How to take plant cuttings
Spread the love by propagating new plants from your wildlife-friendly favourites and sharing them with friends and family. Use your garden to create brand new plants and give them to neighbours, friends and family. Not only do they make great gifts, but you’ll be helping them start their own nature-friendly garden too.
Not every type of garden plant produces viable seeds, but many do. As the flowers go over, watch for the seedcases to mature. Large seeds produced in pods are the easiest to collect, as you can take them to shell indoors out of the wind. Other seeds are much smaller, and the best method is to put a brown paper bag over the seedhead and shake the seeds into the bag.
With many plants, you can sow the seed immediately. For small seeds, scatter them thinly onto a tray or pot of sieved compost. For larger seeds, plant them in drills in trays of compost. For really large seeds, sow them individually, one to a small plant pot. It is good practice with most seeds to cover with a thin layer of horticultural grit. Water them and put them somewhere outside that is sheltered but not hot. Some will germinate quite quickly and produce seedlings that autumn. Others may benefit from being left outside over winter to germinate.
Some plants are so keen to grow that their seedlings pop up all over your flower beds. Teasels, foxgloves, Verbena bonariensis all spread themselves. Instead of weeding them out for the compost, carefully lift them, keeping as much root as possible intact, and pot up into peat-free compost.
When it comes to taking cuttings, it’s best to just give it a go. Some will ‘take’ and others won’t, but you win some and you lose some. Everything from flowering shrubs to climbers to garden border plants will form a new plant from a few inches of cut stem. The technique is the same for almost all cuttings – cut a length of stem without flowers about the length of a pencil. Trim it neatly just below a node (the point where the leaves branch from the stem), and cut off the lower leaves to give you a bare stem. Put it down the side of a pot into gritty, free-draining soil. Water, and keep well-watered but not waterlogged. Spray daily with a mister to increase chance of success.
Soon, it should start to put down roots and the leafy tips will show signs of green growth. It can help to put a plastic bag with holes at the top for ventilation, which helps prevent moisture loss.
Planting your ditch
If you want, you can add some wetland-edge plug plants or sow a suitable wildflower seed mix on your freshly excavated diggings. Good flowers to try include lady’s-smock for orange-tip butterflies, ragged robin, marsh marigold, gypsywort and greater bird's-foot trefoil.
This is perhaps the easiest method for creating new plants. It is suitable for a wide range of clump-forming perennial plants. If your plant is a few years old and pretty chunky, then dig up the clump in spring or autumn and break it into two or three parts. Some plants tease apart quite easily; others need to be cut through cleanly with a spade or prised with two forks back to back. Good wildlife-friendly flowers to try include Agapanthus, Eryngium (sea holly), Euphorbia, Geranium, Helianthus, Iris, Lysimachia, ornamental grasses, Spring Primula, Winter Hellebore, Salvia and Sedum.