Late Winter – Cuttings
It’s that time again to dust off your heated bench / propagator, get you knives sharpened and start to take cuttings of your existing plant stock. I have always advocated that cuttings can commence after 21st January, a month after the shortest day. At this point the days are beginning to lengthen and the sun is beginning to get some umph back in it – that is of course if it shines (something that we haven’t had a great deal of this winter.
If you have the luxury of grow lights then this basic regime doesn’t effect you as you can technically take cuttings even in the mid-winter period. However you should be wary as if you are only maintaining a minimal winter temperature for your mother plants they will not be producing a great deal of growth hormone so cuttings may take slightly longer to root. The clear message though is that you will need to supply bottom heat. If you have a thermostat you will probably need it to be set at a minimum of 20c to kick newly taken cuttings into life.
In this case I am demonstrating taking cuttings of Angel Pelargoniums. Angels, Regals and Scented’s have a shorter ‘cuttings’ lifespan in the late winter / early spring period, this is because once we get into February and March the increase in light levels spurs a rapid pulse of flowering hormone throughout the plants structure gearing them up to produce flower via specific flower stem breaks at the expence of pure growth stems. Whilst this is good for us flower lovers it means that decent cutting material tails off very early in the season.
This process does not apply to the Zonal hybrids as their flowering originates from all the growth stems throughout the plants structure so cuttings can be taken at any time of the year.
Here is a pictorial cuttings guide for how I go about doing an Angel cutting. Click the image for a larger version and click your browsers back button to return to the page.
Larger Angel plants often hold a lot of cutting material by the end of the winter. If you are after cutting material remove this before the stems begin to split for flowering. In this example there was masses of good cutting material to choose from on quite an old plant.
You can of course leave you plants alone and let them grow on for an early flowering display although you may find that the plants get slightly leggy if left untouched at this stage in the season.
This doe not apply to plants destined for June shows which will need stopping from Mid-March to early April and would normally have had a stop in the autumn to keep them compact and well shaped.
Relatively fresh Angel stem growth can be quite thin and leggy and this should be avoided if possible. You ideally want short jointed, symetrically leaved material that will produce well rounded plants with a more compact growth habit.
This cutting is approx 3 inches (7 cm) in length and side leaf breaks from the bottom inch have been removed and a clean cut has been made just below the bottom leaf joint.
One area that always provides debate with plant experts and growers is the use of hormone rooting agents. There are many on the retail market and most of them do provide some kind of fungicidal chemical within them and this can provide protection against some of the fungal deseases that can hit freshly planted cuttings . However I have always tended to just let the cutting dry off or heal over; Pelargoniums do this very quickly. At this time of year in the glasshouse I will give them about an hour or so but in the summer they heal in just a few minutes.
They are then ready to insert into your mix of cutting compost. This should be very free draining. I use a mix of 50% peat based compost, 25% medium perlite and 25% fine perlite. I stand this in water to soak up before inserting the cutting. Once inserted I give the potted cutting a spray with a systemic fungicide. There are other methods of potting cuttings on masse, one popular way is to insert a smaller pot into a larger pot and fill compost and insert cuttings around the gap edge.
Let the pots just begin to dry out before soaking them again from the bottom.
Angels do take a bit longer to root than their Zonal cousins but will grow very quickly once rooted in early spring.
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