The Q&A Archives: Rhododendrons

Question: How do rhodies propogate? I have several in my yard that I would like to multiply.

Answer: There are several ways to propagate rhodies. The easiest is a method called layering. Find a low branch on the plant and peg it down into the soil then cover it with soil. It will usually root wherever it touches the soil. After it has rooted you can cut it from the mother plant and pot it up on its own. I do this about this time of year and by the following spring it has rooted and can be replanted. Another way is to take tip cuttings. A cutting is the end of a stem, usually about three inches long. Cuttings can be taken with sharp clippers or a knife, and recut with a razor blade just before setting. I take cuttings in September and October. It is better to err late than early. If possible, take only stems with leaf buds. If you have to take a cutting with a flower bud, don't remove it right away. The injury will expose the cutting to fungal growth. Rather, let it wither and then take the dead bud away later.

Trim the cutting down to about three leaves. If the surface is still too large, slice off part of each leaf. The object is to minimize transpiration, since the moisture intake ability has been drastically reduced. Still, some leaf surface is necessary for root growth.

Recut the stem on a diagonal with a razor blade or other clean, sharp instrument. The diagonal maximizes water intake through the stem.

Make a cut or slice wound on the stem. This stimulates the plant to send rooting hormones to the area. (I simply scrape two sides of the stem with a potato peeler.)

Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone, such as Dip 'n Grow. Insert the cuttings into a pot of growing medium, spaced so that leaves do not touch each other.

Set the pot in a protected area in your garden and check to make sure rainfall is keeping the growing medium moist. The cuttings should root in 6-8 weeks.

Best wishes with your new rhodies!

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