Free Shrubs

from Garden Ideas
Learn how to build garden border fences by rooting your own shrubs and don’t let your budget limit your landscaping ideas.

Save money by rooting many of your favorite plants from pieces of stem or root.

Softwood Cuttings
These cuttings should be taken in late spring, when new growth is still green and supple.

1. Snip off a 4- to 5-inch section of new growth. For most plants, cut just below a node (the swollen area on a stem where a leaf forms). If stems are densely covered in leaves, cut between two nodes.
2. Strip the leaves from the bottom portion of the stem. Keep only the top leaf on stems with large leaves. In most other cases, keep the foliage on the top half of the stem. (The goal is to keep some leaves for photosynthesis while reducing water loss from the rest.)
3. Dip the cut end of the stem into a small amount of powdered rooting hormone that has been poured out (to prevent contamination, avoid dipping into the container). Use just a little, because using too much can harm plants.
4. Insert the base of each stem into a moistened mixture of equal parts perlite or vermiculite and peat. Gently but firmly tamp the soil into place.
5. Mist the stem or stems with a spray bottle, covering the leaves and stems.
6. Place a plastic bag securely around the pot and plants to increase humidity. Keep the pot under a grow-light until the plants are well-rooted (you can test root development by giving a gentle tug on stems after five or six weeks). Acclimate the cuttings to a drier atmosphere by opening the plastic bag gradually, but keep them well watered.

Semihardwood Cuttings
These cuttings should be taken in summer (early summer in hot climates, mid- to late summer elsewhere), when new growth is starting to firm at the base but is still supple at the tips. Follow the same process as for softwood cuttings. One difference: For plants that are difficult to root, such as barberry, take a wedge cutting (see photos, left). First, remove a large stem with at least one side shoot from the donor plant. Cut the side shoot off the larger stem, leaving a wedge-shape portion of the larger stem attached. This area of the plant naturally contains more rooting hormones, so there’s a better chance the cutting will root. Discard the large stem and use the side shoot with its attached wedge as the cutting.

Hardwood Cuttings
These cuttings should be taken in fall or early winter, when plants are dormant.

1. Remove 8-inch stems from the donor plant. Several cuttings can be taken from the same section of ripened stem, particularly on long-branching plants and climbers. Take cuttings of medium thickness, rather than the thin tips or the fat bases. To help you remember the direction of the plant’s growth, cut horizontally just below a node and diagonally away from the top bud.
2. Dip the horizontal ends into rooting hormone, then bundle them together with twine.
3. Bury the bundle outdoors in a 6-inch-deep trench filled with sand. (Well-drained soil is critical because the stems will die in waterlogged soil.)
4. In spring, remove the bundle from its protective trench and untie the stems. Plant stems several inches apart, the horizontal portion facing downward, either in containers or outdoors in a well-drained site sheltered from drying winds. Keep the stems well watered throughout the growing season. They should be ready for transplanting the following fall.

Root Cuttings
These cuttings can be taken any time of year, but late winter and early spring are optimum.

1. Remove 2-inch sections of young, vigorous roots, choosing a thickness between that of a pencil and your index finger. Plants with narrower roots may also work, but the cuttings will need to be at least 4 inches long. Cut diagonally to mark the portion of the root farthest from the trunk.
2. Treat the root cuttings with fungicide to prevent rot, then press them into a moist potting medium with the diagonal portion facing downward. Leave just the top of the root section exposed.
3. Top-dress with moistened sand. Put container in a cold frame or other sheltered area until new plants have emerged and are ready for transplanting.

For Best Success
In addition to gathering cuttings at the proper time, it’s also important to choose material carefully. Avoid shoots that show signs of pests or diseases because they will be more likely to develop fungal problems. Also, take cuttings from younger, more juvenile portions of the shrub, rather than older growth.

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