Evergreens provide some much needed structure, interest and colour in the garden in the winter. Who wouldn’t want more of them, for free!?

I have a Ceanothus and so does my neighbour, different variety I think, so I’ve been cheeky and whipped off a couple of stems from hers as well. The branching habit of Ceanothus means there is plenty of cuttings material in just a few sprigs.

Propagating evergreen shrubs from cuttings
Branching habit, lots of material

I have taken some nodal cuttings and also some lateral heel cuttings.
For the nodal cuttings I have snipped off the top of the sprig just below a leaf joint (a node, hence the name) and stripped off the lower leaves leaving a bare stem and a few leaves at the top.  I have dunked the end in root hormone powder, shaken off the excess and used a suitable implement (screw-driver in my case) to pop it in the cuttings compost mix.

Propagating Ceanothus by cuttings
Only the cut or wounded part needs the powder, excess to be shaken or flicked off.

For the lateral shoots, I have tried to gently but firmly pull the side shoot away from the main stem so that it comes away with a “heel” – just a piece of the outer layer of the main stem.

Propagating Ceanothus from cuttings
Lateral shoot with heel attached (bottom right)

This is desirable because that material is full of cells that are capable of producing roots once tucked up in cuttings compost. That said, the heel needs trimming a little so it doesn’t rot in the compost.

After that, it’s the same process as for the nodal cuttings – dunk, shake, dib and firm in.

As you can see from the photo, I have jammed in quite a number of cuttings into one 11cm pot.

Jam packed

If I had a 9cm pot I would have used that, I think. There is plenty of room, and keeping the cuttings close together like this has a few benefits

  • they help physically support each other
  • the closeness helps to retain moisture and a humid environment around the leaves
  • economical with space, pots and cuttings compost.
  • lots of cuttings allows for even a high failure rate and gives a decent chance of some new plants at the end of the process

A note on cuttings compost mix. I’ll probably do a full post on this at some point later in the year, possibly even a trial, but the advice I am following is to use horticultural grit or sharp sand, mixed with vermiculite or perlite in approximately 3:2 proportions, although half and half would be fine too.

Sharp sand to vermiculite in 3:2 ratio
Ready to mix
All mixed and ready to use

Note the total lack of actual compost (brown stuff you buy in bags at the garden centre). That always confuses me, dunno why the pros insist on calling it cuttings compost.  Anyhoo, the point is that this is a free-draining, open mix that will allow roots to form without working too hard and avoids them sitting in too much wet (or indeed too much dry) which is all too easy with a peat-based compost mix.

February is a good time to strike cuttings like these because the shrub is about to start putting on spring growth and is thus chock full of growth hormones.  The main thing is it is no longer in a dormant or less active winter state. Once tucked away in the pot, these evergreen shrub cuttings can be treated like hardwood cuttings – ie watered and left to get on with it for a few months.  The only real difference is that evergreens, by definition, still have leaves on the go so are a little more vulnerable than the bare sticks that are the material for deciduous hardwood cuttings. For this reason they need to be kept in a humid environment and kept moist.  If only I had a heated propagation bench.  Oh wait, I do!
Here they are, both varieties, in the muggy warmth.

Evergreen cuttings
Nice and snug

I’ll be back with an update on these cuttings when I crack open these pots in a few months.

[update 11-Apr-17.  Check out this link to find out what happened.  If you are of a nervous disposition, fair warning, it doesn’t end well…]