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Dropping is an easy method of propagating a number of shrubby plants, including heathers ( Calluna and Erica), Kalmia, Lavandula, Pernettya, Rosmarinus and dwarf rhododendrons. The best time to do this is mid to late spring.

It is often best left as a ‘last chance’ method when others have not been successful or when you have a very mature or straggly shrub that may be otherwise ready for the compost heap. The plants resulting from dropping may be less shapely and so less desirable than those produced from cuttings.

If possible, prepare the plant the previous year by cutting it back as hard as possible to encourage strong, new stems that will have more rooting potential.

Step by step

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  • Carefully lift the whole plant with as large a rootball as possible.
  • Improve an area of soil, adding plenty of well-rotted organic material and some sharp sand or grit if the soil is heavy and prone to water-logging.
  • Dig a hole wide enough and deep enough so that when the whole plant is ‘dropped’ into it, only the top 2.5-5cm maximum of the tips of the stems are visible.
Dropping | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • Lightly firm the soil and then water well to settle it. If necessary, top up the soil to cover the stems to within 2.5-5cm of their tips.
  • Water during the summer if necessary and give liquid feeds to encourage good growth. In autumn, carefully remove the soil from around the stems or lift the whole plant. The branches should have rooted, usually close to the soil surface. Cut away each rooted stem and pot up individually and grow on until big enough to plant out the following spring.
  • The old plant should be discarded.
Dropping | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • If lifting the plant and dropping it is not possible, you can try mounding up the soil and compost mix around the plant’s stems.
  • With this method, the soil is likely to dry out quickly, which will affect rooting. So, make a wooden or plastic frame, position it around the plant and then fill with the soil/compost mix.
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