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January 16, 2014

Snowball viburnum, absolutely stunning.... They are stunning and had five of these along my driveway at the previous property ~ withstood extreme heat, frost in winter and the occasional dusting of snow! AJ
Yard work in the Winter?!

I know, I know, it's still January but it's never too early to make plans for your yard and garden.

Landscaping can be quite expensive but there's a simple way to get FREE plants, shrubs and herbs: obtain cuttings from friends' and neighbors' established plants and root your own.

That's where today's post comes in - I'm going to show you step-by-step how to root cuttings!

Let's get started.

"These are my Indian Hawthorne. They were some of the first shrubs I put in 10 years ago when I bought the house. They're very slow growing and love the sun and are drought tolerant and when they're not in bloom, they make these big green pillow shapes in front of the house to soften all the straight lines."
Look around your neighborhood and identify the plants that you really like and that grow well in your location.  You might even want to take a photo of the plant so you'll know what to expect.

If you spot a shrub that you like don't hesitate to introduce yourself to the homeowner and ask if you can snip off a clipping.  You'll be amazed at how flattered people are when you compliment their landscaping and choice of shrubs and plants.

1.  After obtaining permission and using pruners to snip, choose newer but mature growth from the parent plant.  Generally, you'll cut at a 30 degree angle and the clipping should be 3 to 5 inches long for a perennial plant and 6 to 12 inches for shrubs.
Roots tend to grow around or underneath a knot so cut your clipping
1/4 to 1/2 inches below a knot.

Tip:  Small cuttings are best for smaller plants and shrubs while larger cuttings (called "truncheons") work best for larger plants.  If you're really not sure, make the cutting about 4 to 8 inches long.

2.  Strip half to two-thirds of the leaves from the lower part of the clippings and remove the bottom two leaves as well as the top pair of leaves.  If flower buds are present remove them, too, as they will suck the nutrition right out of the clipping you're trying to roots.

3.  Treating the cuttings will 'jump start' them with nutrition and gives the plants a better chance of rooting.  Place the cuttings in a weak mixture of water and a seaweed-based liquid fertilizer for 3 to 4 hours.

4.  There are basically two options for rooting the cuttings - a very diluted fertilizer and water mixture or a more solid medium such as potting soil or sand.  Which ever option you choose, remember to keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight.

One of the benefits of liquid rooting is that you and your family can watch as the roots develop.   It's a wonderful opportunity to discuss plants with young children.

A key step in rooting is to keep the cutting moist.  Water in a mister works great.

geraniums / ATTRACTS: Monarch Butterflies. Plant with Grape Vines ♥ companion plant which attracts Downy Woodpeckers. "Red" (Pelargonium) best. Great in hanging moss baskets.  Never plant near Strawberries, Flowering Dogwood, Peonies, Lily, Tulips, Roses, Fushia, Basil, Coleus or Tomatoes.  "Small leaf geraniums" only attracts Bees!  Must be moved indoors in Winter.5.  When you think the cuttings have grown enough roots it's time to plant them in their final growing spot.  If you choose to root the cuttings in soil or sand, here's a simple test to determine if they're ready for planting: gently tug on the cutting.  If there is a slight resistance then the cuttings have probably grown adequate roots for planting.

Note:   While a vast number of plants and shrubs can be rooted from clippings, not all can be grown this way.  Best to do a little research on the type of plants you want to root along with information on your area's growing season.

Trees are the hardest to grow from cuttings, while cactus and succulents are the easiest.  Rooting plants with water retaining leaves like lavender and geraniums work almost 100% of the time.

Pink Geraniums in a French metal planter #gardenIn addition to growing your own plants from scratch (and saving a lot of 'scratch') rooting is also a stellar opportunity to grow your own gifts - rooted cuttings are appreciated by flower lovers who want to add to their own gardens.

Be sure to bookmark this post so that you can refer to it in the Spring when everything starts to bloom.

In closing, I'd be remiss to not relay two other ways that I've obtained free shrubs and plants:

  • Literally I've picked them up off the side of the road after homeowners dug them up and threw them away (get them home immediately, replant and water, water, water them.)
  • People have brought half-dead plants back to the home improvement store where they were purchased and I've asked the salesperson what they're going to do with the plants.  You'd be surprised at how often I've been offered the ailing plants and how easy it is to bring them back to life.
How ever you obtain your free shrubs and
plants, give them lots of TLC.  They're worth it!


  1. You are making me excited for Spring. Here in Indiana, we have a long way to go. Ha! We have a beautiful back yard with a million plants… and I'm NOT kidding. I have divided and divided again, given some away, etc, and still have that many! Thanks for putting a little sunshine in my day with the reminder that it will soon be here!

  2. Being a visual learner, this was great instructions. I'm thinking that would be a great way to take a plant you love in your yard if you had to relocate. Thanks...I'm learning so much from your blog.

  3. I love snowball bushes! My grandmother had a couple, and we have one here. Great instructions!

  4. Thanks for a touch of spring~~~~just came in from the barn with rosey winter cheeks! Will most definitely bookmark this post!