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Cuttings or slips are the selected vegetative parts of a plant. Usually they are short pieces of leafy shoots, but long shoots are selected from the more herbaceous species. Long slips taken from some hardy deciduous shrubs will grow into healthy specimens; these cuttings are usually taken in winter.
Some plants, the Pelargoniums for example, are able to form new buds on cut portions of their roots, and these can be used for propagation; they are called "root cuttings". Leaves of Gloxinias and some Begonias, when cut through the midrib and fastened down in the soil, will grow into new plants.
Some cuttings taken from Fuchsias, Geraniums, Lonicera and Daphne, will root freely if taken when the plants are actively growing. When taking cuttings from these plants use a sharp knife and make a clean cut. Take the cutting at a point just under the bottom joint. Remove any flowers and soft leafy growth, such as tips and foliage, and any leaves that come in contact with the soil when the cutting is planted. Winter cuttings are taken when the leaves have fallen. Select a shoot of the current year's growth. This will be lighter in colour and more supple to the touch than older growth. Remove the tips and lower buds before planting. Heel cuttings are sometimes used. These are taken from the parent with a "heel" of old wood attached. This is trimmed and then placed in the rooting medium or soil. Many shrubs and Roses are propagated
by this method; the heels are taken in autumn. With evergreen plants this work is done in spring.
In propagating cuttings it is advisable to select a sheltered spot in the garden, free from cold winds and from many hours of direct sunlight. Woody cuttings, since they have a certain amount of food stored in their tissue, do not need much light, but a certain amount of light is required by all cuttings.
If many cuttings are taken each year, reserve a bed for them. Light loamy soils are best for propagation. Clay types are quite unsuitable. Open the soil, top-dress with a thick layer of sharp sand, then cover the bed with about two inches of sand. No organic matter or manures should be added, because these will cause root rot. If the cuttings are soft, place them not more than an inch deep; woody cuttings can be inserted for half their length.
Firm the soil round the cuttings and keep it moist but not wet - too much water can lead to poor results.
A board surrounding the bed will help keep off direct winds, and cuttings covered with glass clotches will have better condition than exposed cuttings.