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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: cuttings and propagation

Spring flowers

Ask the gardener: cuttings and propagation

Find out how to take cuttings and propagate your plants...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

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Peter Fawcett asks...

I took 2 hydrangea cuttings last year, which are growing ok. When will it be ok to plant them outside? 

Bill replies...

Weather wise April to date has been quite an unusual month Peter and we have experienced quite a number of hard overnight frosts and several of my Hydrangea plants have been tinged by this late frost.  I feel that your two Hydrangea cuttings will need to be hardened off outside before planting as this will enable you to take them inside overnight if frost is predicted.  Hydrangeas love to be planted in well drained open compost and it is important to keep an eye on the watering over the summer months. 

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Ian asks...

Can Polyanthus be raised from leaf cuttings (in a similar way to African Violets)?

Bill replies...

I am afraid Ian that it is not possible to grow Polyanthus from leaf cuttings but you can quite easily divide large clumps and propagate from seed.  The seed however much be fresh which means that as soon as you have collected the seeds from your plants you will need to sow the seed in a general seed and potting compost or, you can for quite a while keep the seed viable by storing the seeds in a small plastic container and placing in an ordinary domestic fridge where the temperature is constant.

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Peter Fenwick asks...

How do I take cuttings from a 2 year old Lobelia?

Bill replies...

There are quite a number of perennial Lobelia species Peter but, unlike the low growing annual Lobelias these will grow to a height of one to four feet and have magnificent spikes of tubular blue/purple and stunning red flowers.  Popular species are Lobelia Cardinalis, Lobelia Fulgens and the beautiful Lobelia Vedrariensis which has purple trumpet flowers.  Most of perennial Lobelias are not 100% frost hardy and will need protection during the winter months by covering the soil with leaf mould or peat.  With regard to propagation of perennial Lobelias, the methods used are sowing seeds early springtime or dividing a clump of Lobelia again in early springtime.

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Michelle Howarth asks...

We have a large but beautiful Fuschia bush, is it possible to split this and transplant some into another part of the garden without the original plant dying?

Bill replies...

Splitting your Fuschia Bush will drastically damage your plant Michelle you are far better waiting until new shoots appear in the spring and then taking cuttings from the new shoots.  These shoots are easy enough to root in a multipurpose purpose compost but, you will probably need to cover the cuttings with a clear polythene bag to cut down on transpiration loss.  Throughout the summer months you can take cuttings from your plant to build up your stock.

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Kevin Guthrie asks...

Bill, in the recent storms an old lilac tree in my garden has been uprooted and fallen over. Some branches are quite rotten so I think it may be too old to save. However it is in bud so I wonder if I could take some cuttings from those twigs with healthy looking buds.   

Bill replies...

It is very, very difficult Kevin to root Lilac from hardwood cuttings but there is no harm in trying and I would cut the shoots into six to seven inches in length and insert about half of the stem into the soil.  You may find however in the Spring that even though your Lilac tree has been uprooted some suckers will appear from the roots of your old tree which you can either leave insitu or transfer to another part of the garden.

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Kevin asks...

How do I take a eucalyptus tree cutting?

Bill replies...

With Eucalyptus being so easy to grow from seed not many people propagate Eucalyptus from cuttings and also Kevin it is a very difficult plant to root from cuttings and, to have any chance of success you would need modern facilities such a Micro Propagation or Mist Propagation Units.  I did however read in one of my 'very old' gardening books that cuttings can be taken from mature shoots during June/July - no further information was given except that the cuttings should be placed outside under a garden cloche.  If you do decide to try this method I would recommend that the cuttings be approximately four inches long and inserted in a well drained rooting medium.  I do however feel that the chances of success are very slim Kevin.

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John Percy asks...

I have three large fuschia bushes, could you tell me how and when i could take cuttings.

Bill replies...

You can take Fuschia cuttings John in Spring, Summer and Autumn.  The young shoots need to be approximately one and a half to two inches long and after removing the bottom pair of leaves the cuttings can be inserted around the side of a three to five inch pot in a well drained compost.  If you take your cuttings in Spring you may need to cover with a clear poly bag to cut down transpiration loss and place in a cool greenhouse.  The Summer and Autumn cuttings can be placed outside in a sheltered spot out of direct sunlight and again to cut down on transpiration loss they may need to be covered with a poly bag. It will take about two the three weeks for the cuttings to root when they can be repotted into single pots.

