Tag Archives: free plants

Divide plants to create new plants for family and friends

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 30 September 2016.

Free plants are a bit of a thing of mine. You know – you have read my blogs before! Here’s how to divide plants in your garden to create new ones. You could swap them with plants from neighbours and family, or plant them in new places in your garden.

Autumn to spring, and when the soil is not too wet, is the time to divide herbaceous perennials which grow in clumps and which flower in spring or summer. Doing this every three or four years helps keep the plant healthy and vigorous. And you can do it more often to create new plants.

What is a herbaceous perennial?

Perennial plants are plants which go on and on. Unlike annuals which last one year; and biennials which grow in one year, flower the next and then die. Herbaceous perennials are plants such as geraniums (not pelargoniums), asters or Michaelmas daisies, euphorbia and primroses.

divide plants
This geranium is ideal to divide into two or even three good-sized plants. For free! Sarah Buchanan

What tools do I need to divide plants?

Before you start, check out which plants look overcrowded, or are outgrowing the space where you want them and decide which plants you want to create more of.

Then, you will need:

  • two garden forks (read on to find out why two)
  • a spade or sharp lawn edging tool
  • good garden compost or soil to fill in the gaps you make
  • pots for your new plants if you are giving them away
  • water to settle both the new plants in their new home and the old one where it is.

How do I divide plants?

For small plants, such as heuchera and epimedium, push a garden fork gently under the centre of the plant and ease it up. Shake off the soil so you can see the roots.  Pull clumps of plant growth at the edge of the plant away – these are your new plants. Put the main plant back into the soil, fill in around it with good garden compost, firm the soil and ensure the plant is stable, and water well.

divide plants
Divide epimediums by lifting the plant gently and pulling clumps of new plants away. Sarah Buchanan

Larger plants need more action. Insert two forks back to back into the centre of the plant. Push the handle of each fork out toward the edge of the plant, so that you split the plant in two. Put one section back where it was growing, filling in the space you made with good garden compost, firm that down and water well. Plant your new plant where you want it and water it well.

Plants with woody centres (such as hellebore) or fleshy roots (such as delphinium) need to be cut in two (or more) sections. Press a sharp spade or lawn edging tool into the centre of the plant and firmly down through the plant and its roots. Insert a garden fork at the edge of the plant and ease one section up and away from the other. Fill in the space you have made with good garden compost, firm the plant in and water well. Plant your new plant where you want it to grow with good garden compost and water.

You can’t go wrong!

If in doubt, watch this Gardeners’ World video or follow the step-by-step guide in the RHS advice notes.

More free plants to share with your family and friends

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 20 July 2016.

Another idea for free plants for your garden!

Readers know I love a bargain plant. I love even better sharing favourite plants with family and friends. Softwood cuttings at this time of year are a great way of creating free plants from the plants you all already have. Just this week an old friend gave me four young plants grown from cuttings of a plant that I had given her, and which another friend had given me, many years ago and which I had lost meantime. Welcome back to Pat’s Dad’s pink daisy (actually, an osteospermum)!

Softwood cuttings are not difficult, and said to have the best chance of any cuttings of rooting well. It is so satisfying to see a new plant growing well. Here’s how to do it.

What are softwood cuttings?

The young, soft and flexible shoots of plants which, in soil, are able to produce roots. Softwood cuttings are usually 8 to 12cm long and look a little like a miniature plant. They root best from plants that are producing lots of strong young shoots and which are usually 2-3 years old.

Which plants can I use?

Pinks, perennial wallflowers (proper name is eryisimum and the well known variety is Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’), penstemons, aubretia, pelargoniums and fuschias are perfect candidates. These plants are not long lived and can become woody and leggy.

Softwood cuttings from pinks create free plants.
Take softwood cuttings from pinks and other short lived plants to create free plants. Sarah Buchanan.

Softwood cuttings also work well for some soft shrubs, such as buddleia.

There are other ways to make new plants from old read about some in our past blogs and start sharing plants.

How do I do it?

  1. Almost fill a flower pot (about 10cm across) with seed compost with some ‘silver sand’ or very fine (horticultural) grit mixed in (to help with drainage). All the ingredients are for sale in garden centres.
  2. Use a sharp penknife or kitchen knife and cut new and non flowering shoots from the parent plant. This is best done during the daytime. Each shoot is likely to give you a free plant, so cut the number of new plants you want, and a few spare. These are your cuttings.
  3. Cut off the base of the stem, cleanly, just below a joint with a leaf to ensure you don’t have any of the woody older plant attached. Then very ( and I mean very) carefully pull the leaves off the bottom two thirds or so of the cutting.
  4. Some gardeners then dip the base of the cutting in rooting powder, as the powder can help prevent rotting and encourage root growth.
  5. Using a pencil or something similar create a hole in the compost at the edge of the pot, and pop in the bald end of the cutting. Five cuttings will fit around the edge of the pot.
  6. Firm the soil gently, water gently and stand the pot on a shady windowsill. Keep the soil moist but not wet.
  7. After about eight weeks the cuttings are likely to have rooted. Gently pull them to see if they are. If they have rooted, move them carefully into a pot of their own and keep them moist. To create a good bushy plant, nip the growing tip out of the plant.
  8. Keep these free plants growing in their pots where you can ensure they are moist and protected from harsh winds. They will be perfect to give away or plant in your borders in the autumn or spring.
Pink pipings create free plants.
Pink cuttings, also called pipings, ready to grow into free plants. SarahBuchanan.

Fuschias and other thin leaved plants need some humidity – a clear plastic bag about 10cm taller than the cuttings and tied around the pot will help. Readers of our past blogs will know that pelargoniums like it hot and dry so leave them as they are.

Why now?

Softwood cuttings are best taken from May to July. It is a quick job on a dull day. And now’s your last chance!