Make some cuttings of favourite plants

Surfinia petunias
Surfinia petunias

SOUTHSEA GREEN: With Irene Strange

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I know you’re not looking for jobs, but this is an excellent time to make cuttings of our favourite basket and container plants.

If you’re wondering which plants, I’m thinking about ivy-leafed geraniums and helichrysum (the lovely silvery trailing plant which protects the tender plants from strong salt-laden winds), plus Japanese petunias such as Blue Vein, Surfinia Red and Verbena.

Just think about last spring when we bought these plants. Each one cost around £1.25 and that was a bargain when you consider the costs to the growers. You may have others which you would include in the list.

We don’t need a greenhouse. A clean seed tray with a plastic dome over the top and a light windowsill out of direct sunshine will be just the job.

If you have a greenhouse, all you need is the seed tray, dome, compost, sand and a sheet of newspaper.

Cuttings of the basket and container plants are taken from the tips of the plants and need to be about 3in long. Geraniums need to be an inch longer.

The seed tray is filled with seed compost to within half-an-inch of the top of the seed tray and a quarter-of-an-inch of potting sand is added all over the surface.

All the dead flowers and lower leaves on the cuttings are removed with a sharp knife, leaving just the top three and the tip.

Removing the leaves on Helichrysum is quite difficult and a sharp knife or old-fashioned razor blade will do the job.

The cuttings are completed by making a clean cut just below the lowest node (leaf joint). A lot of gardeners dip cuttings into a rooting powder or liquid. Follow this procedure if it makes you feel more confident.

Inserting the cuttings with a dibber now follows and the sand on the surface falls into the base of each hole. This ensures the cuttings will root in about three to four weeks.

It’s essential the cuttings are inserted firmly so that the sand is in contact with the base of each cutting.

Once the cuttings are inserted the tray is watered using a fine boat rose and clean water.

The tray is then covered with the dome, followed by the newspaper over the top, to provide shade and prevent dehydration.

Once the cuttings root, the tips are removed to ensure the plants will be bushy and not struggle up towards the light. After this each one is planted into a 3in diameter pot in any universal potting compost.

If you’re wondering why I’m taking cuttings at this time of year, it’s because they root well and will survive the winter if kept in a frost-free place with plenty of light.

If we take cuttings in November after the frosts are around, then they often suffer from fungal diseases and it is very disappointing to experience failure.