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Lorna Littlejohn asks...

Can I propogate my Arum italicum pictum from seed?

Bill replies...

The usual method of propagating Arum Italicum Lorna is by lifting the tuberous clumps early Autumn - dividing the offsets and replanting.  And although I have never propagated Arum Italicum from seed it is listed in Chilterns Seed Catalogue.  From my experience with other similar plants you will need to allow the scarlet spike of berries to ripen and then remove the seeds.  Taking into account that the berries are poisonous I would wear protective gloves.  You then need to dry the seeds off (at room temperature) place the seeds in a paper bag and the seeds then need to be stored in a cool room.  I find the best method for storing seeds is in a domestic fridge where the temperature is constant and two/three degrees above freezing and a constant and cool temperature is ideal for seed viability.   The seeds can then be sowed early Spring time.

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Sarah Green asks...

I have recently purchased a black bamboo, that we are thinking of splitting into two plants.  Is it ok to do this time of year, or should we wait for warmer weather?

Bill replies...

The Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) is a beautiful architectural plant and it is possible to split them but I would wait until you can obtain two decent sized plants before doing so.  The best time for splitting your Bamboo is late spring.

Bamboos need to be planted in a sheltered spot and it is very important to keep your plant well watered.

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Juliet asks...

Hi there, I have a Cordyline Australis, and a friend also wants one.  I sometimes make up cuttings, but I'm fairly sure its impossible to take a cutting from this one-stemmed tree, but can you just confirm that it "isn't" possible.

Bill replies...

It is not feasible to take a cutting from your Cordyline Juliet but what sometimes happens is you will find a new shoot appearing from soil level and if this occurs you can remove the shoot along with some of the roots and re-pot it and give it to your friend.  Cordyines can also be grown from seed - they are quite easy to germinate and what you could do is germinate some of the seeds during the spring/summer months re-pot them into small pots and then you can supply all of your friends with a Cordyline.

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Alan Garder asks...

Hi Bill, can you take a cutting from Forest Flame and will it grow or have you got to re-plant the whole bush?

Bill replies...

You can quite easily propagate the shrub Forest Flame from cuttings Alan.  The best time for this is late July/August using semi-ripe shoots.  The cuttings need to be approximately three to four inches long - cut just below a leaf joint and remove the lower leaves.  The cuttings need to be inserted in a mixture of peat and coarse grit or perlite around the edge of a four to five inch pot - keep the cuttings well watered and placed in a dapple shade in the garden.  They should be rooted within four/five weeks.  They will however need some protection during the winter months.

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John Janowitz asks...

My father recently died and I'm getting ready to sell the house. On the south side of the garage is a yellow climbing rose bush that goes up to the top of the garage then climbs both ways along the gutter.  Coming from the ground are 4 or 5 central shoots that all come out of the same root ball.  I only have another month or two of owning the home. Is there any way to split off any of this rose to be able to transplant part of it here?

Bill replies...

John it is the worst time of the year to remove any shoots from climbing roses but, I realize the problem you have with the rose being the favourite of your late father.  The chances of success by taking one or two shoots from the cluster is very slim, it is however possible to take cuttings off the rose during later summer/autumn and, I am sure if you could come to some agreement with the new owners this will be the best solution and successful method.

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Mike Shaw asks...

I have grown several lavenders this year, with success, for the first time. Now that the flowers are fading, how do I treat them and can I split them?

Bill replies...

Once your lavenders have finished flowering Mike you will need to cut the flower spikes back and also any straggly shoots and this will encourage new shoots.  Lavenders love a sunny spot and also a free draining soil and this summer has been an ideal year for lavenders.  On the question of splitting your plants I would not recommend this - you will ruin your plants and it will be very difficult for them to recover.  Lavenders can however be quite easily propagated from cuttings taken from young shoots during the summer months.  The cuttings need to be approximately two inches long and inserted around the side of a pot in a peat/grit mixture.  They may need to be covered with a clear poly bag to keep the humidity up and cut down on transpiration loss.

