Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
September, 2003
Regional Report

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A 2-liter soft drink bottle makes a good rooting chamber for starting cuttings like these from a bay tree.

Time To Propagate Tender Plants

Fall is just around the corner for southern gardeners. Until this past week, only the most optimistic among us could have believed fall would return to relieve the stranglehold this summer's heat has had on our gardens. But then one day I went outside and saw that our oxblood lilies and Lycoris bulbs had emerged for their annual show. I knew there was hope indeed for a change of seasons soon!

Many of our landscape plants are getting ready for their final show of the season with the arrival of fall rains and consistently cool weather. Our roses are about to really kick into high gear. Salvias also are set to go out with a bang. A light shearing in late August, along with a little water, has produced a flush of new growth that promises a great blooming bonanza in the upcoming weeks.

Multiplying Favorites
I have an Old Blush rose that I really love. I want to make some more plants from it for gifts to friends. A tip layer is a great way to do this if you only need a plant or two. In order to get more plants, I will root cuttings.

In addition to a few roses, I also want to propagate some semi-tender perennials just to make sure they are ready to go next spring when the weather warms. Some of the plants at the top of the list are Esperanza (Tecoma stans), firebush (Hamelia patens), brugmansia, and several perennial salvias. These are fairly easy to root. In a few weeks they should be well on their way and ready to move into their own pots.

There also are a few cold-tender tropicals that can't take our winter freezes. I can save them by rooting a few cuttings now before they go down with the first frost. I'll overwinter the new plants indoors.

Make Rooting Chambers
I usually use pint and quart milk cartons with clear bags over the tops as rooting containers. Clear 2-liter plastic soft drink bottles also work great. Just cut the bottom 3 or 4 inches off.

Place a couple of inches of perlite or a commercial rooting mix in the bottom of the rooting container. Moisten the mix, but don't make it soggy wet or the cuttings may rot. I usually dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone product prior to sticking them in the rooting chamber to insure better success, although with some species this isn't necessary.

The more I think of it, there are lots of other things I'd like to root ... rosemary, that bay bush, those pineapple sages, and the lemon verbena. Well, I'd better go get busy.

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