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Climbers: taking cuttings

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last updated Feb 25, 2011
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Taking actinidia cuttings. Credit:RHS/Tim Sandall.

Many climbers do well from cuttings, having a natural tendency to root easily from their stems. A slightly different technique is required for taking cuttings of climbers than when taking cuttings from shrubs and trees.

Suitable for... Back to top

Many climbers lend themselves well to propagation from cuttings. Ivy, passion flower, Campsis, Celastrus, Clematis, Humulus, Lonicera, Solanum and Trachelospermum are just a few examples.

When to take cuttings Back to top

Most climbers do well from semi-ripe cuttings, which are selected from the current season’s growth. The base of the cutting should be hard, while the tip is still soft. This material is available in late summer, but suitable material can usually be found until mid-autumn.

How to take cuttings Back to top

The technique is very similar to that for basic semi-ripe cuttings, but is modified to create double leaf-bud cuttings:

  • Water plants thoroughly the night before taking cuttings
  • Prune off some suitable material and place it in a plastic bag, keeping it cool until ready to prepare
  • Avoid damaged, unhealthy, over-vigorous or atypical material, and choose only non-flowering shoots
  • Cut the material directly above a pair of leaves and then make a lower cut about halfway between the two leaf joints
  • A refinement for confident gardeners is to slice each leaf bud cutting down the middle of the stem, treating each half as ordinary leaf bud cuttings and so doubling the number of cuttings available
  • Dip the bottom of the cutting in fresh hormone rooting powder, ensuring that the cut is well covered. Tap gently to remove the excess
  • On large-leaved climbers, cut the leaves in half to reduce water loss
  • Insert the cuttings into suitably-sized containers filled with cuttings compost – use 50 per cent free-draining potting compost mixed with 50 per cent sharp sand or perlite. Water well and allow to drain
  • Place the container of cuttings in a greenhouse or propagator with bottom heat. Alternatively, cover pots with a plastic bag and put in a warm, light position, out of direct sunlight. Remember to remove excess moisture, but keep compost damp
  • Rooting is usually quick - six to eight weeks - but it is best to leave the cuttings until spring in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, before placing them in separate pots

Aftercare

  • Ensure that the compost remains moist until the cuttings are well rooted, shading the greenhouses and cold frames in hot weather
  • Remove any dead or diseased cuttings that appear
  • Additionally, for cuttings in outdoor beds and cold frames, remove any fallen leaves
  • Cuttings rooted in greenhouses and propagators will need hardening off for two to three weeks before potting on or planting. Cold frames, unheated greenhouses or even under horticultural fleece are good places to harden off
  • After potting on, give each pot its own cane and tie the growth to the cane until the plants are big enough for their final place

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Hardening off plants

Problems Back to top

If cuttings don’t work, consider layering, and also remember to save seed from species such as Clematis tangutica and Eccremocarpus scaber.

Fungal moulds and rots can cause severe losses. Fungicide dips are no longer available, but regularly removing diseased material and ensuring good ventilation to help remove excess moisture (without allowing the cuttings to wilt) can help.

Quick facts

Suitable for Woody climbing plants (not annual or herbaceous climbers)
Timing Usually in late summer.
Difficulty Moderate

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