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Paula Wilkinson asks...

I have a small Olive Tree and Japanese Acer which both have two new shoots growing low down. How can I take a cutting from both to create new trees? On another note, how can stop the squirrels eating all my newly planted bulbs?

Bill replies...

You will probably be more successful Paula with the Olive Tree rather than the Acer - which is very difficult to root from cuttings.  With the Olive cutting the shoot needs to be approximately two to three inches long - cut just below a leaf joint and the bottom leaves need removing.  The cutting needs to be inserted in a 50/50 peat sharp grit mixture and I would also dip the cutting in a rooting compound.  Insert the cutting in a small plastic pot and after watering you will probably need to cover the cutting with a clear poly bag to keep the humidity up.  The cutting will need to be kept in slightly dapple shade and during the winter months will need to kept indoors on a window sill in a cool spot.  It must be frost-free until established.

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Marie Eddy asks...

I have multiple hostas growing in my garden - they are so large that perhaps they should be divided. At what time of the year should this be done? (2) What is considered the base of the flower stem of the yucca filamentosa.  I notice that the first 12" of the stem is braided.  This particular yucca was planted three years ago and while it produced many spears only this year did it put up a flower stem 4 or 5 feet high and was covered with blossoms.

Bill replies...

I always divide my Hostas Marie early Spring time - just when the young shoots are beginning to appear and with large clumps I just split them with a sharp spade.  If you have any secret recipes for keeping slugs at bay I would love to hear from you! On the question of your Yucca you must wait until the flower head had completely died and then the stem can be cut right back - being careful not to damage any of the young leaves.

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Brian Olive and Anne Grimshaw both ask...

I Have a Cordyline Australis about 5ft tall, planted in my back garden. It has started to produce shoots from the base. Can I separate theses shoots and pot them to form new plants if so how? Also will it be harmful to my plant to let theses shoots develop or should they be taken off?

Bill replies...

Using a sharp knife you can cut these shoots off providing there are some roots attached - these new shoots can then be repotted into a pot using a multi purpose compost.  Regarding the second part of your question - you can allow these shoots to grow but you will need to repot into a large container the following spring.

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Gordon Birt asks...

I have a lovely Cordyline specimen growing but have noticed this year a number of suckers sprouted at the base which are now are quite large. Is it possible to split these from the trunk and re-plant as singles elsewhere in the garden? If so how do I do this? Many thanks.

Bill replies...

It is getting rather late in the year now Gordon for removing the young shoots and re-potting them and you would be far better waiting until early Spring.  What you must ensure is that there are some roots attached to the shoots and each of this shoots can then be re-potted in a 5-6 inch pot in a mixture of multipurpose and John Innes compost with added grit sand.  You will also need to place your plants in a slightly shaded and sheltered spot until they are established.

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Brenda Mills asks...

Whilst moving the pot containing a healthy Yucca of approx. 2 feet in height, I have accidentaly snapped the plant off at the base.  Firstly, will the plant re-grow and secondly, is there anything I can do to save the snapped off piece?

Bill replies...

There is a good chance that your Yucca will shoot again Brenda but this may not happen until next spring/summer time.  The shoot which you have snapped off is worth saving and what you need to do is to re-pot the shoot in a 10-12 inch pot in a mixture of a peat based multipurpose compost and a John Innes compost and, if possible add to mixture about 10% of sharp grit sand which will ensure a free draining compost and there is a very good chance that it will root next year.

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Laurie asks...

How do I take cuttings from my Laurel Shrubs Prunus Laurocerasus Etna and when is the best time to take the cuttings?

Bill replies...

Now is a good time of year Laurie to take cuttings from your Laurel - they need to be two to three inches long - cut just below a leaf node - and the bottom leaves need to be removed.  Using a rooting hormone the cuttings can the be inserted around the side of a five inch pot - using a fifty/fifty peat sharp grit compost.  They then need to be placed in either a cold-frame or under the bench of a cold greenhouse.  They are however not an easy plant to use and it could take six to nine months for the roots to appear.

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Patricia Hodgins asks...

I have a bay tree in a large pot it with three shoots. How do I cut them to grow them on in pots?

Bill replies...

