Propagating Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants by Layering

How to Propagate Shrubs by Layering

Select a pliable low bearing branch and cut away a slither of the bark on the underside (at the point where it touches the ground) using a sharp knife. Strip away any leaves near the section to be burried to ensure they are not burried with it. Replace soil directly below the stem with a mixture of compost, loam and sand/grit. Scoop out a little of the mixture and peg down the branch with a hoop of wire pushed into the soil. Bend up the free end of the stem and support it against a cane with ties. Cover the pegged section with soil. Water it immediately and ensure it does not dry-out during the rooting period. Don't forget to make a note of where it is, especially if you have a large garden or you may forget about it altogether. Leave it for 6 months to a year, then give the stem a gentle tug to see if it has rooted. If it has, sever the branch from the parent plant with sharp secateurs. Leave it in position to grow-on, at least until the next spring, when you can dig it up and move it to its final position.

An alternative method is to sink a pot filled with good-quality compost and sharp sand or grit, into the soil below the cutting and anchor the stem into it. The advantage of this method is that it will provide less root disturbance when the time comes to move the newly rooted cutting and it can be lifted earlier.

Climbers are also ideal candidates for layering due to their long flexible stems, which can be easily bent to reach the ground. Wisteria, clematis, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), honeysuckle and climbing roses are all worth trying. One of the easiest plants to layer is Jasminum Nudiflorum, which often layers itself with little effort on any arching stems that reach and touch the ground. The method for layering climbers is basically the same as that for layering shrubs except that stem may be much longer and so require better support. You may need to cut back excessively long stems to prevent wind-rock during rooting.

Don't forget to keep the cutting well watered, especially if you are using pots to root into. It is best to leave the cutting for at least a six months before testing to see if roots have formed otherwise you can easily tear away the newly formed root fibres.

How to Propagate Perennials and Herbaceous Plants by Layering

Herbaceous plants such as Dianthus, pinks and border carnations can also be propagated by layering. Ideally this should be done no later than July to allow enough time for the new plants to be fully rooted by September.

Typical Layering Technique for Herbaceous Plants

  1. Select a vigorous non-flowering side shoot with a springy stem (if the stem has flowers, these should be removed).
  2. Dig a small hole where the stem is to be layered and fill it with a mixture of equal parts sharp sand/grit, soil and compost (or bury a small plant pot at this point filled with the same mixture).
  3. Strip the lower leaves by pulling them downwards, keeping at least four sets of leaves at the top of the stem.
  4. Slice away a small part of the stem through a leaf joint.
  5. Bend the stem down and push the cut section into the soil.
  6. Cover the stem section with soil and anchor it with a wire loop or small stone.
  7. To keep the stem vertical and to prevent root disturbance, secure it to a cane or small stick.
  8. Keep the plant well watered, and once rooting has occurred sever the new plant with a sharp knife or secateurs and replant where required.

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