This chapter is concerned
with the asexual propagation of fuchsias from cuttings as opposed to
sexual propagation from seed which will be dealt with in a later
stock by taking cuttings is a lovely facet of growing almost any plant. It
is a cheap and easy way of increasing your stock whether the cuttings
have been taken from your own stock plants or from someone else’s.
Almost every serious gardener derives a great deal of pleasure
from propagating his or her own plants and almost without exception end
up taking too many cuttings.
These soon become unmanageable, the surplus given away or
In this chapter propagation will be taken to a new level whereby
even an absolute novice will be able to propagate successfully and the
expert, especially the show person, will have an even greater awareness
as to the type, size and condition of material to be propagated.
Taking the correct type of cutting can make a tremendous
difference to the size and the amount of flowers the cutting will
the techniques I developed during my years as a National Showman, I was
able to at least double, sometimes quadruple, the number of flowers
produced by cuttings using my special techniques as opposed to the
accepted norm which has been handed down since time immemorial. In
this chapter I shall be using illustrations taken using a digital
camera. Being able to
photograph and record the various aspects of gardening digitally to a
computer, compact disk or photograph has given gardening a new
to start propagating?
The individual, facilities available, expertise and enthusiasm
determine when to start propagating.
My fuchsia year starts in October.
At this time most of the plants are past their best and in need
Briefly, I gently prune each plant, give them the hot water
treatment to eradicate all pests and diseases, ease down on watering and
as early as possible pot each plant down into a smaller plant pot.
They are then housed ready for the onset of winter.
Each of the actions described above will be subject of in-depth
chapters later on.
I like to start looking for cuttings about the middle of
December, soon after the shortest day.
From this moment the plants quickly sense the lengthening of each
day and the increase in light intensity.
These factors coupled with a frost-free cool temperature induce
the production of new short jointed compact growth.
The growth rate of new side shoots (cutting material) is governed
by temperature and available light.
The highest possible natural light penetration must be achieved
in your greenhouse or growing area. Clean
off any dust, dirt or old shading from the glass inside and outside this
an extra layer of polythene inside the greenhouse to conserve heat is
always a compromise.
Using too much heat in an attempt to increase growth is misguided
and will lead to unwanted elongation of the internodal length of the
side shoots, your cutting material.
It will also reduce the flowering potential of the ultimate
plant. This is explained in
more detail a little further on.
One point worth remembering which will illustrate the heat/light
requirement of plants is knowledge that the only place where these two
factors are always uniquely balanced is outside, never in the confines
of a greenhouse. To plants
this is an alien environment.
As light intensity increases so does the temperature and vice
Plants, whatever species, are all uniquely adapted to detect
these variables and will react accordingly.
If the growing area is warmer than the ambient light factor then
the plants will start to stretch increasing the internodal length in
their quest to reach a higher light intensity.
They probably assume they are growing under a leaf canopy or
other shade and strive to reach more light.
In addition to elongation, excessive heat leads to lush weak
growth that is always susceptible to attacks from insects and fungus
such as botrytis and rust.
A cool, light, frost-free area is ideal for producing material
for good strong compact plants for show, display or just decoration. If
you intend propagating use only the best materials.
two photographs below illustrate these points. Cuttings
will be taken from both plants and compared.
Photo ‘A’ has been grown cool, 5°/10°
F, whilst Photo ‘B’ has been grown warm, with a minimum temperature
During the same period, both plants have made similar growth.
‘A’ has small compact growth where as ‘B’ has large lush growth.
Close up photographs of cuttings taken from both plants will
aptly illustrate this point.
Photograph 'A' Photograph
everyone interested in gardening, in whatever form, has at one time or
another taken cuttings. Be
it of houseplants, shrubs from the garden, or other specific species of
point I must stress is that the following paragraphs apply strictly to
the propagation of fuchsias although I do try to apply some of the
techniques to other species as well.
next set of photographs will illustrate the various types of cuttings
their benefits and drawbacks.
is a tip cutting which is the earliest type of cutting available on an
over wintered plant. See
If taking this type of cutting, make a cut about 3mm below a pair
This tip cutting will root quite readily when inserted into a
rooting medium but it will be slow growing and take quite a long time to
produce a reasonably sized flowering plant.
