In my experience, it has been extremely easy to finish off rooted cuttings. Having got the bloomin’ things to root in the first place, it’s highly annoying to have them die on you once rooted.  Here are some of the ways I have been able to achieve this early demise.

i) potting on prematurely.  It is a joyous thing for me still, to see roots emerging from the bottom of a pot of cuttings.  At the first sniff of a root appearing, flushed with success, I have often dashed off to the potting shed to turn out the cuttings and pot them on.  Sadly, this has rarely ended well.  Much, much better to let the cuttings develop a robust root system in situ and then pot them on.  In practice this means waiting for lots of new growth on top, and for plenty of roots to be surging out of the holes in the bottom of the pot.  Not just the questing tip of one root, but lots of roots snaking well out of the pot.  Be impatient at your peril!  Let these poor, dead salvia ‘hot lips’ cuttings be a salutory lesson…

ii) potting on too late.  newly rooted and transplanted cuttings are not well suited to surviving winter conditions.  There is a rule of thumb that says if a rooted cutting is not potted on by 1st September, it is best to leave them in their pots till the spring.  They will be fairly dormant over the winter anyway and will appreciate not being disturbed.

iii)  premature exposure to harsher conditions.   A rooted cutting, once potted on, should be returned to the conditions it was in beforehand.  So, if a cutting was in a heated bench before, it should be returned there.  If it was on a greenhouse bench before, it should be returned there once potted on.  Having had the shock of transplanting, the mini-plant can do without the additional shock of changing the environmental conditions in which it is kept. After a week or two they can be moved on through the usual hardening off process.

iv) insufficient nutrients.  newly rooted cuttings need a bit of a feed to get them going. Cuttings compost is basically nutrient-free, so it’s necessary to add some. Liquid tomato feed is ideal.  First feed should be at higher than normal concentration, then weekly at the stated dose. 

v) forgetting about them.  I’m guilty of this, and also for other forms of propagation.  Having done the hard work of raising the plants with your god-like propagation powers, it is then all too easy to neglect the new plants.  This could mean forgetting to water them, not potting on to larger pots, not planting out, leaving to be frost-nipped, slug-munched and so on.

Like lots of things in life, failing at propagation is an opportunity to learn. I hope to improve my success rate nursing rooted cuttings into useful plants. 

I’ll be back soon with more propagating tales.