Friday, April 27, 2012

FREE PLANTS: from the ones you already own

I just glanced out the front window and saw my two very happy rhododendrons in bloom.  The mama plant, covered in large pink blossoms, and the baby plant a few feet away, with just two blossoms.

About 4 years ago I layered this rhododendron.  That is, it had a couple of long branches that could, if gently forced, lay on the ground.  I brought these branches down to ground level, covered with a mound of dirt about 6-8 inches from the tip of each branch, then placed a couple of heavy rocks on this mound to hold the branch under the soil.  I then let nature do its part.

Last spring I dug around a bit and discovered that two of the branches had formed good enough roots to sever these branches from the mother plant.  We did that and moved these two a few feet away, to give them space to grow.  Over the winter one died, but the other looks robust and healthy.  I'll keep it well-watered this season and by next year it should be established.

Two plants for the price of one.

Simple layering is the lazy gardener's method of propagation and works on many plants, especially those with a bushy habit of growth.  To Layer:  Remove any leaves from the portion to to be buried.  Bend the branch over to the ground,  and bury about 6 inches of this branch with soil, leaving the tip exposed.  If the branch is stubborn and wants to pop back up, even with a stone on top, you can peg it with a few forked sticks.  Keep the soil moist all spring and summer (and if your autumn is dry, give it a drink from time to time).  Give it a couple of years to develop a good set of roots.  It can then be severed from the mother plant and moved.  Nurture it for a year or two, until established.  March and April are considered to be the best months for layering.  And last year's growth will root better than old woody growth.

I've personally had the best luck with azaleas, rhododendrons, cotoneaster, forsythia, currants and hydrangeas.  I accidently layered two blueberry bushes in the last couple of years and hope to have new blueberry bushes to transplant next spring.

Happy propagating!

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