Seed and Plant Propagation


Why propagate?
When the plant you want is not available at the nursery
When the plant you want has sentimental value
When you need more of a plant you already have

Begonia by leaf cuttings

True leaf cuttings are just leaves without attached buds or nodes and can be taken from plants such as African violets, sedums and begonias. Propagation is best during summer when the leaves have ripened a little and are not too soft. Use propagation mix or clean washed coarse sand and sphagnum moss. For begonias, nick the veins at the main junction on the underside of the leaf. After nicking, place the leaf right-side up on top of the propagating mix, and anchor it firmly with a handful of sand. Portions of leaves strike better than whole leaves, so trim the leaf into 3 making sure part of the main vein is in each part. Roots should form within four weeks.

Camellia by semi-hardwood cuttings

Buxus, camellias, azaleas and many other shrubs, can be grown from semi-hardwood cuttings. This type of cutting uses a stem which has hardened off (it is not the soft new growth); generally a month or more after the flush of new growth has occurred. The best type of growth for semi-hardwood cuttings is found in late spring and summer (November to February).

As a guide, the stem below the new shoot will be starting to look brown rather than fresh and green. To test whether the cuttings you are taking are suitable bend the growth gently, it should bend and snap if it is a true, semi-hardwood cutting. If it just bends but doesn’t feel as if it will snap, it’s too soft.

Fill sterilized pots or a propagating tray with moist propagating mix in readiness for the cuttings. Cut stems on a 45 degree angle, 10cm long and dip each cutting into root hormone gel to promote a new root system. Use a dibble stick to make a hole in the pot and plant the cuttings. Keep cuttings in a shaded spot, and lightly water.


Select a plump, healthy-looking branch end. Cuttings of thick stems from vigorous plants will flower earlier than those from less vigorous plants. They will also produce larger flowers than with spindly cuttings. The terminal growing bud will ideally look shiny and ‘moist’ and the bark may be green but mature grey bark is very desirable for a cutting. Cleanly saw off a piece to about 300mm long. A cut at 45 degrees is ideal for two reasons; rain/dew will drain away from the wound on the mother tree discouraging any dieback in the branch and the cutting itself will have a large area of exposed stem. Just below the bark, the cambium is the tissue that actively produces roots and an oblique cut rather than one directly across the stem exposes maximum cambium for root development.

Place this cutting in a dry and shaded spot for 6 weeks during which time the wound will dry out and heal over. “Callus” tissue may also become apparent. This is a white-cream, warty outgrowth from the cut, from which roots will emerge once the cutting is planted.

Some growers routinely dip the cutting prior to planting in a rooting compound mixed with a fungicide. Other growers find no need for this with some enthusiasts maintaining that the procedure actually impedes the rooting process! It is advisable that every gardener should experiment to find what is most successful under the conditions prevailing.

The newly planted cutting must not be again watered until the medium is quite dry. Only then should it be watered and sparingly at that. As a rule of thumb, in the absence of rain, one cup of water per week should be sufficient until the cutting is leafing out and clearly growing. In reality it depends on the nature of the medium used and the evaporation rate experienced at the time.

More frangipani cuttings (and plants) are lost because of over watering than from any other cause. Dispense with any feelings of concern for a moisture-starved cutting. Insipient wrinkling of the bark is a clear indication that more moisture is needed but this rarely occurs. Far more common is a cutting that looks normal but in fact is a hollow shell – the centre having been destroyed by fungus encouraged through over watering. Should this occur, all is not necessarily lost. It may be possible to save the cutting by reducing it back severely, clear of any sign of the dieback and starting the whole process again with first drying out the wound.

Avoid any temptation to lift out cuttings to check development of the root system. It is not uncommon for a cutting to be apparently actively growing – even flowering – long before any roots at all have formed.


Write the name of the plants on a label and stick it in the pot
Dip base of cutting into hormone rooting gel or gel to increase the strike rate
Don’t allow cuttings to dry out between removing them from the plant and potting them. If the cuttings need to be transported, wrap them in damp newspaper and a plastic bag and keep them cool.
Remove most of the leaves along the stem.
Propagating mix should not dry out or the cuttings will die. Plants will begun to form roots after about 8 to 12 weeks.

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