It may be a must if there are problems with your stock plant.
Not a cutting I would use for a show plant.
is a typical cutting taken from a plant over wintering in a warm
photograph above. When
viewed by a novice it appears to be ideal and easy to handle.
Excessive heat and poor light has stretched the internodal
length, the distance between successive pairs of leaves, to excess.
The large leaves make it a prime target for insects.
It will not make a specimen show plant but maybe useful for
increasing stock or growing up into a standard.
This sequence will be described later.
The removal of the lower leaves for rooting is optional.
and Three leaf cuttings
choosing cuttings for your own use, especially for show plants, a little
more care and observation is required.
Before taking a cutting, examine the stock plant carefully and
select only those cuttings that have a perfect leaf formation.
Each leaf across the leaf axils must be identical both in
size, shape and colour. Any
imbalance or deformity in leaf structure will show itself later once the
plant starts to shape up and flower.
It will also be difficult to shape.
Another important factor when
looking for cutting material is illustrated by the photograph above.
Look carefully over the whole plant for three leaf cuttings.
These make excellent show plants and will carry at least a third more
flowers than the two leaf cuttings. Whilst on the
subject of three leaf cuttings it never ceases to amaze me how many
growers, especially show people, never appreciate the true potential of
these cuttings. As soon as the
cutting has rooted they pinch out the growing tip, apical meristem, to
encourage side shoots to develop. This is
fine, but what they have failed to realise is, that if they had allowed
the cutting to develop a little longer it would have grown sufficiently
for the tip to be removed and rooted. This would provide
another identical plant. Again, once this tip has rooted the
growing tip can be removed for a second time and rooted.
This process of never destroying a perfect cutting is not fully
realised. All the cuttings taken from this initial cutting will be
identical. In a normal year this process can be
repeated three times. The final cutting can be grown
on as a whip to produce an excellent standard which when it reaches its
optimum height the growing tip can again be taken out and rooted.
The sequence can be started all over again. The
following photographs illustrate these points.
photograph 'C' the original cutting is on the left and its growing tip,
which has been removed and rooted, is on the right.
In photograph 'D' the growing tip has again been removed from the second
plant and will be rooted to make a third identical plant all from the
one original cutting. When the third cutting has been rooted
it will be grown on to form an excellent standard whip. Whilst on the
subject of three leaf cuttings these will only be found on second year
plants growing from the old leaf axils on ripe wood.
Once a three leaf cutting has been stopped all the resultant side shoots
developing in the leaf axils will only have two pair of leaves.
There are always rare exceptions to this rule, excluding triphyllas and
species of course. One of my own seedlings, 'The University
of Liverpool' is a perfect example. Size for size this fuchsia
will produce more flowers than virtually any other because of its unique
habit of producing so many three leaf branches.
stressed the point regarding the selection of only the most perfect of
cuttings I shall now elaborate a little more on the subject.
In selecting material for your own use avoid taking any cutting with an
imbalance in leaf structure. The following
photographs clearly demonstrate the issue.
first picture notice the difference in size of the leaves across the
pair of leaf axils 'A' and 'B'. The average grower
would not notice or would ignore the imbalance, take the cutting and
root it. What is not apparent at this stage is the
imbalance in the side shoots developing in the leaf axils.
The second picture shows the side shoot emerging from the axil of the
undersized leaf to be underdeveloped in comparison to the side shoot in
the opposite leaf axil. This imbalance will continue
through to maturity leaving that portion of the plant slightly behind in
both growth and flowering. It can also effect the leaf and
flower size which really becomes obvious as the flower buds develop.
The undersize leaf and flower detract from perfection in show plants and
give the Judge the opportunity to down point an otherwise perfect
cuttings which make the finest plants are those produced on a
second/third year plant grown in cool conditions as described above.
The first batch of cuttings are taken as soon as they are large enough
to handle and before the temperatures start to rise.
The rise in temperature coupled with low light conditions will quickly
cause the shoots to elongate and get too lush.
The next set of pictures show the size, shape and balance of perfect
cuttings. In several of the pictures a £2. coin is used to
show the comparisons.
are several tools which can be used for taking cuttings, the penknife,
Stanley knife or scalpel. The penknife is advocated by
most gardening experts for use in the garden but it is of little use
when taking softwood cutting like fuchsias. The
knife blade bruises and rips the tissue on such small soft cuttings.
It maybe useful for hardwood cuttings in the garden but is of little use
in the greenhouse. The Stanley knife can
be used but it is a little too cumbersome and heavy.
The ideal tool is the scalpel with a long tapering blade.
It is light, easy to use, very sharp and the blades easily
interchangeable. When using the scalpel, I have always been
in the habit of wrapping an elastoplast around the tip of my index
finger. It can save using one later to cover a nasty wound.
is a fascinating pastime enjoyed by almost every gardener.
Most literature available on propagation is very basic and nearly all
reiterate what has been written in the past e.g. ( just remove a side
shoot between two sets of leaves with a sharp knife, insert it in a
rooting medium such as peat or a mixture of other inert substances,
provide some bottom heat and your cutting will root) It may well do so
but the plant will be very mediocre and not provide the quality of plant
or profusion of flowers that a cutting which has been carefully
selected, will provide. Before taking
cuttings examine the parent plant carefully to get an overall indication
what material is available. Apply the techniques
outlined above and select only the best cuttings available.
Using the scalpel, remove the cuttings from the parent plant, then
examine them carefully, especially the underside of the leaves.
Use a magnifying glass if need be to look for insects, their eggs or
fungi spores such as rust. The propagator
provides the perfect nursery for the proliferation of insects and
various types of fungus. The
picture below is a good example. The cutting
must be destroyed as soon as possible before the pustules ripen and the
spores exhausted to atmosphere to infect the rest of the stock.
all the selected cuttings have been examined place them carefully in a
saucer of tepid water about 1.cm deep for approximately four hours to
prepare them for the propagating frame. This is
essential in more ways than one. Firstly, it helps them recover
from the shock of surgery, secondly, it allows them to easily charge
themselves with water ready for insertion into the rooting medium of the
propagator. If the parent plant is suspected of having
had rust the previous season, then the water in the saucer should
contain a solution of a systemic fungicide diluted to the manufacturers
recommendations. The system I use is illustrated below.
The first dish uses just water, but they are difficult to keep upright
so I now use perlite soaked with water. The cuttings stand
firm and are easier to both insert and remove. Perlite can
prove to be a little expensive, too expensive in some establishments.
Invariably, little thought is given to the preparation of cuttings.
It is not generally appreciated just how much energy a cutting needs to
expend to extract sufficient moisture from a rooting medium to survive.
This is very noticeable if the cutting is placed directly into the
rooting medium without being soaked. As soon as the
air temperature rises the cutting will flag to conserve moisture
recovering only when the temperature falls. It
is for this reason that not only the old fashioned gardeners, but most
of the modern ones advocate covering the
propagator with glass or plastic. Not only does soaking the
cutting before insertion reduce the rooting time it also eliminates the
need to cover the cutting with glass. Let us examine the
situation in detail. Firstly, a cutting removed
from the parent needs moisture to sustain it until such time as the
wound to the stem can callous over and roots form.
If the cutting is inserted directly into a rooting medium without being
soaked it will need to be covered with glass or plastic to maintain a
high degree of humidity to prevent flagging.
This creates a problem. Within the
confines of a closed propagator the heat source will create a micro
environment, maybe 10°/15°C
above the ambient greenhouse temperature, especially during the early
part of the year. The cuttings will revel in this environment
root quite readily. The first problem will be the loss of some
cuttings to botrytis. The second problem will be an
unwanted elongation of the internodal length. Cuttings that
are fully turgid, having been soaked in water as described and left
uncovered, will take a few days longer to root but will remain compact,
sturdy and losses minimal. I am sure many
growers reading this chapter will be able to identify previous mistakes
and disappointing results. The photograph below shows
my propagator at 14th. January, 2003. The air temperature is
thermostatically controlled at a minimum of 15°C
whilst the propagator is set to 20°C
using four independent sets of warming cables and thermostats. In
addition, a fan is kept running continuously to circulate air over the
cuttings. (For a more detailed explanation, see the chapter,
'Greenhouse Management' ). This greenhouse, the
smallest of four, is used for propagating and growing on rooted
cuttings. It also houses tender house and conservatory plants during
the selected cuttings have been inserted into a rooting medium, I use
finely riddled potting compost with about 10% perlite added to aid
aeration, they are then placed on a warm bench or in a propagating
frame. They must be inspected at regular
intervals to remove any that have succumbed to botrytis.
Inspect the leaves carefully and look for signs of discolouration.
Any showing signs of yellow blotches must be examined for rust.
Carefully lift the leaf with a pair of tweezers and look underneath.
If orange pustules are present remove and destroy the cutting. I
am presently conducting controlled tests using various fungicides on
fuchsias and other species with promising results. These
will be published later.
the cuttings carefully for signs that they have rooted which is
indicated in two ways. Firstly, the
change in colour of the growing tip, the apical meristem, which
takes on a lighter appearance than the rest of the cutting and secondly,
roots start to appear through the drain holes in bottom of the trays.
If these are not visible, test one or two cuttings by gently taking hold
of the stem and apply light pressure. It they move leave them a
little longer. It is very important indeed not to leave the cuttings too
long in the propagator after they have rooted. This will
induce elongation and lush growth. As soon as
practicable move the rooted cutting to a light airy position.
They will benefit tremendously from a constant circulation of air but
not a cold draft.
elaborate a little further on the benefits and drawbacks of taking
different types of cuttings, the rooting medium has been washed away
from the two cuttings illustrated below to show the development of the
first picture shows a close up of the bottom of a tip cutting where the
wound has healed and calloused over to form the root system.
This is where the rooting hormones are most active.
Appreciate that the distance from the first pair of leaves, just visible
in the picture, to the roots is only 4mm. This is the type of root
system that will form on a tiny tip cutting where only the bottom of the
stem and one pair of leaf axils have been inserted into the rooting
medium. This cutting will develop into a plant
but will take a long time. Compare this cutting
with the one on the right. This was a compact short jointed cutting,
illustrated above, where the lower leaves had been removed. Three
pair of leaf nodes were inserted into the rooting medium.
If you examine this cutting carefully you will clearly see three
distinct sets of roots. A set at each node.
These will ensure this cutting gets away to a good start.
Probably, what is not appreciated at this time is that from each of
these leaf nodes, in addition to providing extra roots, they will also
produce four extra side shoots. These will appear from
below soil level once the cutting has been potted up and becomes
established. These extra side shoots will, in the first
year, quadruple the amount of flowers in comparison to those produced by
the tip cutting on the left. In addition, had it been a three leaf
cutting then it would have sextupled the amount of flowers.
For obvious reasons, this is the type of cutting that provided all
my show plants. The excellent framework these type of
cutting produce make them especially valuable as second and third year
show plants. Whether you exhibit your plants or
not, the extra flowers produced are well worth being selective when
propagating. As a point of interest, I never divulged my
techniques whilst actively engaged in exhibiting.
My competitors could never understand how I was able to produce such
compact floriferous plants. The secret is now out!
on the subject of propagating, I always carry on a test programme,
testing all manner of things, from plant foods, insecticides,
fungicides, to light and its effect on cuttings etc. The testing
of these items will be explained later, but relevant at this time is the
use of rooting aids. All the literature I
read and nearly all the specialist speakers I listened to, advocated the
use of rooting aids which I faithfully used. In an
effort to understand more fully the benefit of using these aids, I
decided to run a test programme to test their effectiveness on fuchsias.
See photo below.
testing composts, soluble feeds, insecticides etc., control samples and
written records must be kept. In addition, I keep a
photographic record, which form the basis of my lecture aids.
I ran a test programme using several rooting aids, Seradix, Baby Bio
Roota, Doff and Boots own. All were tested using cuttings
from the same plant. Each rooting aid, used as directed by the
manufacturer, was tested on sets of three cuttings. Three
using Seradix, three using Doff and so on. All were
rooted together in the same container along with three control samples.
The photo above shows the results. The cutting on the
extreme left was one of the control samples rooted without a root aid.
After repeating this test many times, I found that cuttings rooted
without any chemicals whatsoever were just as successful as those
treated. In addition, I tested these aids on hard wood
cuttings with virtually the same results.
Now, I never use a rooting aid on fuchsias or on any other plant that I
propagate. This is not to say that they are not
effective on other species, just that they are of no benefit to me.
If you use any of these chemicals, achieve success and have confidence
in them, then continue to use them. In testing any
product or method always use control samples and keep records otherwise
your findings have no credence and your efforts wasted.
on the subject of propagation I feel it worth while discussing the
purchase of new fuchsia varieties. Many new
varieties come onto the market each year and enthusiasts like to buy
them, whether as a collector, for show or exhibition. I am
at a loss to know why some nurserymen charge extra for a new variety.
The only possible reason would be the payment of Royalties.
How many actually have to pay this levy is debatable.
However, having bought your new variety, whatever the cost, the
likelihood of losing it within the first few weeks are very high.
It is both annoying and expensive if you have to replace it.
When a new fuchsia or other plant is purchased follow a strict
procedure to safeguard your investment. On arrival pot
it up and leave it for a while to recover. Once established
try to propagate as many cuttings as possible. If the
initial plant fails you will have of stock for the following year.
The photographs below illustrate the sequence to follow.
It is paramount when buying a new variety to ensure that the
growing tip is intact. If it has been removed by the
nurseryman, then reject it. When buying a plant you want the
whole plant including the growing tip. If ordering by
post, insist that the plants are 'unstopped'.
Once the plant has grown sufficiently, illustrated by the first
photograph, remove the top portion. This can now be sub
divided to provide at least three extra cuttings.
Remove the tip leaving the lower pair of leaves intact.
Carefully divide this pair of leaves into two extra cuttings using a
scalpel or sharp blade. Cut down the centre of the stem as
illustrated below. Root all the cuttings as normal.
You should now have four for the price of one. If the
new variety is to your liking you will have ample stock for the
following year, if not, it is just as easy to discard four plants as
moving on to the next stage there is one point I would like to stress
which concerns the quality of your plants for the future.
This will be especially interesting for the show person striving for
success on the show bench. In order to
explain I need to digress slightly. When showing at national
level, my fellow competitors constantly remarked on the size, quality
and flouriferousness of my show plants. I did nothing to
enlighten them. The reason for the quality was very simple,
'constant reselection'. Each year I would take
upwards of maybe 20/30 cuttings of each of my selected show cultivars,
Ting a Ling, Lady Isobel Barnett, Joy Patmore and Heidi Ann and many
others. These would be grown on throughout the year
and the best exhibited. At the end of the season, I
would select only two of each variety to propagate for by next seasons
cuttings. The other plants which did not perform so well,
for whatever reason, would be discarded. I would only
select the best cuttings from these plants for my own stock.
Reselection, repeated year after year, culminated in me having my own
unique specimens of each show cultivar. Each year the
quality improved, making show plants relatively easy to produce.
I'm sure if you look at some of the photographs of my show plants, all
grown in six inch pots, you will appreciate how meticulous reselection
can improve the quality of your plants and indeed your enjoyment.
Initially, it all starts here, the careful selection of cutting
material. Remember this motto. 'Select the best reject the
fourteen to twenty one days, the cuttings in the propagating frame
should be well rooted. This, as you are now aware, is
indicated by the colour change in the growing tip.
The photographs below illustrate this
point, also the lovely sheen on the leaves, which is a sign of good
health. The sight of a batch of cuttings such as
these excites the imagination and whets the appetite.
now time to remove the cuttings from the propagator and place them on a
shelf or bench as near to the light as possible.
If the cuttings have not been covered during propagation then they will
not need acclimatising, but will soon need extra nourishment.
This is provided by potting them up in fresh compost.
For many years I followed advice given by the experts.
Once the cuttings were ready for potting up I diligently followed their
advice, potting the cuttings into 2.5 inches or 6cm pots using
fresh riddled compost. They were then watered in, so simple.
This advice worked fine later in the season, April and May, but during
the earlier months I found that losses to botrytis were running at
nearly 20%. This was unacceptable so I decided to carry out
some controlled testing. During testing the problems quickly
became apparent. Firstly, potting freshly rooted
cuttings into pots was not the answer, the shock was too great.
Once watered, the temperature of the compost within the pot would
fall rapidly to the lowest overnight temperature. It
would remain at this level during daytime even when the greenhouse
temperature increased. Wet cold compost and poor air
circulation is a scenario for botrytis and losses will occur.
Whilst conducting these controls I discovered that not only could I
eliminate losses through botrytis, I could increase the quality of my
plants to such an extent that it would allow me to almost double the
size of the plant and the number of flowers. This allowed me to grow specimen
plants in a pot size smaller than previously. For
example, the size of plant I had previously produced in a six inch pot I
was now able to produce in a five inch pot. The sequence I now
use is as follows:
Once the cuttings
have acclimatised to their growing
environment it is time to start boxing them up as opposed to potting
them individually. The medium
in which the cuttings were rooted will be almost inert.
Leave using small pots until later in the season and use seed
trays, large 36cm X 22cm or small 22cm X 18cm. depending on the number
of cuttings to be boxed up. Prepare
the seed trays by filling them with fresh soil-less potting compost that
is damp but not wet and add a liberal amount of perlite, shap granite or
sharp sand to aid root deflection. It should feel a little
on the gritty side, difficult to compact. There is a very
good reason for this which will be explained a little
later. Into the small seed trays
plant six cuttings, into the large twelve cutting.
Space evenly and gently firm them in.
not water them at this time and depending upon
temperature and humidity, leave them as long as possible before
watering. Watch them carefully and once the
leaves start to lose their lustre it is time to water.
The reason for this delay is important. If
the cuttings are watered immediately the roots will remain quite
happily in the root ball. They will not send roots into the
fresh compost where the nutrients are. On the other hand, if
left as long as possible before watering, the cuttings will quickly send
out roots into the new compost in search of water and will establish
themselves very quickly. The gritty compost
described above helps deflect the roots making them work through the
compost instead of going straight out to the side of the tray.
When required, water only with warm water and never use water that has
been kept in the greenhouse for any length of time. The
temperature will have fallen to the lowest temperature overnight and
will be too low to use on new cutting.
the cuttings are established and showing obvious signs of new growth
pinch out the growing tips to encourage side shoots to
pinching the side shoots at every two pair of leaves.
They must be kept in full light and the boxes turned regularly to ensure
even growth. In this situation, the roots
have an unrestricted root run, the compost will not stay too wet or dry
out compared with cuttings potted into small individual
pots. The compost warms up quickly during the
day and holds its temperature longer encouraging the cuttings to
grow. Avoid low light and high temperature
order to gain the maximum benefit using this method leave the cuttings
in the trays as long as possible. The criteria
for moving the cuttings and potting them up is when they have grown to
a size where they are starting to compete for light. [See photo
This is when they must be potted up otherwise unwanted elongation of the
internodal length will occur spoiling their compact shape. Once you have decide to pot up the
cuttings, ease off on watering to allow the compost to become just damp
to make splitting easier. This is where using a gritty compost comes into its own.
Knock the tray repeatedly to loosen the compost and roots from the side
of the tray then tip them out onto the potting
bench. Split the cuttings and gently shake
off as much compost from the roots as reasonably
compost will now be almost inert, devoid of nutrition and of little use to
the plant. Depending on the size of the root ball which can
be gently trimmed, pot the cutting into a 9cm. pot using an enriched potting
compost. [See composts and Nutrients] Once
potted refrain from watering
immediately. Try to allow at least 24 hours for the compost
to settle and gas then water gently with warm water to settle
this method for growing on cuttings is far superior to potting freshly
rooted cuttings into small pots. For example, if a fresh
cutting were to be potted up into say a 6.5cm. pot it would require
potting up again within a few weeks into a 9cm pot and by the time the
cuttings in the trays are ready to be potted those already in 9cm pots
would be root-bound. This means boxed cuttings, when potted
would, size for size be growing in a pot one size smaller than fresh
cuttings potted up immediately after rooting. The other
advantages have been mention previously.
is an example of freshly potted cuttings grown in
trays. They have already been stopped three times and
grown in light airy conditions. The defoliated
9cm. - 3.5 inch plant shows the type of framework developed using the methods
the chapters on 'Understanding Light' ------ 'Pests and Diseases'.