Propagating by Layering FAQs

If I plant heathers too deep will the stems root? If so can I then divide and transplant them?

Yes, but this method is normally used only to propagate straggly plants which do not have much cutting material on them. They are usually lifted and planted deeper in the spring, just before growth begins. By the following autumn the branches will have rooted and individual plants can be cut off and transplanted. This operation is known as ‘dropping’.

I have a rather large clematis which is bare at the base. I would like to propagate it, but do not want to cut out all the shoots in one go. What do you suggest I do?

You could try air-layering it. Choose a strong healthy shoot towards the top of the plant. Remove the leaves about 250 mm (10 in) below the tip and make a 50 mm (2 in) slit upwards into the stem, behind a leaf joint. Dust the wound with a hormone rooting powder, then pack behind the slit with some moist sphagnum moss. Place a sleeve of polythene over the area and seal it at top and bottom. Keep the moss moist at all times. When roots become visible sever the rooted plant from the parent and pot it on.

What is the best way to propagate rhododendrons? I do not have a greenhouse, only a cold frame.

The simplest way is to layer the plant in situ. Prune some of the lower branches of your rhododendron in the winter to induce vigorous growth. Fork over the soil, adding some peat, in a circle around the plant. In the following summer remove most of the leaves about 100 mm (4 in) below the tip from a few of the strongest new shoots. Bend the stems down to ground level and peg them to secure them in the bottom of individual trenches 100-150 mm (4-6 in) deep. Firm the shoots in and water them well. The following autumn the new plants can be severed from the parent. Nip out the tip of each shoot to encourage a bushy habit. One year later lift the plants and transplant them to their permanent growing sites.

What is French layering? I have been told that you can easily propagate a number of shrubs in this way.

This is a good method to use to propagate shrubs such as the dogwoods (Comus), which are normally cut hard back each year to encourage growth of their brightly coloured young stems in the winter. In the spring, reduce the number of new shoots on each shrub to 9 or 10 and trim the tips so that each shoot is about the same length. Peg these stems horizontally on the ground. The buds will shoot and grow vertically, and when they are 50-75 mm (2-3 in) long, bury them 50 mm (2 in) deep, leaving just the shoot-tips exposed. Continue to earth up the shoots as they grow until the mound is about 150 mm (6 in) high. In the autumn remove the soil to expose the rooted shoots. They can then be cut into individual plants and transplanted.

My neighbour’s blackberry bush is trailing over the fence into my garden. She has told me that if I stick the shoot tips into the ground, I will get some plants of my own. Is she right?

Yes. Select strong new stems in July and August and peg them down in the bottom of a 100 mm (4 in) deep hole, replacing the soil on top of them. Keep them well watered. In autumn sever the old stem from the newly developing plant. By the following spring your new plants will be well rooted and ready for transplanting.

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