Tonight We Propagate Heathers – Then Drink Scotch!

Well, tis the season for propagating … falalalalalalalalala!

It is a beautiful, yet cool, June evening in Ontario and the perfect season for taking stem-tip cuttings of our heathers. Tonight I divided one Sagina subulata ‘Crispy’ (Irish Moss) into seven 3″ rounds. Then mixed up some peat, vermiculite and soil for our Calluna vulgaris.

At the moment I am working on the ‘Glenfiddich’ cultivar.

After removing a strong, healthy, non-flowering shoot below the tip, I stripped the leaves from the lower third of the cutting. Some gardeners like to pinch out the tips of the cuttings too, this can be helpful to encourage a bushier cutting, and to use rooting powder. Well, I couldn’t find the rooting powder in the mess of the garden shed so am skipping this step. Cuttings will just take a wee bit longer to establish themselves.

Hormone rooting powder is not essential, but the later in the season the cuttings are taken, the quicker rooting may take place if it is used. Dip the ends first in clean water, and then in the powder.

I filled up 4in (10cm) pots with a mixture of equal parts peat-based compost (heathers require an acid growing medium and peat is still the best option for providing this) and potting soil with vermiculite.

Four cuttings fit perfectly into a pot this size.

Each cutting was inserted so the lower leaves were just resting in the compost. I did not water as the soil was saturated, but made sure that the propagation wool felt was saturated. Plans for a heated bench perhaps may someday come, but for now we shall rely on the heat of the sun. I will keep them moist, but not wet, for the next couple of weeks as my wee babies begin their new life.

These cuttings will remain in the pot until spring, when they can be planted out, with no need for potting on, or transplanted to gallon pots.

Have you done woody stem propagation? I’d love to hear your experiences – feel free to leave a comment and tell us how it went.

Good luck with your gardens and be sure to have a dram of Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch to celebrate!

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