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Perennial Propagation

Though most perennials may take a couple of years to flower from seed, many are as easily started as annuals. The quickest way to have blooming plants, however, is by vegetative propagation, such as by dividing old plants or rooting stem cuttings. Plants produced vegetatively have all of the traits of the "mother" plant. Propagation by division may seem difficult at first, but most gardeners find that dividing crowns and roots and separating bulbs takes very little experience and can be mastered quickly. Try dividing monkey grass for experience; then move on to daylilies, and before long you will have the hang of it.

Perennial plants with shallow roots are easily pulled apart by hand. Long fibrous roots can be pulled apart with a hand fork. Thickly intertwined roots may need more forceful separation or cutting with digging forks. Replant only those segments with strong roots and a few intact leaves or crowns.

In general, it is best to divide perennials during their dormant or "off" season; divide spring bloomers in the fall and fall bloomers in spring. Some perennials may need dividing every 3 or 4 years, or they will slowly crowd themselves into clumps of nonflowering leaves and roots.

Many perennial plants may be propagated from stem cuttings, which does not disturb the plant's roots. Take stem cuttings during the spring or early summer, choosing stems that are mature and firm but not yet hardened and woody. Cut off 4- to 6-inch segments using a sharp knife or shears, and pinch off the succulent tip and any flower buds to force the cuttings to concentrate their energy on producing roots. Remove the lower leaves that will be below the surface of the rooting medium, but leave a few leaves to provide a source of energy for root initiation and growth.

Because of disease or weather conditions, cuttings often will not root directly in garden soils. They may be easily started in a pot containing a porous, well-drained rooting medium, such as a 1:1 mixture of perlite and peat moss. Coarse sand and vermiculite are also used as rooting soils. These mixtures will hold moisture and yet allow drainage for air circulation. Root-stimulating compounds, including those that contain fungicides, are available at most garden centers. Using a blunt stick, pencil, or finger, open a hole in the rooting medium and insert the treated cutting. Firm the medium around the cutting and water in well.

Many commercial growers use a mist bed to keep cuttings from wilting, but this is usually not feasible on a small scale. You may easily construct a humidity tent from plastic film loosely draped over a frame covering the cuttings. Place the tent in bright light, but prevent overheating by making sure the tent is not located in direct sunshine. Keep the plastic loose to allow air circulation. Avoid direct contact between the leaves and the plastic. The tent will serve as a tiny greenhouse and will maintain a good rooting environment with daily light watering. Rooting often occurs within 3 or 4 weeks. By the time new leaves begin to appear on cuttings, roots are usually formed. Remove the plastic tent and water regularly until plants are firmly established.

Transplant newly rooted plants into prepared beds or pots and place in a bright, protected area until you are ready to set them into your garden or share them with others.

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A small bush with bright red leaves contrasts against a rock-filled garden.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 15, 2018

The weather to start 2018 has certainly been crazy. We had more than a week of temperatures in the mid-20s (Freezemageddon) followed by a week of moderate, more normal January temperatures. Now, we’re freezing again this week.

Purple pansy flowers and leaves are drooping and covered with a layer of frost.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 8, 2018

What a crazy week we had to start off 2018 as “Freeze-mageddon” came blowing through with several nights of temperatures in the 20s or worse across the state.

I’ve been hearing and reading comments about the extreme cold we’re experiencing and how unusual it is. But to tell you the truth, these temperatures are not that unusual. 

Three varieties of milkweed grow in four containers inside a greenhouse at the Mississippi State University South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens, Landscape and Garden Design, Environment January 5, 2018

Mississippi gardeners who plan to incorporate more pollinator plants into their landscapes can consider native milkweed and begin gathering seed for indoor propagation.

This crape myrtle shows the smooth tops of crape myrtles that have been sliced through knobby ends.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 1, 2018

As gardeners make New Year’s resolutions for their landscapes in 2018, I want to encourage all of them to resolve to correctly prune crape myrtles from this day forward.

In the current vernacular, severe pruning of crape myrtles is called “crape murder,” reflecting the seemingly random nature of the pruning cuts. To me, this type of pruning is very unattractive in the landscape.

A bouquet of small, orange and yellow flowers.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens December 25, 2017

For the last Southern Gardening column of 2017, I want to take a look back at some of my absolute favorite plants from my home landscape this past year.

I have been talking for several years about what fantastic garden performers Supertunias are. But my absolute favorite -- and it has been my favorite for several years -- is Supertunia Vista Bubblegum. This plant is so reliable it was chosen as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 2012.

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