light. Remember to change the water every few days, otherwise it will stagnate and start to smell and ruin your cutting. Never let your roots get exposed to air or dry out, they will die. After the roots form and are a few inches long, repot the cuttings in a high quality potting mix in a small 4” terra cotta pot. Organic mixes are best and have tons of micronutrients which will help your cuttings thrive. Try to avoid the green and yellow bags and the “bargain” soils sold at delis and hardware stores. They contain ingredients you probably don’t want to have in your home and in the long run will weaken your plants. You can cover the plant and the pot with a plastic bag for a week or place the plant in a humidity tray, which is a tray with water and rocks. This will give the plants time to adjust to their new environments. Don’t be tempted to keep your plants in the water too long or they will not adapt to soil. Have fun with your plants and don’t forget to share.
I would be happy to answer any gardening questions you may have. Please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rose Red & Lavender
Flowers, Plants and Beautiful Things
653 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg