Amy-Lynn Albertson: Plant propagation classes planned

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
N.C. Cooperative Extension

Our Rowan County Master Gardener volunteers had a fantastic plant sale at the Agricultural Center this year, with more than 200 people braving the rain to purchase plants. It’s a testament to our shared love for gardening and the success of our community. If you missed the sale, don’t worry, you can still join in the plant madness by signing up for our plant propagation classes this summer.

The Rowan County Extension Master Gardener Program will host the annual propagation classes on June 26, July 11, and July 31 from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost is $25. Please remember to bring pruners, a knife and cuttings of the shrubs you want to propagate. By producing your plants, you can save money and enjoy a fun and rewarding hobby. The cuttings need to be softwood and 6-8 inches long. Keep the cuttings in water or a cooler. You should wait to cut them until the morning of the class. Experienced Master Gardeners will guide you through the process and help you grow your garden.

Each class is limited to 20 participants. Make sure to water your plants well before taking cuttings, as plants under stress will not do well. Avoid taking cuttings from old, aged or declining shrubs, and ensure that the shrubs you choose are insect- and disease-free. Please bring enough plant material to share with others. Recommended plants for propagation include most ornamental shrubs, conifers, vining plants and herbs. After filling the trays, they will be nurtured in the greenhouse until fall. At that time, a potting-up session will be scheduled, with Master Gardener volunteers available to assist, and the new plants will be ready to be taken home. The best time to take “softwood” cuttings is in June, July and sometimes early August. Softwood refers to a growth stage of a deciduous woody plant that’s not the new, green growth at the end of a shoot or the stiff woody growth at the base of the stem.

The best way to know if a shoot has reached the softwood stage is to bend it. If it snaps, the shoot is ready to be taken as a cutting. If the shoot is very flexible and doesn’t snap, it’s too green. Finally, if it’s not flexible at all, it’s too old. The soft shoots are quite tender, and extra care needs to be taken to keep them from drying out. However, the extra effort pays off because softwood cuttings usually root quickly. You can use a flower pot or a small flat if rooting a few cuttings. Cover the cuttings with a bottomless milk jug to maintain high humidity, or place the container in a clear plastic bag. Some plants easily propagated by softwood cuttings are azaleas, blueberries, flowering cherries, crape myrtles, dogwoods, forsythia, hydrangea and roses. Go to to register for any of our three propagation classes or call us at 704-216-8970.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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