I have a very cavalier attitude toward propagation. When I read scholarly tracts on the subject, my head quickly begins to hurt. Every once in a while, a tip will jump off the page and lodge itself in the brain. For instance: a cutting of anything in the willow family will release a hormone that encourages other cuttings sharing the same container to produce roots. I don’t happen to have any Salix in my garden, but have found that Coleus provides the same service.


My studio windowsill sports a collection of clear glass containers filled with bouquets of hopeful cuttings. As roots form, they create swirling patterns as lovely as the foliage above. There are apparently certain times of the year that are best for taking cuttings, but my slipshod approach has not included record keeping to note when successful snippets were taken. An occasional rinsing of the jars reveals what is working and is an opportunity to discard the hopeless cases.


Choisya ‘Sun Dance’ has been one of the successes, though I fear for its survival after its most recent winter ordeal. Other champs have been geraniums, rosemary, lavender and forsythia. If I live long enough, I may fill up this garden yet.

10 thoughts on “cuttings

  1. Me too, Ricki. I’ve got cell packs filled with potting soil for those instances when I think I’ll give a snippet a chance to humor me. Salvias and agastaches are really easy; hebe and fuchsia are a bit moody but not difficult. I remember sort of panicking during the botany class when I took the Master Gardener courses. Science is not my forte. I knew about the Salix’s rooting properties but I wasn’t aware of the coleus. Good information. I’ll remember this.

  2. Didn’t realize Coleus also exuded auxin.

    I usually have a large rainwater bottle of salix sticks on the go outside, for when I need some wholesome rooting water in a hurry.

    Which isn’t very often, I hasten to add. My usual method is standing forlorn in the garden with some pruned stems in my hands and wondering what to do with them. Then I go around prodding the soil, and anything that gives, gets a bunch of sticks stuck in.

    BTW, you were the ‘berm’ lady, weren’t you? Just thinking back to when I read about that, as my impromptu berm ( just a pile of soil I intended for something or other), is now full of (holey) growth.

  3. Oh now that you mention it, I remember that tip, but I too have a terrible time remembering proper propagation techniques. It always seems easier to go buy armloads of new plants at nurseries. Lazy gardening. but good to know that Choisya might root from a cutting. I might try making some baby plants for a friend with a huge yard that’s been needing some of these, so thanks for the idea.

  4. I’ve had only serendipitous luck with cuttings. Usually it’s something I brought inside for its foliage and it lasted long enough to root. Good to know about the coleus. That choisya is a beautiful shade of yellow – how frugal of you and how rewarding it must be to have propagated it successfully!

  5. Wendy~I think overnight is long enough to quarantine the daffys before adding them to mixed bouquets. I wonder what happens if one fails to do that?
    Grace~Never had much luck with the rooting hormone/sandy soil approach. I guess I just like to see what’s going on through the glass.
    Jo~What kind of success have you had with poking sticks in soil? Rooting water sounds like a good plan. Yep, berms are us…and it all started with a pile of left-over soil just like yours.
    Megan~Big yards tend to bring out the thrifty in us.
    Jane~Some work, some don’t. I think it has something to do with the season the cuttings are taken, but, like I say, the process is hit-and-miss around here.

  6. Here’s to a long life and a full garden! My brain aches too when I read those books, I usually get to about page 3 and give up. Great you are just trying to see what works!

  7. PS It’s not just the time of year, it’s whether plants should be propagated by hardwood or softwood cuttings, I think. Not that I know which is which! I know another blogger who discovered willows root directly into the soil when she used some shoots as markers and then they rooted! So, trial and error is good too.

  8. Karen~A friend just gave me a nice bunch of pussy willows. I may stick a few of them in the ground to see what happens. I once built a trellis from the long whips pruned from a forsythia and it began to grow…so I guess anything is possible.

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