You can propagate young shoots of Bay Trees Patricia from semi-hardwood cuttings taken during August/September time.  Cuttings need to be approximately two to three inches long and after removing the bottom leaves the cuttings can be inserted in a mixture of peat and grit around the side of a four to five inch pot - using a rooting hormone.  The cuttings can be placed in a cold frame or cool greenhouse but I must warn you Patricia that they are not an easy plan to root and you may have to wait until spring or summer time before rooting appears.

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Simon asks...

Quite simply, can you plant a conker, they're falling off the trees everywhere!

Bill replies...

With the ongoing problem of Bleeding Canker which is devastating our Horsechestnut Trees Simon it would help immensely is we all sowed a few conkers.  What you need to do is to sow the conker in a peat/sharp grit mixture in a two/three inch deep seed tray container or five/six inch pot.  Place approximately one inch of mixture in the container/pot — sow the conkers on top of the soil (they can be placed closely together) and place approximately one inch of compost on top of the conkers. The containers/pots need to be watered and placed in the garden.  You will need to cover them with a fine plastic mesh to stop mice eating them over the winter months.  The conkers will then start to germinate during the spring time.  You can also sow individual conkers in small three inch pots using the above procedure.

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Yvonne Perfect asks...

Please could you advise on taking a cutting of my Mahone which has been in my garden for 10 year. I have taken a cutting before with no success.

Bill replies...

You can propagate Mahonias from tip cuttings taken during July and also leaf bud cuttings taken during the summer months Yvonne.  The tip cuttings need to be approximately three inches long and these need to be planted in a three to five inch pot with an open compost fifty/fifty mixture of peat and sharp grit sand.  The cuttings can then be placed in a sheltered spot in the garden.  To cut down transpiration loss and to keep up the humidity you may need to cover the cuttings with a clear poly bag for approximately three to four weeks - ensuring that your cuttings are kept well watered.  For leaf bud cuttings - one small piece of stem with one leaf with a dormant bud in the leaf axle. Insert the stem in a peat and grit mixture and quite a number can be inserted around the side of a five inch pot.  These then need to be placed either in a cold frame/a sheltered spot in the garden and again covered with a clear poly bag for approximately three/four weeks. 

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Hope asks...

I was wondering if you can propagate Holly bushes and if so how you would do that? My grandma has two that I would like to take from.

Bill replies...

It is not an easy plant to propagate Hope but, they can be propagated from cuttings taken from the current season's growth.  The cuttings need to be two to three inches long with the bottom leaves removed and these can be placed around the side of a five inch pot in a peat/sharp grit mixture.  After watering the cuttings in well the pots can then be placed in a sheltered spot in the garden or in a cold frame.  The time to take the cuttings is September/October time and these are classed as semi-hardwood cuttings.

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I Clark asks...

What is the best way to propogate hawthorn to make a hedge, from berries or cuttings and if the latter when is the best time .. at springtime bud burst or autumn time, also soft or hardwood cuttings?

Bill replies...

The most popular method of propogating Hawthorn is from seed but regarding soft or hard wood cuttings they are not easy to propogate and you would be far better growing Hawthorn from seed.  Young whips are readily available from Garden Centres/Nurseries during the winter months and eighteen inches to two feet whips should cost approximately £15-20 for one hundred whips.

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David Hardcastle asks...

I am about to move house, and I have a oak tree that my son planted when he was a child.  Is it possible to take a cutting so that I can take a reminder with me?  The tree is about 8ft tall now and is growing in the middle of the garden.  I feel that it probably wouldn't cope with being moved.

Bill replies...

I have never propagated Oak Trees from cuttings David - the popular method is by sowing acorns.  I can understand why you wish to take cuttings and I feel that the easiest method would be to take softwood cuttings from new shoots early June/July time and these can be inserted in a 50/50 multipurpose peast and grit mixture around the sides of a 3 to 4 inch pot - you may need to cover the pots with a clear polythene bag to cut down transpiration loss and the cuttings can then be placed in a sheltered spot in the garden. The same method can be used for semi-hardwood cuttings which should be taken during August/September time.  Please email me at BBC Radio Lancashire if this method is successful.  Good luck.

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Terry Hammond asks...

