New plants from old

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 8 July 2016.

Gardeners like to try new plants and new looks, and our gardens often benefit from a bit of a refresh. Grow new plants from old and get the plants you want, and for free. Readers of our blogs know we like a bargain plant – whether from pop up plant stalls or from cuttings from plants in friends’ gardens. So today is all about ‘layering’, an easy way to grow new plants from old.

Some plants do this trick on their own by sending out self rooting stems. The stems of ajuga, strawberries, rubus and other soft plants send out stems that, when they touch the soil, grow roots. Gardeners copy this approach to help other plants do it too.

Self layering plants grow new plants from old
Plants that DIY to create new plants from old by self rooting include ornamental rubus – here taking over a neglected area of my garden. Sarah Buchanan.

Layering is a great way to grow new plants now from old clematis, hop, ivy, periwinkles, honeysuckle and other plants that send up long shoots and stems. And it is a technique to use in autumn and spring to grow new plants from old shrubs such as rhododendrons, viburnums and magnolia (which can be difficult to root from cuttings). Later this month we will blog about cuttings from these (and other less tricky) plant friends, so keep on reading!

Golden hop and ivy - layer to grow new plants from old
Golden hop growing over ivy, both plants suitable for layering to grow new plants from old. Sarah Buchanan

How to grow new plants from old by layering

1. First find a young, flexible shoot or stem, about 40cm long, which does not have any flowers or flower buds and which you can easily bend down to touch the surface of the ground below the old plant.

2. Where the stem meets the ground, either mix a good potful of well rotted garden compost (you followed our blog to create your own?) into the soil, or sink a shallow plastic flower pot (about 20cm across) filled with shop bought potting compost, or a mix of your garden compost and soil, so that the top of the pot is level with the top of the soil.

3. Use a sharp knife to make a shallow cut, about 4cm long, along the stem where it will meet the ground. Make sure you don’t cut right through the stem. Dust the cut with hormone rooting powder and bury the cut area of the stem and another 10cm or so beyond it about 5cm deep in the soil.

4. Keep the stem under the soil by putting a stone on top. Or bend a piece of wire into a U shape, turn it upside down over the stem and push down gently to hold the stem under the soil. Water and keep an eye on your infant plant to ensure the soil is damp through the summer, but otherwise leave it alone.

5. When shoots come up from your cut stem it is time use a sharp knife or secateurs and carefully cut the new plant from the old. Not sure which secateurs for the job? Read our blog of advice! Dig the pot out and find a new home for the plant or dig the new plant up, put it into a pot while you find a home or plant it in its new home. Ideally move your new plant to its new home when it is leafless. Or if it is an evergreen, plant it out in April or September.

The layered stems of some plants take a year or more to grow into a new plant, so be patient. Don’t dig them up too soon. Sometimes it pays dividends to keep your new plant in a pot of good soil to grow bigger before you plant them out in your garden.

Clematis montana for layering to grow new plants from old
Clematis montana is ideal for layering to grow new plants from old. Sarah Buchanan,

Keep layering!

And if this approach is one you like – there are more ways to layer a plant! Try this BBC guide,  then sit down in your rattan chair, with home grown strawberries and cream, and plan your own pop up plant stall for 2017!

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