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Hebes are evergreen shrubs whose size can grow upwards of 1.2 metres. Even though they originated in North America and New Zealand they do grow well in the UK given the hardness of the varieties. They prefer full sun throughout the year but they can tolerate semi-shade. They grow well in beds and borders or in containers and are tolerant of slightly acidic through slightly alkaline soil, heavy clay soil, or light soil making them perfect for most growing conditions.
They are very tolerant of neglect which bodes well for gardeners who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate, and this is mainly because their nutrient requirement is low and they do well with minimal pruning. They very rarely suffer from pests or diseases and are quite tolerant of wind and salts along coastal areas. So if you already have some of these shrubs that are growing well or your friendly neighbour does, you can propagate with cuttings, specifically with semi-ripe cuttings. This will give you even more plants to enjoy.
When to propagate
The best time to take your cuttings is between July and September. The semi-ripe term refers to a selection of the growth that is in fact semi-ripe. This means the cutting should be hard at the base but soft at the tip. This is typically what you find between the end of summer in the middle of autumn.
How to propagate with cuttings
It’s best to grow new plants from semi-ripe cuttings. When you pick the material you want to avoid anything that is typical and its size or shape, damaged, or unhealthy. You should only select shoots that are horizontal with good, short gaps between their leaves.
Types of cutting
There are four cutting methods you can use for semi-ripe cuttings.
- The first is the basic method where you cut the leaf and prepare a cutting that is an average of 12cm in length.
- The second is the heel cutting.
- The third is the basal cutting where you sever the shoot at the base
Taking hebe cuttings
In this guide, we are going to use the first method, the basic method which is the easiest and most straight forward with good results.
Start by sanitizing whatever tools you are going to use. It’s important that you make sure the tools are properly cleaned, otherwise, they can transfer disease to the plant and make it difficult for the new roots to grow. There are many ways that you can sanitize or disinfect and if you plan to take multiple cuttings, make sure you disinfect in between each cutting.
Equally important is to sharpen the tools you are going to use. The sharper your tools are, the easier it will be for you to take one quick cut that severs the cutting from the main trouble without any unnecessary cuts and creates a nice clean cut.
As soon as you have your cutting, you want to keep them in a plastic bag right away either in your refrigerator or in the shade. The goal is to plant them in their containers within 12 hours so it’s always best to do this the same day but ideally, you want to take the cutting and plant them straight away if possible.
You can prepare the cuttings by trimming them to a length of 12cm on average cutting just below a leaf node. Once that is done remove any of the lower leaves and the soft tips. You should have a total of about 4 leaves remaining.
Dip the bottom into rooting hormone powder and then insert them into an appropriately-sized container that has been filled with cutting compost. Once they are in the container, be sure to water them well and allow the water to fully drain.
These containers should be placed in a greenhouse or covered with a plastic bag or plastic container that creates a miniature greenhouse over each cutting. You want to place them somewhere that is warm and light but is not in direct sunlight and you want to remove any extra moisture but always keep the compost damp.
Rooting is very fast for cuttings that you take in the summer and you should always remove dead or diseased cuttings as soon as they appear. You should harden them off two or three weeks before you plan to move them outside, placing them outside for a few hours on mild days increasing the amount of time they are outside so that they get accustomed to the natural elements, the wind, and the sun.
Once they are established you can transplant them into slightly bigger containers or eventually into their permanent home. It may be the case that you have to transplant them a few times, putting them into slightly larger and subsequently larger containers until such time as they are ready to go to their permanent house.