Mark Anderson, Owner, Anderson’s Seed and Garden

Every year, we grow amazing flowers in the gardens and containers around our house. When it finally cools down in late August and September they look amazing; we just want to keep them going and going until it is finally too cold. Last year, we kept those plants looking great almost until Halloween, but frost finally did them in. If only we could have them go dormant for a few winter months and then start them back up again in the spring. Wait! We can! It just takes a little work and creativity, but you can successfully bring those plants back to life next year. Let me share one of my favorite methods with you.

How to propagate plants with cuttings

I recently came upon a new method for propagating plant cuttings that works like nothing else I have ever tried. It’s basically a container of water with a pump to circulate the water and an air stone to oxygenate it. Holes are cut into the lid, so that the cuttings can be suspended independently in the water with foam disks. I used a sweet potato that had started to sprout like crazy in my pantry, since it was available, and I thought it would be a fun challenge (since sweet potatoes are a little difficult to grow and transplant). My cloning kit, made by a company called Hydrofarm, has room for 20 cuttings, so I pulled out my sharpest scissors and started snipping.

I chose healthy-looking sprouts, and cut them about four-to-five-inches long, with a 45-degree angle on the cuts. I carefully removed (by hand) all the leaves from the cuttings (except for the top two) so the extra leaves wouldn’t take strength from the stems that needed to go into rooting. Gently, with my two daughters’ help, we placed the cuttings into the foam disks with about two to three inches of the cutting hanging out of the bottom, and then we positioned them in the hydroponic bath so the stems were suspended in the water. We plugged in the pump and air stone, and that was it — all we had to do at that point was wait.

The sweet potatoes were ready to transplant in about two weeks. Using a high-drainage cutting mix soil, we transplanted them into peat pots, gave them some Kangaroots to keep the roots growing, and put them on our deck for about 10 days to finish the rooting process. When they were ready, we transplanted them directly into our garden, and now they are growing like weeds and have started developing roots (sweet potatoes) for us to eat later this fall.

Seems too simple, right? I have never rooted plants as quickly or with as little effort. We have now done this with basil, geraniums, petunias, thyme, and a whole bunch of other plants, and they all rooted like crazy.

You can do this with any type of green-stemmed or woody plant. Some will definitely root faster than others, but we were amazed at how quickly we could root some of these plants and be successful transplanting them into our garden. To be successful with flowers from this year to re-grow them for the coming year, our timing will have to be precise. If you start too early, then you have a lot of plants to tend throughout the winter. This winter, we will start with geraniums, they handle frost well. I will pull them from our garden in the fall and store them in the garage for a few months to go dormant, and then in early February we can start the propagation process to have flowers in bloom for Mother’s Day.

It’s amazing how new technologies can improve and change the way we have done things for years. In the art of gardening, that change can take more time and effort at first. Sometimes we get set in our ways of doing things, and it just takes someone who has been successful with a new technique to show us a better, faster, more effective way to do it. This cloning method beats the old-fashioned rooting, hormone, and potting soil version of starting cuttings by leaps and bounds. Give it a try, and see how successful you can be at cloning your own plants.