How to take a cutting from a rhododendron
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There are a handful of ways that you can propagate your rhododendrons if you have a plant you are particularly fond of and want to recreate. But taking a rhododendron cutting is the easiest, however, results can vary as Rhododendrons don’t take a well as some other evergreen shrubs.
Whether you are an expert grower or brand new, you can easily propagate from rhododendrons but you usually have more success with the smaller growing varieties. Taking cuttings is the best way to propagate but of course, if you are going to take Rhododendron cuttings you need to know when to take them, how to take them, and how to propagate them thereafter so that you can continue to enjoy rhododendrons year after year.
Remember taking Rhododendron cutting is fairly easy but the success rate is not always that high so take plenty of cutting. Taking Rhododendrons is a slow process and you usually need to keep them outside in a cold frame for up to two years before they are ready.
When to take your cutting
When you are taking a rhododendron cutting you want to do so sometime between the end of July and the middle of August, especially during the warmer summer months. You can take them a little bit later in the year but this is the time you want to aim for if possible. That said you need to be cognizant of the new growth and how it feels so that you can ensure you are taking the best possible growth to get the highest success rate. For example, if you put the new growth between your fingers and it bends very easily and is otherwise flaccid, this is not the cutting you want to take because it will likely rot rather than root. On the other end of things if it is far too rigid and won’t bend it all it is probably too hard or too old to try and propagate. This is the difficult part, choosing cutting that is not too hard yet not too soft and this only comes with experience.
Taking Rhododendron cutting
Step 1 – selecting the cutting material
In order to take your cutting, you want to select growth which can be easily extracted or broken off from old wood, usually wood that is at least 2 years old, meaning the wood from last season. If your new growth has amounted to a single new shoot rather than two or three new shoots, it won’t have a heel that you need so this isn’t something you want to cut.
When selecting your cuttings you should only pick the healthiest of new shoots. Do not pick new growth that is bigger than 15cm in length because it will have a harder time properly establishing a root structure. In most cases, anything larger than 15 centimetres will be too big for any type of propagator as well.
Before you take your cutting you need to make sure that everything else for subsequent propagation is set up and ready to go. This means you can take your cutting and within minutes sit down and prepare it for propagation. You don’t want to take a cutting and then have it wait a few days before moving on to the next step. All these steps need taking straight away one after the other.
Step 2 – Taking the cutting
Once everything is established take a very sharp knife or pruning secateurs and pull back the heel of the cutting you have selected. If you have cuttings with larger leaves you can cut the leaves in half. The reason you might want to consider this is that cutting in half means energy won’t be wasted on the leaf surface any more than is necessary and this forces that energy to be put into the root structure instead. By reducing the overall amount of Leaf cover you also reduce the risk of mould or other infections during propagation.
Step 3 – Inserting cutting
Once you have your cuttings in hand you should dip the end into a hormone rooting powder and take whatever propagation trays or misting trays you are using for the subsequent propagation, and place it directly inside. Roughly one-third of your cutting should be below the surface.
Step 4 – Maining growing conditions
Whatever propagation or misting system you use should be kept at around 18 degrees C throughout the winter and given adequate misting spray based on the amount of sunlight to which the cuttings are exposed. If you notice in any of your cuttings have gone brown you want to remove them immediately because this is indicative of an infection or fungal rot which can spread if you don’t remove it quickly.
Rhododendrons can take between six and eight months to properly callus and root out to the point where they can be transplanted and grown in a cold frame for a further 12 months so if you take them during the summer they would likely be ready to transplant by April of the following year.
Step 5 – Success
Assuming everything else goes well, you’re cutting should be propagated by the following season and ready to provide you with additional, beautiful but small rhododendron.
Once everything has properly established a root structure the following season you can transplant your Rhododendron into pots or directly into your garden and enjoy them throughout the rest of the spring and summer.