Successful gardening relies heavily on propagation, as any skilled gardener knows. Propagation enables you to produce new plants for sharing or for your own garden. In this article, we will guide you through the process of propagating Penstemons through cuttings. This process is simple, and we will provide you with all the necessary steps to accomplish it. Continue reading for a comprehensive guide on taking Penstemon cuttings.

Pink Penstemon bell-shaped flowers
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When is the Best Time to Take Penstemon Cuttings?

The best time to take Penstemon cuttings is during the plant’s active growth period, which typically occurs in the spring or early summer. This is when the plant is putting most of its energy into producing new growth and is therefore better equipped to handle the stress of having cuttings taken. It’s important to note that taking cuttings during extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, should be avoided. This is because extreme temperatures can shock the plant and make it more difficult for the cuttings to root and survive. Therefore, it’s best to wait until temperatures have stabilized in the early to mid-spring, or early summer.

When taking Penstemon cuttings, it’s also important to make sure that the plant is healthy and free of disease. If the plant is struggling or has any signs of disease, it may not be able to handle the stress of having cuttings taken, and the cuttings may be less likely to root successfully.

Fresh Penstemon Cutting
Fresh Penstemon Cutting

Why Take Penstemon Cuttings?

There are several reasons why taking Penstemon cuttings is a popular practice among gardeners. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Propagation: Taking cuttings is a simple and cost-effective way to propagate new Penstemon plants from an existing specimen. By creating new plants, you can expand your garden or share them with fellow gardeners.
  • Pruning: Taking cuttings can also be a form of pruning. By removing excess growth, you can shape your plant and encourage bushier growth, which can result in a fuller, more attractive plant.
  • Plant Rejuvenation: Older Penstemon plants can sometimes become woody and less productive over time. Taking cuttings from a healthy part of the plant and starting new ones can help rejuvenate the plant and extend its lifespan.
  • Disease control: If your Penstemon plant is infected with a disease, taking cuttings can be a way to salvage healthy parts of the plant and start anew. This can help prevent the spread of disease and ensure that you have a healthy, disease-free plant.

Is it Easy to Grow Penstemon from Cuttings?

Yes, growing Penstemon from cuttings is generally considered to be a relatively easy process. Penstemons are known to be hardy and adaptable plants, and they have a good success rate when it comes to rooting from cuttings. Another thing to note is that if you take the cuttings too late in the season when the wood has hardened, this can be more difficult for the cutting to take root – but not impossible by any stretch.

If you are worried that your Penstemon cuttings are not going to propagate successfully, you can take multiple cuttings to increase your chance of success.

Freshly Rooted Penstemon Cutting
Freshly Rooted Penstemon Cutting

How to Take Penstemon Cuttings?

The job of taking Penstemon cuttings is not too difficult but there are a few things that you will need to consider in order to ensure the best chance of success. There are also a few things that you will need that you may already have in your shed.

What You Need

  • Sharp tool for cutting (knife, secateurs etc.)
  • Rooting hormone (Amazon link – opens in a new tab)
  • Polythene bag
  • Bright windowsill
  • Potting mix
  • 10-inch pots
  • Gloves

Step 1 – Prepare Your Tools

Before starting the process of taking cuttings, ensure you have the right tools on hand. Whether you choose scissors, secateurs, or knives, they should be sharp and sterilized to prevent disease transmission and ensure a clean cut that doesn’t harm the mother plant. Wearing gardening gloves is advisable when working with plants, especially to protect your skin from potential irritants or allergens in the sap. With your equipment prepared, you’re set to proceed to the next step.

Tip: I have a knife that I use specifically for taking cuttings only, this ensures that it stays sharper for longer and it just needs a quick clean before use each time.

Step 2 – Prepare Your Pots and Potting Mix

Choose a container that fits both the size of your plant and the number of cuttings you intend to root.

  • A 10-inch pot works well for most plants, but ensure it’s spacious enough for the plant’s roots.
  • Focus on the potting medium. Opt for a potting mix, which is a blend of peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. This mix ensures proper drainage, crucial for the successful rooting of cuttings. Wet the mix slightly before use.
  • Make a small hole in the moistened potting mix, which will be used to hold the stem in place. With your container and growing medium prepared, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step 3 – Choose the Healthiest Looking Penstemon

When selecting a plant to take a cutting from, it’s important to choose a healthy Penstemon plant. This will increase your chances of success, and a healthy parent plant is more likely to recover from the cutting. If you’re taking the cutting to propagate a new plant because the older one looks unhealthy or damaged, choose the healthiest-looking new growth where possible. This will give you the best chance of producing a healthy new plant.

