Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
June, 2006
Regional Report

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'Carefree Beauty' is an old garden rose that's easily tip layered so you can share it with a friend.

Making More Plants the Easy Way

I enjoy propagating plants. It's a great way to share an old rose or hard-to-find perennial plant with other gardeners. It creates an automatic connection between friends and gardens, and a story behind the plants.

There are many ways to propagate plants but the easiest and usually the most successful is by tip layering them. Layering is a technique in which a section of a plant is rooted while still attached to the mother plant. This results in a greater chance of success because the mother plant continues to supply water and nutrients to the section to be rooted until it has enough of a root system to make it on its own. Some plants, like strawberries and spider plants, layer naturally, forming new plants on the ends of long stems.

The basic concept in tip layering is to select a shoot or branch section and wound it at some point about 6 inches or more from the end, without severing the section from the mother plant. The plant will respond to the wound by forming callus tissue at the point of the wound. From this callus tissue roots will form.

Tip layering is a great way to propagate vining plants and plants with long, supple branches growing near to the ground. Grapes, blackberries, shrub roses, climbing roses, vining ground covers, and many other types of plants can be tip layered.

The Technique
To tip layer a plant, select a shoot that can be bent down to the ground. About 6 to 12 inches from the tip, bend it enough to crack the stem but not break it off. This wounds the stem and triggers callus formation at the point of the break.

Next, dig a hole 4 to 6 inches deep in a location near the mother plant where the broken section can be placed. Lay the broken section in the hole and anchor it to the soil with a 6- to 8-inch piece of clothes hanger wire bent into a U shape. Then cover the hole with soil, and water the area well. I have also used a fairly large rock or brick on top of the soil over the buried section, instead of the bent wire, to hold the shoot section in place.

Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and in a couple of months the broken section should have formed roots. I should note that plants root at different rates so don't get discouraged if it takes a little longer. When you seen new growth developing on the plants, it's often a sign that rooting has occurred.

After roots have formed, dig up the plant, cut it from the mother plant, and then repot or transplant it elsewhere in the yard. If you do the tip layer in late summer or fall, you may want to leave the plant until late winter or spring to dig and reset.

Give tip layering a try this year. Then share your new plants with friends.

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