How do I take primrose cuttings and when?

Bill replies...

Primulas are classified into a range of groups Terry - one popular species are the small Alpine Auricula Primulas and there is also the large flowering Primula Candelabras which need very moist conditions - the Drumstick Primula Denticulata and the ever popular Primrose Hybrids and Polyanthus Hybrids which are available in all Garden Centres early Springtime.  The majority of Primroses are propagated by division or from seed - the seed needs to be sown fresh throughout the summer and plants can be divided - depending on species - during autumn time.

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William Gratton asks...

When can I take cuttings from photinias?

Bill replies...

Photinias - especially Red Robin - are becoming a very popular shrub in gardens William and they can be propagated from cuttings.  The time to take cuttings is late summertime when the shoots are beginning to ripen/semi hardwood cuttings. The cuttings need to be three to four inches long and after removing the lower leaves the cuttings can be inserted in a rooting medium of 50% peat and grit or 50% peat/perlite. They can be inserted around the side of a five inch pot and placed in a cold frame or a sheltered position in the garden  - ensuring that the plants are kept well watered.

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Lorraine asks...

How and when should I cut my primroses if I want them to flower next year do they need to be brought inside in winter? How much should I cut off, also can I get seeds from them and how?

Bill replies...

There are numerous groups of Primroses Lorraine which do require different cultivation conditions and therefore it is difficult to give you a concise answer to your question without knowing what group of Primroses we are dealing with.  The most popular group are the Polyanthus and Primroses which are available in most Garden Centres and Nurseries early Springtime and used in general bedding displays for spring colour. If your Primroses fall in this category you do not need to bring them indoors during the winter months and you can either leave them in the garden - and quite a number will flower the following year - or if you need space in the garden for your summer bedding plants - you can lift your Primroses and heal them in an isolated spot in your garden until replanting during the autumn time.  If you allow your Primroses to set seeds you can sow the seeds to produce new plants but the seeds need to be sown fresh midsummer time.  As mentioned above it is difficult to give you a complete answer without knowing which group of Primulas you have in your garden.

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Cait Faulkner asks...

How to I propagate gorse as I would like to intersperse a few into our hawthorn hedge.  I did manage to propagate some from seed but they died at an inch high! Can I take cuttings, and if so, when is best?

Bill replies...

The common Gorse (Ulex Europeus) is a tough shrub Cait and will tolerate poor soil and also adverse weather conditions.  The easiest method of propagation is by seed but, you can also propagate from cuttings.  The cuttings of Gorse are quite difficult to root but I feel that it is well worth trying.  The cuttings can be taken during the summer months and they need to be two to three inches long.  I would use a rooting hormone and I would insert the cuttings in a fifty/fifty peat and grit mixture or peat and perlite.  The cuttings can be inserted around the side of a five inch pot and will need to be kept moist and humid and to increase the humidity around the cuttings I would cover the cuttings with a clear polythene bag or place the cuttings in a propagating frame and keep outside in a sheltered position.

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Guy asks...

I would like to take some Box (Buxus) cuttings. I am not sure when they should be taken or the best way to take cuttings. Please could 'yew' offer any advice?

Bill replies...

Many thanks for your question Guy regarding Box cuttings.  I find that the best time for taking cuttings is late summer and the cuttings need to be about three to four inches long (removing the lower leaves) and I would use a rooting hormone.  The cuttings can be inserted around the side of a five inch pot or in suitable containers in a fifty/fifty mixture of peat and grit or peat and perlite and placed in a sheltered/shady spot in the garden.  Hope "yew" are successful.

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Mrs A Catlow asks...

My lovely dicentra has become a victim to the recent strong winds! Can you tell me the best way I can propagate this broken stem?

Bill replies...

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) Mrs Catlow is a beautiful perennial plant producing pink bell like flowers spring/summer time and the best method of propagation is by division.  This can be carried out autumn time or early spring time.  Regarding the broken stem I am afraid that it would be very difficult to propagate.

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Shaun asks...

When and how do I take cuttings from my laburnum tree?

Bill replies...