Step 4 – Cut the Stem

To take a cutting, you should look for a stem that is 6-8 inches long, comes from this year’s growth, and has several healthy leaves. Using a clean cutting tool such as scissors or a knife, make a clean cut just below the lowest leaf node. It’s best to make the cut at a 45-degree angle to maximize the surface area for rooting. Be sure to avoid damaging the stem or leaves when taking the cutting, as this can impact the success of rooting. Once you have taken the cutting, remove any leaves from the lower part of the stem that will be buried in the potting mix. This will help prevent the leaves from rotting and keep the focus on root development.

Note: Cutting at a 45° angle reduces the possibility of water build-up on the parent plant that can ultimately cause rotting.

Step 5 – Remove the Lowest Leaves

After cutting the stem to the desired length, it’s important to remove the lower leaves. You should leave only 2 or 3 pairs of healthy leaves on the stem as they will help create the new plant. Ensure that these remaining leaves are healthy because they play a vital role in the new plant’s development. To remove the lower leaves, gently grasp them near the base of the stem and pull them off.

Once you have removed the lower leaves, your plant is now ready for the next step, which is Step 6.

Step 6 – Dip in Rooting Hormone

To use rooting hormone powder, you should first moisten the end of the cutting that will be planted and then dip it into the powder. The rooting hormone helps to stimulate root growth and can also promote faster overall growth. While rooting hormone is not always necessary, using it can provide a head start in the propagation process. Without rooting hormone, the cutting may take longer to develop roots, and the overall growth may not be as vigorous.

When using rooting hormone, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific product you are using. It’s important to use the correct amount and apply it to the right area of the cutting to avoid any negative effects.

Step 7 – Plant Your Cutting

To plant your cutting, carefully insert the stem into the hole you made earlier. If the hole is too small, gently widen it so that the rooting hormone stays on the end of the cutting where the incision was made. After inserting the cutting, gently firm the potting mix around the stem to secure it in place. The cutting should be planted deep enough so that at least one pair of leaves is above the surface of the potting mix.

Step 8 – Cover Your Cutting

One of the critical steps in taking cuttings is to keep them well hydrated, as even a brief period of drought can cause the cutting to wilt and die. To ensure that your cuttings stay properly hydrated, you can cover them with polythene or plastic to create a mini-greenhouse effect. This will help to trap moisture in the potting mix and prevent the cutting from drying out. However, it’s important to check on your cuttings regularly as too much humidity can lead to fungal growth. If you notice any signs of fungal growth or the potting mix appears overly wet, remove the covering and allow the cutting to dry out for a short period. In addition to keeping the cuttings properly hydrated, it’s also important to monitor their growth and check for any signs of disease or damage.

Note: Plastic grocery bags will usually have holes in but if you are using a sandwich bag or something similar, it is best to poke one or 2 small air holes for ventilation.

Step 9 – Place on a Bright Windowsill

After taking your cuttings, it’s time to find them a suitable location to root and grow. Place them on a warm and bright windowsill, away from direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn, which can reduce the chances of your cutting’s survival. Instead, bright, indirect sunlight will help the cuttings thrive. The warmth from the windowsill will also help to encourage root growth. Be sure to keep the potting mix moist, but not overly wet, and check on your cuttings regularly. You should start to see signs of root development within a few weeks, at which point you can begin to gradually acclimate the new plants to brighter light and outdoor conditions.

Step 10 – Water

Watering your Penstemon plants is crucial for their health and growth. However, too much or too little water can harm your plants, so it’s essential to maintain the perfect balance. The best way to water your plants is to check the potting mix regularly. It should feel damp, like a wrung-out sponge. If it feels dry, give your plants a good drink of water. If it feels wet, then wait until it dries out a bit before watering again.

It’s important to avoid over-watering your Penstemon plants, as this can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. As a general rule, it’s better to underwater than overwater your plants. In addition to checking the potting mix, pay attention to your plants’ leaves. If they appear wilted or yellow, this may be a sign that your plants need more water.

Step 11 – Monitor and Be Patient

As an avid gardener, you’re likely aware that taking cuttings is an excellent way to propagate new plants. However, it’s crucial to monitor the cuttings and be patient throughout the process. While new roots can sometimes begin to grow almost immediately, it’s not uncommon for growth to take 2-6 weeks, depending on the plant and environmental factors. To maximize your success, it’s important to keep the cuttings moist and in a warm, humid environment. Continue to monitor the cuttings regularly for any signs of growth or disease, and adjust the watering and environmental conditions as needed.

