To buy, sell and swap plants and use our full service, please log in or sign up - it's completely free.

Making your cut flowers last much much longer

  • Making your cut flowers last much much longer

Last week my Mrs picked up a bunch of lovely frilled Dianthus that was on offer in a supermarket. I noticed a few offsets along the stems so removed them and treated them as heal cuttings. i know, wrong time of year amd all that but as these flowers are no longer seasonal and you cannot change that, its best to just give it a try when you see them and do this with a flower that has taken your fancy. I put them in an old pot not really giving them a second thought. The pots had failed old seed in them so I thought I would just fill them. very unprofessional! Well a week later, in an unheated rather scruffy glasshouse in December these cuttings are looking just fine, doubled in size, I know they haven't had time to root yet, but with a generous spraying of potassium bicarbonate solution, my cheat for giving everything a thorough turf out and scrub, they look good. There is even one of the seedlings I had hoped for in one of the pots, Anchusa capensis I think, a much overlooked bedding plant these days. Judge for yourself with the photos.

Comments (7)

  1. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    This works with shop-bought cut flowers (carnations) as well: if you gently pull off any non-flowering side shoots and pop them into some CLEAN compost (Rob, I'm shocked at your terrible confession of re-using a failed seedling pot, I have never done such a thing, no, never: well, maybe once or twice if no-one was looking...) then about half the time they will root.

    The official name for these side shoots is "slips", in case you've ever read that term, and wondered what it meant: they pop out of their sockets with no damage, and can quite literally be just pushed into a small pot of compost and left to root.

    A heel cutting (like the heel of your foot) is where you rip off a side-shoot with some of the main shoot's "bark" attached to it, in order to bring along some of the growth hormones from the bud point, which can help the cutting to produce roots.

    At this point someone usually says "rooting compound" and yes, you can dip the end of the slip or the wet part of the heel cutting into a rooting compound or hormone rooting powder, if you wish. I always used to: then I ran out of it one day and carried on without it, and didn't notice any difference, so now I don't bother with it. It can be counter-productive if you use too much - the hormones stimulate the cutting into growth, and if you apply too much of the product, the end of the stem will frantically produce new cells which will form a callus, preventing the stem from taking in water, and it will therefore die. That's why the instructions always say to "tap off any excess" before pushing the cutting into the pot.

  2. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    Hi Rachel,
    I would have got sacked at some previous jobs I held for using old compost for this sort of thing, but look at the results! I used to be so thorugh cleaning pots, scrubbing the greenhouse until it shone almost, but I just don't have the time now. I just spray the plants with a solution of potassium bicarbonate, about a pinch to a litre and ventilate well and they remain trouble free. I have already done this with a customers Lavandula x alardii, and the cuttings are ready to pot up now.The compost was only a couple of months old, and I finally got an Anchusa plant out of the old seed I would have otherwise thrown away so you sometimes can have your cake and eat it. I would never use stale, stinking compost, a customer presented me with a couple of bags like this and they went back to the garden centre.
    I was always taught to trim excess bark off heal cuttings, but if it works......
    Slips, crowns and suckers, the three propagation techniques for pineapples that's how I remember the differant terms, and a prickly job that was too.
    Rooting compound is a bone of contention really, it doesn't have a long shelf life but if the powder contains funguside it can still be useful. Another way of encouraging auxins to trigger root growth is to damage the surface of the stem which is to go in the compost, then you need sterilised compost for obvious reasons. I abandoned rooting powder years ago likwise seeing no differance in results
    It just goes to show no matter what you read, or how you are taught at college or on the job, these plants are made to grow, and with a little provision and understanding they will just get on with it

  3. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Rob, you are so right in your final paragraph! No matter what we are taught, the plants will still grow.

    Having said that, it's nice to keep up to date with new techniques, as long as we don't get swept up by faddy new ideas (square holes when planting trees, for example) which subsequently fade and die.

    Rob, I hope you will forgive me for correcting your spelling of heel cutting, I'm aware that a lot of our readers here might be unfamiliar with some of these gardening terms, and if they put "heal cutting" into google, they won't quite get the right response!

    And while on the subject of heel cuttings, for completeness, I would say that I, too, was taught to reduce/trim excess bark from heel cuttings, but the point was to leave a smallish stub of the stuff, not to have great long streamers of it which would only rot under the soil anyway, thus ruining the new cutting. So, for the benefit of anyone wanting to try this technique, you rip off the non-flowering shoot from your chosen plant (I do this with all sorts of material, including roses!) then trim the ragged ripped-off part to make it a) small, extending maybe half an inch around the base of the cutting part, and b) neat, with no ragged edges which might become infected more easily than a clean cut.

    I would normally go to the parent plant and carefully prune off a couple of shoots, then carry them to my propagating area and do the ripping-of-the-shoot there: it's not a good idea to just rip bits off your garden plants, as you are leaving damaged stems open to infection.

    But it's different with cut flowers in a vase - they're going to die anyway!

    And, having carefully typed this all out, I've just realised that we already have a ton of propagation information on the site already! Just click on "Grower Tips" above, then look at the black banner - one of the items is "Propagation Guides" (they get highlighted when you run your mouse over them). Under "Stem cuttings" on the left, is a selection of techniques including Heel cuttings. Here's a link to take you directly there - well worth checking it out!

  4. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    Hi Rachel,
    HEEL cutting, no worries I am already battling with the spell check not to write for me something rude or rediculous, like just then, 'red iCloud' instead of rediculous!! ( KAE?), and my original draught disappeared into the ether. So somone correcting me constructively is a good thing. Please forgive my poor spelling.
    In the end, a lot of modern techniques I find were used by the Victorians. Many are just forgotten then recycled as new. Indeed new discoveries are being made and with more species then ever coming into cultivation we need to know how to care for them. Another good tip for propagation is to have a bottle of alchahol handy, not to drink but to sterilise the cutting equipment so as to avoid cross contamination. surgical spirit is the ideal thing for this.

  5. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Thank you, Rob, I appreciate you not being cross with me! I tend to correct people's spelling not because I am a boring pedant, but because of google: as I mentioned, if people search for something and spell it wrongly, they'll get the wrong answers.

    I shall never forget the experience of a friend of mine who joined a Naturists Club instead of a Naturalists Club.....

    Rediculous, ridiculous... they say tomato, we say solanum lycopersicum... (botanical joke!!) and I can hardly bear to say it, but a draught is a drink or a cold gust, I think you meant a draft, that being an earlier version. I'll shut up now!!

  6. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    You were right to. Google is as predictive as this ........ Spellcheck. It's not as if I didn't go to school or anything, I used to have good grammar and spelling, I guess I got older and less observant on what I am writing. It just doesn't type out correctly. The naturist/naturist thing made me laugh, I have friends who are in the local naturalist society who ring me and say 'there's a naturist meeting tonight do you fancy coming along?'
    I know what they mean, just as well really.

  7. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    Naturist/ naturalist I am correcting myself now!

Production v5.9.2 (d960957)