Guide to Gardening

Propagation

Here’s a failsafe way of propagating your favourite plants. It’s called layering, and it sometimes happens naturally without human interference. A low-growing stem bends down to the ground and gradually develops roots where it comes into contact with the soil.

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It’s easy to try this in your own garden. Start by choosing a plant with plenty of flexible shoots near the ground. Good examples are azaleas and rhododendrons, daphne, gardenias, viburnums, wisteria, michelias and passionfruit.

Make a slanting cut into the underside of the stem just behind a leaf or a node towards the tip end. Remove leaves in that immediate area. Bend the cut open and spread a small amount of Yates Clonex Rooting Hormone gel into the wound (this will initiate rapid root growth). Ensure the cut stays open by slipping a small piece of matchstick or toothpick into the gap.

Then bend the stem down and bury the cut section, allowing the leafy tip to protrude at the end. Because the stem ‘snakes’ in and out of the soil, this method of propagation is often called ‘serpentine’ layering. If the stem is long enough it can be helpful to stake the tip end so that the new plant will start with a good straight leading shoot.

Leave the plant undisturbed, but keep moist, until the tip shows definite new growth. Then check for root development. Be patient – this can take more than a year. After the roots are well developed, the new plant can be cut away from the parent.

If the plant isn’t close enough to the ground, you can cheat by pulling the layer down into a pot filled with Yates Seed Raising Mix. Some commercial growers who use this method build scaffolding up into the shrub to support the propagating pots. Don’t forget, though, that pots will dry out more readily, so watch the watering!

Air layering is another clever method of propagation that can be successful if the branches or stems are difficult to bend down to the ground. The directions are found in the ‘New Plants From Old’ chapter in Yates Garden Guide.

Again make a slanting cut into an upwards- growing stem, finishing at a node. Apply Clonex and keep the cut open with a sliver of wood. Then wrap the cut with damp sphagnum moss and cover with aluminium foil or plastic. Tie top and bottom with string or budding tape. The moss will ensure that the cut remains moist.

Inspect periodically until roots are well developed. Then cut this part of the plant free from the parent.

Air layers need careful attention for the first few weeks after removal. Don’t let the cutting dry out, and water with some Dynamic Lifter Seaweed Tonic to promote new root growth.

Air layering is a commonly-used method of propagating those beautiful deciduous magnolias (pictured) that are in flower now.

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