Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How to root Salvia cuttings

Buying enough plants to fill a garden gets pretty expensive pretty quickly. A cheap, 4" size pot plant is usually $5-7, and a 1 gallon from $8-15... so gardeners usually get pretty interested in propagation sooner or later!

Some plants are so easy to propagate it's a crime: they seed everywhere, or push up pups that are simple to transplant elsewhere. Others can be propagated by root layering, cuttings, or even just from a single leaf.

Today I'm going to show you how to propagate Salvias from cuttings. In this case, Salvia canariensis: that big silvery shrub at the top of the garden.

Initial cutting
1. Take a cutting
To prevent the cutting getting bacteria on it and rotting, use a very sharp, clean knife, pruners or scissors to cut a stem of Salvia from the shrub. Choose a stem that doesn't have a flower on the end, because the cutting will waste a lot of energy on the flower vs making roots, and cut a bit about 4-8" long.

The best time is in Spring when plants are growing like crazy. You can try to root cuttings at other times, but they're less likely to work.

Prepped cutting
2. Prepare the cutting
Pinch or cut off all the bottom leaves from your cutting, and cut the stem down if needed as well.

The idea is to leave the (growing) tip intact, and 2-4 leaves at most, so that the cutting doesn't wilt and die.




All rooting up nicely
3. Start the cutting
Dip the bottom of the cutting in powdered rooting hormone if you like,  then pop it into a plastic plant pot (with drainage holes) full of perlite (a white crumbly material you can get at any garden center which drains well) so the whole stem is in the pot and the leaves are above the perlite.

You can usually fit 4-8 cuttings in a 1 gallon pot no problem. Water them well, and leave them in a shaded place.

Rooted! Ready to pot
If the cuttings wilt you need to water them more, or remove some leaves (or both). I usually find I need to water my cuttings daily, or every second day.

Keep the perlite moist, but not waterlogged, and after 2-6 weeks roots will form.  You'll also notice that some leaves will start to grow - that's a great sign that roots are in place.

Safely potted up
4. Ready to pot up?
Give your cuttings a little tug - if they slide out they're not rooted yet. Give them more time.

When they are rooted, gently tip the cuttings out of the pot (those roots are fragile!) and put one cutting per pot onto 2-3" of potting compost, then gently fill the rest of the pot up with more potting compost. Water well, and put the cuttings in a semi-shaded place to grow on.

Nip the tip
After a few days to settle, I move them to a sunnier spot. When potting up, or a few days after, you can pinch out the tips of each cutting with your fingers or scissors so that the cutting branches out nicely into a shrub.

Look after your new plants and in a few months they should have grown a lot, and if you see lots of growth on the leaves, and roots filling the pot, your plant will be ready to plant in the ground! The best time to plant out in the bay area is in the fall, so get those cuttings started now.

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