Anyone with a green thumb will tell you that propagation is key to a successful garden. By propagating your plants, you can create new ones to share or to use in your own garden.
Today we’re going to show you how to propagate Penstemons by taking cuttings. This is actually a really easy process, and in this article, we’ll walk you through the steps.
So, keep reading for all the information you need about taking Penstemon cuttings!
When is the Best Time to Take Penstemon Cuttings?
The best time to take Penstemon cuttings is in late spring or early summer when the plant’s new growth is strong and the wood is still soft. If taken early enough, vigorous varieties can go outdoors before summer ends.
However, if you wait until late summer to take the cuttings, the wood will be semi-hard, and you will likely have to keep them inside for winter as they will not have developed a strong enough root system to survive the cold temperatures.
Why Take Penstemon Cuttings?
There are a few reasons to take Penstemon cuttings, but the most common for the majority of us is to propagate more plants.
By taking cuttings, you can create new plants that are identical to the parent plant. This is a great way to share plants with friends and family or even start your own little Penstemon garden.
Another reason to take Penstemon cuttings is for propagation research. Cuttings provide a convenient way to study the rootstock and how it influences the growth and characteristics of the new plant. This information can be used to develop better Penstemon varieties in the future.
Finally, cuttings can also be used for conservation purposes. If a particular plant species is in danger of becoming extinct, cuttings can be taken from the plant and cultivated in a controlled environment.
This ensures that the species will not become extinct and can be conserved for future generations.
Is it Easy to Grow Penstemon from Cuttings?
Penstemons do grow well from cuttings, as long as you take care to choose healthy, disease-free plants to take the cuttings from and provide them with the correct environment and conditions for them to root.
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.
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 kicking about 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
Step 1 – Prepare Your Tools
Before you start taking any cuttings, it is important to make sure that you have the right tools for the job. Secateurs, scissors, and knives can all be used for taking cuttings, but you must ensure that they are clean and sharp.
This is to prevent the spread of disease and to ensure you make a clean cut, therefore not causing too much damage to the parent plant.
It is also a good idea to put on your gardening gloves, I would always recommend this for all plants to prevent the sap from causing any irritation to the skin.
Once you have your tools ready and your gloves on, you can move on to step two.
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
I prefer to use 10-inch pots but it is up to you which size you use, just ensure that it is big enough for the plant to start a new root system.
Once, you have your pot in hand, you’ll need to choose a potting mix. A potting mix is a lightweight growing medium that is typically made up of peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite.
These materials are well-aerated and provide good drainage, which is vital for rooting new cuttings. Once you’ve chosen your potting mix, fill your container and moisten the mix.
Now make a small hole in the moistened mix ready for when you insert the stem.
Step 3 – Choose the Healthiest Looking Penstemon
When choosing a plant to take a cutting from, it is always best to choose the healthiest looking plant. This is done to not only increase your chances of success, but it is also likely that a healthy parent plant will be able to recover from the cutting.
If you are taking the cutting to propagate a new plant because the older one is looking beaten, choose the healthiest looking new growth where possible.
Step 4 – Cut the Stem
The ideal stem for taking a cutting should be 6-8 inches long, from this year’s growth and have several healthy leaves.
Using your freshly cleaned cuttings knife, make a clean cut just below the lowest leaf node at a 45° angle.
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
Once you have cut the stem to the desired length, it is time to remove the lower leaves. You want to leave only 2 or 3 pairs of leaves on the stem, as these will be used to create the new plant.
It is essential that these remaining leaves are healthy, as they will play a vital role in the new plant’s development. To remove the lower leaves, simply grasp them near the base of the stem and pull gently until they come free.
With the lower leaves removed, your plant is now ready for Step 6.
Step 6 – Dip in Rooting Hormone
To use rooting hormone powder, simply moisten the end of the cutting that will be planted and dip it into the powder.
The rooting hormone helps to encourage root growth and can also help to promote faster growth. By dipping the cutting in rooting hormone, you are giving it a head start in the propagation process.
Although rooting hormones are not always necessary, without them, the cutting may take longer to develop roots and they may not grow as vigorously.
Step 7 – Plant Your Cutting
To plant your cutting, insert the stem into the hole you made earlier. If the hole you made is too small, just make it a little bigger so that the rooting hormone stays on the end of the cutting where the incision was made.
Once you have inserted the cutting into the hole, gently firm the mix around the stem to secure it in place.
Step 8 – Cover Your Cutting
One of the most crucial steps in taking cuttings is to make sure that they don’t dry out. Even a brief period of drought can cause the cutting to wilt and die.
One way to ensure that your cuttings stay properly hydrated is to cover them with polythene or plastic. This helps to create a mini-greenhouse effect, trapping moisture in the potting medium and preventing the cutting from drying out.
Check on your cuttings regularly, as too much humidity can lead to fungal growth.
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
Now that you have your cuttings, it’s time to find them a new home. Place them on a warm and bright windowsill, out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn and that will reduce the chances of your cutting’s survival.
Instead, the bright, indirect sunlight will help them thrive. The warmth will also help to encourage root growth.
Step 10 – Water
Watering your plants is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your plants have the moisture they need to stay healthy and grow.
Too much or too little water can have a detrimental effect on your plants, so it’s imperative you find the perfect balance.
The best way to water your plants is to check the potting medium. It should feel damp like a wrung-out sponge. If it feels dry, give your plants a good drink. If it feels wet, then wait until it dries out a bit before watering again.
Step 11 – Monitor and Be Patient
As any gardener knows, taking cuttings is a great way to propagate new plants. However, it is important to monitor the cuttings and be patient.
New roots can sometimes begin to grow almost immediately, and you may see growth in as little as 2 weeks. On other occasions, this may take up to 4-6 weeks. The key is to keep the cuttings moist and in a warm, humid environment.
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.
Do You Need Rooting Hormone for Penstemon Cuttings?
It is worth noting that while root hormones are not an essential part of this process, it is well documented that Penstemon cuttings have a much better chance of survival when using them.
Rooting hormones typically come in the form of powders or liquids and are designed to encourage the roots to develop more quickly.
In addition to this, using root hormones will create stronger, more durable roots so that when you plant your cuttings, they will have a greater chance of thriving.
When Can I Plant My Penstemon Cuttings Outside?
One of the most important things to consider when planting Penstemon cuttings is timing. If you take your cuttings early enough in the season, you may be able to get them outside by the middle of summer.
This will give your Penstemon a good chance of establishing a strong enough root system to survive the winter.
If you take the cuttings later in the summer, you will have to keep them inside over winter. Then I would advise you to harden them off for a few weeks in an unheated greenhouse following the last frost.
Then, once they are acclimatised to the outdoors, you can plant them in the ground.
Can Penstemon Cuttings be Propagated in Water?
Yes, Penstemon cuttings can be propagated in water. Instead of using a potting medium, use water to propagate the cuttings. This can be especially fun for kids, who will enjoy watching the cuttings grow roots and stem underwater.
To propagate Penstemon Cuttings in water, fill a glass or jar with water and place the cutting in it so that the cut end is submerged in water.
Put a plastic bag over the top of the glass or jar to create a mini-greenhouse and secure it with a rubber band.
Once the cutting has begun to develop a root system, it can then be planted into your potting medium.
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.
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.