It is very very difficult to take cuttings from Laburnum Trees Shaun and I am afraid that unless you have all the modern facilities this task with be impossible.  The easiest method of propagating Laburnum is by seed and these can be collected from your tree when they have ripened and sown in a mixture of peat and grit in seed trays or small plastic containers in the autumn time.  They do need a cold treatment for the seeds to germinate and the trays or containers should be left outside over the winter months but, you will need to protect them from mice.  The seeds should then start to germinate early springtime. The other alternative would be to collect the seeds when ripened, place in a small plastic container and place in a domestic fridge which will initiate their cold treatment and these can be sown early springtime in seed trays.  It is very important to remember that the seeds are very poisonous and that the container needs to be labelled and kept away from children.

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Dave Ashworth asks...

I've identified a tree in my garden as a evergreen magnolia grandiflora. I would love to make a long fence covering. Can you tell me if I could take cuttings from this and if so how and when?

Bill replies...

Magnolia Grandiflora is a beautiful evergreen tree Dave and produces lovely very large cream scented flowers during the spring/late summer and autumn period and is one of my favourite Magnolias.  It is quite a vigorous tree but is ideal for growing up a south facing wall.  It is not an easy tree to take cuttings from but, if you wish to try and propagate from cuttings I would try one/two during late summer time.  These are classed as semi-hardwoods cuttings. The cuttings need to be four to six inches long and need to be inserted in a peat/grit mixture and these can be placed outside in a sheltered position.  The other alternative is to layer some of the branches into the soil - cutting part of the stem horizontally between the leaf joint and pinning into the soil.

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Margaret asks...

We have an 18 foot tall eucalyptus tree how do you take cuttings from it?

Bill replies...

It is virtually impossible to root Eucalyptus cuttings Margaret but, they are very easily grown from seed which is readily available from seed merchants catalogues.  I did however read in one 'very old' gardening book that cuttings can be taken late summertime from semi-hardwood shoots and rooted in a peat and grit mixture but, as I have mentioned above I do not know of any nursery who carry out this method and I personally do not know anyone who has rooted Eucalyptus from cuttings.

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Mina Patel asks...

How to divide a strelitzia regina that has got roots showing from the top and has 5 growing crowns or shoots now. It is in a very large pot and extremely pot bound as the soil keeps being pushed up to about 6 inches. Any help will gratefully appreciated.

Bill replies...

Strelitzia Regina (Bird of Paradise Plant) is a beautiful plant Mina which often produces striking flowers when the plant is pot bound but, there does come a time when your plant will need to be either repotted into a larger pot or divided.  If you are going to divide the plant the correct time to carry this out is springtime.  You will need a very sharp knife to divide the main crown and for repotting the compost I would recommend be a fifty/fifty mixture of a soil base compost John Innes No 2 with a multipurpose compost.

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Ray Rounce asks...

I have a 8 year old Phorium plant which has flowered for the first time. It now has a lot of seed pods. How do I propogate these seeds - many thanks.

Bill replies...

Phorium seeds Ray do need a cold treatment before they will germinate.  There are two methods which you can use and these are: 1) sowing the seeds in pots in a fifty/fifty grit sand/compost mix and covering with approximately one quarter to half an inch of soil.  After watering the pots can be placed outside in a cold frame and the seeds should then germinate early springtime.  2)  The seeds can be collected and placed in a plastic container and kept in an ordinary domestic fridge - this will give them the cold treatment that they require.  Early springtime the seeds can be placed - again in pots - using the same compost mixture as 1) above and can be kept on a cool kitchen window sill or in a greenhouse.  Once the seeds have germinated they can be grown on in single pots.

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Linda Roberts asks...

I successfully raised some fuschia cuttings this year. The cuttings were taken from the parent plant at the back end of last summer. However, although they looked promising they have produced very few flowers, some none at all, even though I have fed them (Tomorite). Where have I gone wrong?

Bill replies...

I have spoken to quite a number of Fuschia growers this year Linda and quite a number of Fuschias have not produced vast amounts of flowers due to the varying weather temperatures this year and also the heavy rainfall.  You mention feeding with Tomorite - which is a high potash fertiliser and will encourage flowering - but you will find that quite a number of Fuschia growers tend to use early in the summer a balanced fertiliser and in mid-summer feed with a high potash fertiliser - which will encourage flowering.  Many Fuschia growers feel that using a high potash throughout the growing season does tend to harden the shoots off too much.

