What is a stock plant?
Stock plants are those plants that you have chosen to be the source of your cuttings. They can be planted in blocks, rows, or simply be planted in your landscape.
Why is it important to prepare them for taking cuttings?
Preparing the plant is done for many reasons, but three of the most important are:
- To keep the plant in the juvenile stage
- To be sure the cutting has reserves of nutrients
- To be sure the plant is healthy and disease free
Lets learn why these are important.
Keeping the stock plant in the juvenile stage
Research has determined that many cuttings root easier if the plant is still in it’s juvenile stage of growing. Plants, like humans, go through stages of growth and once the plant reaches maturity, the cuttings you take do not root as easily. Keeping the plant in the juvenile stage ensures your cuttings will root easier.
There are a few ways to keep the plant in the juvenile stage, but the simplest way is to simply prune them hard. Pruning them hard forces them to continually produce new young shoots, exactly what you want to start with.
Ensuring the stock plant has enough nutrients
To make sure your plants have reserves of nutrients, all you need to do is fertilize them. Of course, you need to fertilize them in advance so the plant has a chance to actually absorb the nutrients.
You can use either a foliar feed like Miracle-Gro® or use a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote®. A good practice is to keep your plant on a regular feeding schedule so they are healthy and have the required nutrients in reserve for the cuttings.
Having healthy and disease free plants
Proper feeding of your stock plants will help keep them healthy and ward off diseases and other pests. Along with proper feeding comes proper watering.
Ensuring your stock plants are properly fed and watered will help reduce stresses associated with drought, insects, or diseases. A healthy plant is more likely to survive these attack and recover quicker too.
If you notice a stock plant struggling, investigate and correct the problem immediately. Never take a cutting from any plant that is infested with insects or displays signs of disease. Doing so will unduly stress the stock plant even more than it already is.
Rooting a cutting that is already infected with a disease is never a good idea either. The cutting needs to put all it’s energy into creating roots, not fighting a disease.
Rooting cuttings that are infected with diseases also has the potential of spreading the disease to other cuttings. You also have the potential of inadvertently selling an infected plant and spreading the disease even more.
Grow Rosemary From Cuttings
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) is an evergreen, woody perennial herb, usually associated with Mediterranean regions. It has both culinary and medicinal uses, and it can expensive to buy good plants from a nursery. Rosemary is normally quite difficult to grow from seed, so the preferred method of propagation is by cuttings.
Firstly, you will need the cutting itself. This can be taken from any healthy Rosemary plant, and, I’m sure everyone knows someone who has a plant and won’t mind donating a few cuttings. (Failing that, you could always buy one—but that defeats the object of the exercise).
The cutting should be a new soft, young shoot, about 4in or 10cm long, and it should be pulled, NOT cut, from the plant. This ensures that there is a small piece of bark from the parent plant still attached (the heel).
Strip off the lower leaves from the bottom half of the cutting, and dip the end into any proprietary rooting hormone powder. If you want to grow organically, there are now organic rooting gels available. Set to one side.
You now need an unheated propagator. I find 6 or 9 cells work best, but this is not critical. Fill the cells with multipurpose compost, and firm down, making sure to eliminate any air pockets. Water thoroughly, making sure that the compost is wet all the way through.
Insert one prepared Rosemary cutting per cell, at a depth of about ¾ of the cell, and put the cover on. Place this in a warm, drought free place, out of direct sunlight.
After 2 weeks, remove the cover and gently tug at the cuttings. If there is the smallest bit of resistance, your Rosemary has rooted and the cover can be removed.
If they have not rooted, leave for one more week then remove the cover anyway. When the cover is removed, water the plants with a fine mist spray and leave them to grow on.
Make sure that you water regularly, and do not let them dry out. Rosemary hates to be too dry, and the leaves will quickly begin dropping.
After 3-4 weeks the plants can be re-potted into a 3inch pot, and treated like any nursery bought Rosemary. Two weeks after re-potting, pinch off the growing tips of the plants to encourage it to grow side shoots and become the familiar bush that we all know.
There you have it—you own rosemary plants that have cost almost nothing.
Now, what about propagating conifers?
Propagating Conifers From Cuttings
Propagating conifers is not easy—sometimes it would even be described as impossible, but growing new plants from cuttings offers more than the average chance of success. At the end of the day, you have nothing to lose and much to gain, so give this method a try.
Conifers are trees, or shrubs, which bear seeds in cones. Most are tall, evergreen trees with narrow leaves and woody cones. As with everything in life, there are exceptions—the larch is deciduous, the ginkgo is broad-leaved and the yew has soft fruits.
Their usual use in a domestic garden is either as a hedge, (they make very good windbreaks) or as a specimen plant, and their popularity is often reflected in the price you will pay for them at the garden center.
Propagating conifers is best stated in October or November. Take some small 3 inch pots, and fill the bottom third of the pot with multi-purpose compost.
Fill the rest of the pot with vermiculite (you can use coarse sand, but I have not tried this). Vermiculite is available in small bags from most garden supply outlets. It is not expensive.
Water the pot well, ensuring the compost is thoroughly wet, and cover with cling film. Secure the cling film with an elastic band.
Using pruners, take 6 inch cuttings from your chosen conifer. The top of the cutting should be fresh, new growth, and the cutting needs to have about 1 inch of brown wood at the bottom.
There is something of an art in propagating conifers, and some of the practices involved are not the same as if you were propagating ‘standard’ cuttings. The next step is one such example.
Break or tear off all the side growths on the bottom 3 inches of the cutting. Do not be tempted to cut them with a knife or pruning clippers. The intention is to wound the cutting and thus encourage root formation.
Dampen the end by dipping in water to the level of the now bare stem, and dip it in proprietary rooting hormone powder.
Make a small cut in the center of the cling film over the pot and insert the cutting. Make sure that the base of the cutting is in the compost, and not in the vermiculite.
Propagating conifers is a winter activity, and the cuttings should be kept in a bright, airy place, shaded from direct sunlight. Frost will not harm the cuttings, but do not allow the compost to freeze solid. This will kill any new roots that have formed.
In the spring, check that the cuttings have rooted by gently tugging on them. Any resistance will indicate new roots and success.
The new plants can now be potted on into 6 inch pots, and placed outside in a sheltered position. Within 3 months the plants should be large enough and strong enough to be moved into their permanent position in your garden.
As I said earlier, propagating conifers by cuttings doesn’t always work. The method is unpredictable, but I have had a success rate of about 4 in 5, so you really do have nothing to lose. If you need 30 or 40 plants for a windbreak, then you really will save a considerable amount of money for such a small effort.
It is like most things—the more you practice it, all the while adjusting small details, the more success you will have. Should you want a part time income, then propagating conifers from cuttings could well be the answer!