Propagating Spring Flowering Shrubs

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Layering is an easy way to propagate caning shrubs. You’ll get best results with this method in the spring. The object is to get a piece of the stem of a plant to produce roots while still attached to the mother plant. When selecting a branch for layering, look for one that is at least a year old, flexible, and about as big around as a pencil.

First, bend a shoot down to the soil, then measure back about a foot from the tip. Mark the spot on the ground, and dig a hole 2-4 inches deep. The side of the hole toward the parent plant should slope toward the plant. Work several handfuls of compost into the soil.

Remove the leaves and side shoots from the stem you have selected back to about 18 inches from the tip. Make a shallow, two-inch long cut in the stem about 9 inches from the tip. Place a toothpick inside the cut to hold it open. Dust the wound with rooting hormone, then lay it along the bottom of your hole, using a bent piece of wire to keep it in place. Fill in the hole with soil and water well. Once the stem has rooted it can be cut free of the mother plant.

If you’re planning to share this shrub with a friend, you can layer it directly into a pot.


Azaleas, Camellias and Rhododendrons are a little trickier, and they are best started from cuttings in spring. Clean a pot that has several drainage holes with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) then wash it well in soapy water. Fill the pot with a mix of equal volumes of sphagnum and perlite, and moisten the mix. Make holes for your cuttings by poking a pencil into the mix. Now it’s time to take your cutting.

Remove any tender new tip growth from the end of a branch, then take a cutting that is between 1 and 6 inches long with a clean, sharp knife. To prepare the cutting, remove flower buds, seedpods, and all but the top 4-6 leaves. Trim off about 1/3 of each remaining leaf. Make a fresh cut at the bottom of the stem, cutting off only a sliver, then dip the cutting in a weak (10% or less) bleach solution and allow it to dry. Next, moisten the cut end and dip it in rooting hormone. Place your cuttings in the pot you have prepared, and cover the container with a plastic bag. Take care that the cuttings don’t touch the sides of the bag. A few stakes placed in the pot around the cuttings should do the trick.

Place the cuttings under fluorescent lights, 8 inches from the light, for 16 hours per day. If fluorescent lights aren’t available, place it in a sunny window and turn it regularly. If kept covered, the pot won’t need to be watered very often. Rooting takes 6-8 weeks, or possibly longer. Be sure to harden off your plants before planting them out.