Pot up rooted cuttings, and divide perennials to fill garden gaps

First published by Rattan Direct on 23 October 2016.

Pot up rooted cuttings

Autumn is the time to pot up successfully rooted cuttings, taken earlier in the year. This will give them enough room to stretch out in their own pots and enough time to grow more roots before the winter. As we’ve discussed before, roots are vital to healthy plants.

Despite what we all say to one another about cooler autumn weather, there’s still enough warmth for plants to continue to make roots.

Being organised helps

Interior of the potting shed in the Melon Garden, Heligan, Cornwall. Rooted cuttings
Interior of the potting shed in the Melon Garden, Heligan, Cornwall. The potting up of plants was a major task in such a large productive garden and the potting shed is laid out to enable this work to be carried out in a most efficient manner. © Rod Allday and re-used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.

Whether your space is large or small, being organised helps enormously. Get your pots, compost, small fork (I use an ordinary old dining fork), labels and watering can all ready beforehand.

I lift the rooted cuttings out very carefully with the fork and pot them up in my usual compost mix. Then I water carefully to distribute the compost around the roots. Have a more detailed look at a North Carolina approach here.

Clear a space for them to live as well. I mentioned when talking about garden rooms that this is where my pelargonium cuttings are going to spend the winter, keeping warm with a view of the garden they’ll be in next summer. Other rooted cuttings will be out in the cold frame and still others will be taking their chances in a sheltered spot in the open garden. If you’ve got a greenhouse, that’s a good place too.

These rooted cuttings have been potted on. © peganum and re-used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.
These rooted cuttings have been potted on. © peganum and re-used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Fill the gaps

I like to spend a little time each day walking round the garden taking stock. I look for what’s doing well and what’s struggling, and I try to work out why. I notice gaps where some plants didn’t make it through the winter and their gap wasn’t filled by neighbours, or this year’s plants just failed to thrive. These are the spaces that I’ll fill with perennials I’ve divided or with bigger and stronger cuttings that are ready now and keen to make their own way in the world.

Sometimes, for a touch of excitement, I use ‘mystery plants’ for this. In rescuing some nerines, I found myself with a tiny scrap of a geum. Potted up, it’s grown like mad and its roots would be very much happier in the ground over winter than exposed to the cold in a pot. I’ll have to keep an eye on it though. Firstly, I may not like what I’ve found! And secondly, it’s clearly vigorous so it might start to take over and become a garden thug.

Geum - is mine going to be like this? Rooted cuttings
Geum – is mine going to be like this?
© zenbikescience and re-used under CC BY 2.0 licence.

This summer I also discovered some Japanese anemones cadging a lift with some other plants. They are the pink sort and I’ve always rather hankered after the white sort but we gardeners are notoriously reluctant to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m thinking about putting them near the bay tree where there is a rough pile of this and that. This is where I grew nasturtiums, very successfully, this year to cover the rough pile of this and that. Big mistake! That’s because nasturtiums are loved by the large and small ‘cabbage white’ butterflies which then got the bit between their teeth, as it were, and moved onto my brassicas.

Well, we live and learn, which is one of the reasons I love gardening.

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