Cuttings, rather than seeds, offer immediate satisfaction

By 
Erin Schanen

 

The first seeds of 2022 have germinated and exist as tiny, little bits of green under my basement grow lights. Snapdragons and foxgloves were the first to be sown a couple weeks ago, but jalapeño peppers followed this week.

I’m not as enthusiastic about growing plants from seed as I once was. I enjoy it in February and March, but after that, tending all those baby plants, a job that requires at least daily attention, can be tiresome. I’ve tried to cut back on what I’ll grow from seed this year, but then again, I’ve tried that before and failed miserably.

But there are some real plants happily growing for the summer garden already. Cuttings taken from last year’s plants are now growing in individual pots. Not only do they require less care than seedlings, they also offer immediate satisfaction because it is always more exciting to see a full-fledged plant than a tiny, but hopeful, little flick of green in the form of the first leaves of a seedling.

Plectranthus ‘Silver Shield,’ a coleus cousin that roots very easily from cuttings but can be ornery to grow from seed, was a perfect candidate for propagating by cuttings. I potted two plants in fall and limped them along under a grow light until a couple weeks ago when they became material for cutting.

Plectranthus roots so easily that little is required other than sticking a small bit of stem with two or four leaves into some potting mix. I also rooted some cuttings in water, which just like coleus, produces a mass of white roots that allows it to start growing even faster.

Cuttings that I took from Spanish lavender in fall and grew in a small terra cotta pot produced enough roots to also be transferred to their own pots. Lavender, and really most plants, don’t root as easily as Plectranthus, but after cutting these in fall from green, not woody, stems, stripping the bottom couple inches of stem of leaves and dipping them in a bit of rooting hormone powder, I had lots of roots and the cuttings were ready for their own pots by early February.

I used regular potting mix and slid the cuttings in on the edge of small terra cotta pot so the roots would have an easy run and there was less chance that the soil would get too damp. A zip-top bag over the whole thing for three weeks or so provided enough humidity for the original cuttings to take.

The next propagation experiment involves the utterly gorgeous but notoriously finicky purple bell vine (Rhodochiton atrosanguineus). Growing it from seed is challenging, and last year I resorted to ordering plants. Since it is a perennial in its native Mexico, I brought two plants inside in fall. One died quickly, but the other is growing well and will soon be used for cuttings, which should grow more strongly than the mother plant will this summer.

I’ve always found growing plants from seed to be incredibly satisfying, but propagating from cuttings might be even better. I can peek under those grow lights and see little plants chugging along, instead of plant babies that require constant vigilance.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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