Taking root

Propagating your own garden plants gives an immense sense of satisfaction and it also provides you, plus your friends and family, with a free supply of stock. You could be forgiven for assuming that it’s a complex process, but one method of propagation is astoundingly simple. Root cuttings are incredibly easy to take, and the time to do so is now. This technique is ideal for fleshy-rooted plants such as oriental poppies, sea hollies, phlox, seakale (pictured), anemones and verbascums. Here’s how to go about it:

Taking Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Cutting root into sections - © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

Taking Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Cutting root into sections – © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

Either lift your chosen stock plant carefully, or fork around its perimeter to extract some roots. Only take four or five lengths from any one plant, and ideally choose those that were produced last year. Cut them into 5cm lengths, with a flat top cut and sloping bottom cut.

Taking Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Inserting sections into module seed tray - © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

Taking Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Inserting sections into module seed tray – © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

Cutting the root sections in this way ensures that you know which is the correct way up. Fill a tray of large modules or a collection of pots with some seed and cuttings compost to which you’ve added 30 percent by volume fine grit.

Potting on Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Close up of sprouted root in modular seed tray - © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

Potting on Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Close up of sprouted root in modular seed tray – © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

Water the compost well, then insert the cuttings to their full depth with the flat cut uppermost. Position the completed pots or modules in a frost-free, well-lit spot – ideally on a gently heated bench if you have one. Keep the compost just moist.

Potting on Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Plugs ready to pot on - © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

Potting on Crambe cordifolia root cuttings. Plugs ready to pot on – © Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos

By mid spring young shoots will have appeared, and fine fibrous roots will also develop. Once these hold the compost together you can pot up your cuttings, ready to distribute to gardening neighbours and friends.