Phlox cuttings: How? - Knowledgebase Question

Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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Question by joannakat
August 27, 2017
Hi! I just read our article about phlox and, among other things, it says that you can take and root cuttings. This is something I want to do! I have a wonderful creeping phlox that I planted about two years ago. It was tiny then, and is huge now so I need to cut to train it a bit and I'd like to use cuttings to establish plants nearby.

The question is, what's the best way to do it? The article mentions something about thick stems vs thin ones....????

Thanks in advance for as much advice as possible!

North Central TX (Zone 8a)
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A comment from tx_flower_child
August 28, 2017
Do you know the name of your phlox?

Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Image
A comment from joannakat
August 28, 2017
I only know that it's a creeping phlox. It has long fronds with pokey needles, and stays close to the ground. It creates a carpet of beautiful, small, pink flowers in the late spring.

Name: Rick R.
Minneapolis, MN, USA zone 4
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Answer from Leftwood
August 30, 2017

2

Thicker stems will have more stored energy to take the cuttings through the rooting stage that ultimately culminates in a self supporting plant. You may find surface roots already in older parts of the plant at the soil surface. These would be the easiest way to start new plants.

Use this standard practice for rooting cuttings:
-- The media used to plant cuttings in is lighter and much more porous than a potting soil. Most popular are peat, vermiculite, perlite, sand, or any combination of them.
-- take 2-4 inch cuttings. For creeping phlox, a rooting hormone is not needed, but will likely enhance root production. If you have a lot of material to play with, you might try half with and half without.
-- you will be planting the sprigs 1-2 inches deep, but never more than half of the container depth. Strip the leaves that will be below the soil line. This isn't rocket science: you don't have to be perfect. If you strip a bit of the stem skin away accidentally, that's OK. Sometimes these wounds will initiate more root growth.
-- Don't just jam the cutting into the media when you plant. Use a pencil, chopstick, or similar to make holes for your cuttings. Then insert the cuttings and push the moist media back around the stem. This is especially important if you use a rooting hormone. If the hormone is rubbed off the cutting, it can't do its job.
-- Lightly water to settle the media and hold the cuttings in place.
-- Enclose the entire container in a clear plastic bag. Don't use a regular food storage bag. Use a bag that is impervious to water vapor, like a freezer bag or garbage bag, otherwise your cuttings will dry out without you realizing it. Air exchange is not necessary at this stage.
-- Place in a area that gets as much light as possible, but no direct sun. Direct sun will heat the inside of the bag like a greenhouse and cook the cuttings. 70F is optimal temperature. Fluctuating temps outside is fine (50-80F), but the rooting process will probably take longer.
-- Don't bother checking for growth for at least two weeks.
-- If any of the cuttings mold or turn brown, just remove them. There is no need to panic, these are opportunistic pathogens and won't infect the other good cuttings.

Good luck!

Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Image
A comment from joannakat
August 30, 2017
HUGE thank you! What a wonderful and comprehensive explanation. I will enjoy this immensely as I root and then plant my phlox.

Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Image
A comment from joannakat
September 5, 2017
@Leftwood, just want to check--regular sand works for this? I have the type that people use in children's sandboxes.

Name: Rick R.
Minneapolis, MN, USA zone 4
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A comment from Leftwood
September 5, 2017
The more coarse the better. The fine sand that is whiter and often the type seen in cigarette depositors is too fine. The play sand is OK if it is prewashed, but better it'seven better you wash it yourself to get the dusty stuff out that will fill the air spaces between granules. Roots need air to develop.

To wash sand, put one gallon (or less) of sand in a 5 gallon bucket. Take the nozzle off your garden hose and continuously fill the bucket with water, allowing the dirty water to overflow out. Swish the sand with the flowing hose. Do this until the water becomes relatively clear, or very clear if you want even more coarse sand. Do this out in the yard; it will make a mess in your driveway.

Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Image
A comment from joannakat
September 5, 2017
Excellent, thank you!

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