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A step-by-step guide to propagating your favorite perennials

Updated: Dec 11, 2022

One of the most common questions I hear every spring and fall is "Can you propagate perennials?"

The answer is a resounding yes — and it's actually not as difficult as you might think.

With this step-by-step guide, you'll be propagating like a pro in no time and can easily have more plants to enjoy next year in your garden. Let's get started!

What is propagation?

Before we dive in, let’s understand the word propagation. Put simply, it’s the process of creating new plants from existing ones.

Have you ever looked at your garden and thought, "I really wish I had more of that plant?" Well, propagation is the answer to your prayers! And it's a great way to get more bang for your buck. Plus, it's not as difficult as you might think.

There are a few different ways to do this, but we're going to focus on two of the most popular methods — division and cuttings.

Dividing perennials

Perennials are plants that come back year after year, and many of them can be propagated quite easily. The most common method is division.

Dividing is probably the simplest way to propagate perennials. And it's also one of the most effective, especially for larger plants.

The basic idea is that you dig up an existing plant, then divide it into multiple smaller plants. Each of these new plants can then be replanted elsewhere in your garden.

Not only does this give you more plants for free, but it also helps to keep the ‘mother’ plant healthy and looking its best.

To divide a plant, start by digging up the entire thing (roots and all). Once it's out of the ground, use a spade or knife to carefully divide the root ball into smaller pieces. Each piece should have its own set of roots and leaves. If necessary, you can then replant these divided sections in different areas of your garden. Just be sure to give them plenty of water and TLC!

Propagating with cuttings

Taking cuttings is another great way to propagate perennials, and it’s by far my favorite method.

Taking cuttings of perennials works well for plants that are too small to divide, or for those that don't respond well to being dug up and replanted.

Here’s what you’ll need to take a cutting:

  • Pruning shears

  • A clean, sharp knife

  • Rooting hormone powder (I usually don’t use this)

  • Small pots or trays with drainage holes

  • Well-draining potting mix

Step 1: Select your plant

The first step is to choose the plant or plants you want to propagate. Almost any perennial can be propagated successfully, but some are easier than others.

Step 2: Take your cuttings

Using your pruning shears, take 4-6 inch cuttings from the tips of healthy stems.

Make sure each cutting has at least two sets of leaves. If your plant is particularly unruly, you may need to take longer cuttings.

Step 3: Prepare your cuttings

Remove the bottom leaves from each cutting so that you're left with a bare stem.

Dip the end of each stem in rooting hormone powder (this is optional but will help encourage root growth).

Then, using your knife or shears, make a clean slit in the potting mix about 1 inch deep.

Insert your cutting into the slit and lightly press the mix around it to secure it. Repeat this process for each cutting.

Step 4: Water carefully

Water your cuttings well, making sure not to soak the mix.

It's best to use a watering can with a small spout so that you can direct the water right to the base of each cutting without disturbing the mix too much.

Keep an eye on your cuttings and water them whenever the mix starts to dry out — but be careful not to overwater.

Once your cuttings have taken root and started growing new leaves (this usually takes 2-6 weeks depending on the plant), they can be transplanted into individual pots or left in their tray.

And if the roots are developed enough, you transplant your new cutting into its permanent home in your garden!

Why propagate perennials?

First, it's an easy way to get more plants if you already have some that you love.

Second, it's a great way to save money—buying new plants can be expensive, but propagation is relatively inexpensive since all you need is a pot, some potting mix, and a little bit of patience.

Third, propagating perennials is a great way to share plants with friends and family members. If you have a friend who's looking to start a garden, giving them some of your propagated perennials is a great way to help them get started.

And if you’re interested in selling your perennials, being able to tell someone that you grew this plant from a cutting is a great way to show how healthy it may become. When people come to my garden, they can see the parent plants and they feel safer with their purchases.

Finally, propagating perennials allows you to be a part of the entire gardening process. There’s more than just sitting in the shade and occasionally buying a seed packet. Once you start taking cuttings and dividing plants, you’ll get an entirely new appreciation for creation and how beautiful the world around you really is.

Not all perennials can be propagated easily…

Although many perennials can be propagated quite easily, some are more difficult.

For example, some plants have complicated root systems that make division impossible, while others just don't root well from cuttings.

If you're not sure whether or not a particular plant can be propagated, your best bet is to do some research or ask a nursery worker or expert gardener. They'll be able to tell you whether or not the plant you're interested in will propagate easily.

With that being said, don’t be afraid to just try and see! As long as you don’t destroy the base plant (or the mother plant as I call it), experiment and see which of your favorite perennials can be divided.

And there you have it - a quick overview of how to propagate perennials! Whether you choose to divide or take cuttings (or both!), propagation is a great way to get more plants without spending a lot of money.

So get out there and start propagating! Your garden will thank you for it.


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Welcome to my garden

Hi! I'm Lars (Denmark).

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