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Polly and Joan Livesey both ask...

Can you tell me when to take cuttings from Clematis and where to take the cuttings from? Thankyou

Bill replies...

I find the easiest method of taking Clematis cuttings is during late summer time when this year's shoots are just beginning to harden off.  The cuttings need to be approximately two inches long and taken internodal which means that you need to cut the stem approximately one inch below a set of leaves.  The cuttings then need to be inserted in a fifty/fifty mixture of peat/sharp grit sand around the side of a three to five inch pot with the set of leaves being just above the soil surface.  You will probably need to cover the pots with a clear polythene bag to cut down on transpiration loss.  The pots can be kept outdoors in a sheltered spot during the summer months and will take approximately four to six weeks to produce roots.

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Ray Rounce asks...

Please can you tell me how to propogate Nuts from a copper beech tree? I have about 30 beech nuts, and would like to grow them on.

Bill replies...

Beech seeds/cobs before they will germinate need a cold treatment Ray and this can be achieved by sowing the seeds/cobs in seed trays.  The seed trays been to be approximately two inches deep and you will need to use an open potting medium - fifty/fifty sharp grit mix would be ideal.  Place approximately one inch of potting medium in the seed trays - space the seeds/cobs on top of the medium and cover with approximately half an inch of soil.  These trays can be placed outdoors during the winter period but, you will need to ensure that the trays are covered with a fine mesh for protection from mice/voles.  The other alternative is to keep the seeds/cobs in a small plastic container, mix with damp peat in a domestic refrigerator - which ensures they received the cold treatment they require.  These can then be germinated in the springtime.

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Peter Alpin asks...

Can I take cuttings from surfinas in autumm and what is the best method?

Bill replies...

You can Peter take cuttings from your Surfinas Petunias in the Autumn but they will need to be kept quite warm and in a very light position and I would recommend inserting one small cutting in a small pot as this will enable you to build up your stock plants over the winter period.  And again, over the winter period if your rooted cuttings become too tall you can nip out the top shoot and use these as cuttings.  If you require quite a number of Surfinas cuttings it would be worthwhile to repot your old Surfinas from your containers and baskets, trim them back and again they need to be kept in a slightly warm but very light position (greenhouse or window sill).  Obviously though your main supply of Surfina cuttings will be taken early springtime.

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Phyl asks...

I have recently acquired a walk in plastic cover greenhouse, can I propogate seeds in the autumn months for spring in this type of greenhouse, provided it stays up in the wind?

Bill replies...

There are quite a wide range of seeds which need a cold period before germination commences Phyl and these can be sown over the winter months and will start to germinate early springtime.  You will be able to keep your seeds in your plastic greenhouse and this will protect them from mice and squirrels.  I would use a fifty/fifty mixture of a course grit sand and a general multipurpose for seed sowing as this will ensure adequate drainage which the seeds will require over the winter months.  You will need to keep an eye on the watering but at all costs do avoid overwatering during the winter period.

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Janet Mclardy asks...

I have grown a selection of hellebores and would like to divide them to increase as I am not getting any 'free' seedlings, but is it easy to do this, and when?  Are they easy to grow from own seed?

Bill replies...

Hellebores are a lovely perennial plant Janet and the different colours bring life to the garden in late winter and springtime.  Regarding your question on dividing your plants the time to divide Hellebores is in the autumn time.  You will need to plant them in a neutral soil and in a slightly sheltered position.  On the question of growing Hellebores from seed the seeds need to be fresh when sown which means that you will need to sow them in the summer time and I would use a general seed and potting compost.

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Brian Freeman asks...

What is the best way to store the seeds you have collected from the garden, and will keeping them in the greenhouse be too hot for them in summer?

Bill replies...

Once you have collected your seeds Brian they need to be air dried at normal room temperature and the seeds then transferred into paper bags - ensuring that the bags are labelled.  The bags can then be placed in a plastic container with a sealed lid and placed in a cool but constant temperature.  An ordinary domestic fridge is an ideal place for storing seeds with the temperature a constant two to three degrees above freezing.

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 09:08
created: 23/10/2006

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