Wording With Purpose

Layering Woody Plants

Gardeners love to share—wisdom, advice, and especially favorite plants. Hearing another gardener tell me how much she enjoys a plant I divided from my stock builds a strong bond between us. Thinking about one who added a gift plant to my garden triggers a flood of warm fuzzies. Strong bonds and warm fuzzies have to be good for us.

As my daughters became homeowners I had the privilege of dividing many of my perennials to help populate their blank garden canvases. We swap plants at every chance, and a garden tour is expected during each visit. I love to see what they are doing in their gardens. They love to ogle Mom’s latest garden additions and whisper to me, “Dad, when can you get me a start of this one?”

Propagating by division guarantees the child plant will be a match for the parent. But what about woody plants like shrubs and trees? Nurseries provided hundreds of tiny starts of the same tree. Is it magic? Inquiring minds want to know.

On my bucket list is learning to propagate woody plants. I have no intention of competing with commercial nurseries, but want the satisfaction of experimenting and seeing the techniques work. Amanda added this secret tome of wisdom to my library a few years back.

Reference Manual Woody Plant Propogation

The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture, Second Edition

Let’s get started. I chose to work with a woody lavender-like shrub I believe to be Spanish lavender although I have no idea the specific cultivar. (Reminder to self – garden tags from new plants must be archived in the logbook on the garage shelf, not left in the soil to weather and disappear.) The required tools for propagation are:

  • Water
  • Sturdy pot with a mix of soil and compost
  • Sharp knife
  • Pruning shears
  • Rooting compound
  • A “u” shaped piece of heavy wire (not shown) to secure the prospective limb in place

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I found a low-traffic spot around the mother plant where I could leave the donor pot for a several weeks. I picked a stem that could be bent to the level of my pot without stress. I did not want it springing out of my experiment once I turned my back.

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Using my knife, I skinned the bark from the stem along a 1 inch section.

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Dip the knife in the water then into the rooting compound.

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Apply the powder to the skinned place on the stem. Be generous, and verify the stem is covered.

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Center the stem in the pot, and add soil to cover the wood.

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Use the wire to staple the stem in place.

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Water thoroughly. Repeat twice weekly (or as needed) to keep the soil damp.

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Be patient. I prepared the stem June 29. After 1 month I gently tugged on the stem, and it offered no resistance. The roots had not formed. Be patient a little longer. On 8/14 (~6-7 weeks) I gently pulled, and the stem did not move. I was tempted to pull the plant, wash the soil away, and snap a picture of the roots, but gardening is a walk of faith.

Snip the umbilical cord, and deliver your new baby! Here’s my plant, ready to share. Now I have a new problem. I have two gardening daughters, and both will want to add this lavender.

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