Note: Any dead or dying cuttings should be removed immediately and when you start to see new growth after a few weeks, the polythene bag can be removed.

Growing Penstemon Cuttings
Growing Penstemon Cuttings

Do You Need Rooting Hormone for Penstemon Cuttings?

While rooting hormones are not mandatory for Penstemon cuttings, it’s widely acknowledged that they can increase the chances of survival. Rooting hormones are available in powder or liquid form and help to stimulate root growth, resulting in quicker development. Furthermore, the use of rooting hormones can lead to stronger and more resilient roots, which improves the cuttings’ chances of thriving once they are planted.

When Can I Plant My Penstemon Cuttings Outside?

The timing of planting Penstemon cuttings is essential for their survival. If you take your cuttings early enough in the season, you may be able to plant them outside by mid-summer. This will give your Penstemon plants enough time to establish a strong root system before winter arrives. However, if you take the cuttings later in the summer, it’s best to keep them indoors over winter. It’s recommended to harden them off for a few weeks in an unheated greenhouse following the last frost. Once they are acclimatized to outdoor conditions, you can plant them in the ground. It’s important to avoid planting your Penstemon cuttings outside too early, as this can lead to damage from frost or other environmental factors.

Can Penstemon Cuttings be Propagated in Water?

Yes, Penstemon cuttings can be propagated in water, which can be an exciting project for kids or anyone interested in watching the rooting process. To propagate Penstemon cuttings in water, fill a glass or jar with water and submerge the cut end of the cutting into the water. Cover the top of the glass or jar with a plastic bag to create a mini-greenhouse effect and secure it with a rubber band. It’s important to monitor the water level regularly and change it if it becomes cloudy or starts to look too dirty. Once the cutting has developed a healthy root system, it can then be planted into a potting medium for continued growth.

It’s worth noting that while water propagation is possible, it’s generally recommended to use a potting medium for better success rates and overall plant health.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, propagating Penstemon cuttings is a great low-cost way to create new plants. The process is simple and can be done by just about everyone and by following the simple steps above, you can easily create new plants that will thrive in your garden.

Tips for taking Penstemon cuttings infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“If you can, take multiple cuttings from multiple plants to increase chances of success!”

“If you want to involve the kids, pop your cuttings in water so you can see the roots as they grow!”

“Remember not to leave the cutting in direct sunlight as this can cause the leaves to burn and the cutting will be unlikely to survive!”

“When covering, ensure that your cuttings are not touching the plastic. Being in contact with the plastic when wet can lead to rotting and other problems!”

Frequently Asked Questions

What potting mix do I need for Penstemon cuttings?

Like with many plants, Penstemon cuttings do best in a slightly acidic potting mix (6.0 to 6.5 pH). You can make your own potting mix or purchase a pre-made mix from a garden centre.

Can Penstemons be grown from cuttings?

Yes, Penstemons can be grown from cuttings. Cuttings should be taken from healthy, young plants in late spring or early summer.

Can you take cuttings from Penstemons?

Yes, you can take cuttings from Penstemons. This variety of flowers is very easy to propagate from cuttings, and in fact, taking cuttings is my favourite way to create new plants.

When should you take penstemon cuttings?

The best time to take Penstemon cuttings is in late spring to early summer when the plant is in its active growth phase.

How long do penstemon cuttings take to root?

Penstemon cuttings can take between 2 to 6 weeks to root, depending on the environmental conditions and the health of the cutting.

Where do penstemon cuttings go overwinter?

Penstemon cuttings taken later in the season should be kept indoors in a cool, dark place over winter until they can be planted outside the following spring.

How do I take a cutting from a penstemon plant?

To take a cutting from a Penstemon plant, choose a healthy stem and cut it to about 6-8 inches in length. Remove the lower leaves, leaving only 2-3 pairs of healthy leaves. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone powder and plant it in a potting medium.

Can I take penstemon cuttings in September?

You can take Penstemon cuttings in September, but it’s best to do it earlier in the season to give the plant a chance to establish roots before winter arrives.

What do you do with penstemon in the winter?

In colder climates, Penstemon plants should be cut back in the fall and covered with a thick layer of mulch to protect them from freezing temperatures. Alternatively, they can be dug up and overwintered indoors in a cool, dark place.


Author

Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.


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