October 1996 - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

October 1996

Q: I hear about taking cuttings from different plants, but it has not worked for me. Please give us amateurs some pointers on when to take them and what type of soil or other medium to use. Do we keep them indoors or outdoors? – W.J. Harber, Ossian, Ind.

A: This is a great time of year to take cuttings of tender plants so you can enjoy them again next growing season without having to purchase them anew. There are different kinds of cuttings, but let’s concentrate on stem cuttings since they are a common method of propagation.

Softwood cuttings work well on many plants, including coleus, geraniums, wax begonias and even woody plants, if cuttings are taken from new spring growth. For softwood cuttings, cut 4- to 6-inch pieces of soft, new growth just below a node (where the leaves join the stem). This node is the place where new roots will form. You can use a rooting hormone, available at most garden-supply stores, to promote faster rooting. Remove the lowest leaves, dip the cut end into the powder, and “stick” the cuttings in your rooting medium. A mixture of sand and peat moss or perlite and peat moss (1:1 by volume) often is used. Rooting cuttings in water allows you to see the results, but the roots are brittle and transplanting is not as successful, so stick with the media mentioned above.

Cuttings can be rooted in milk cartons, flower pots, flats or other containers; just make sure they have drainage holes. After inserting the cuttings, cover the container with a polyethylene bag to conserve moisture. Keep them in a warm spot, out of direct sun, and don’t overwater.

Hardwood cuttings are treated in the same way, but the cuttings are taken after the foliage has fallen. They are a bit trickier than softwood cuttings. For complete instructions, contact your county office of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service and ask for HO-37, “New Plants From Cuttings.”

Q: I have some white grapes that fill out, then turn brown or rot. What causes this, and what can be done to prevent it? My mother’s concord grapes do the same thing. – Carol A. Wilson, Batesville, Ind.

A: Black rot is caused by a fungus and often destroys all of the fruit. Some cultivars are less susceptible than others. ‘Concord’ is moderately susceptible. The fungus overwinters in canes, tendrils and mummified fruit, so practice good garden sanitation this fall by removing all plant debris. Normally, some pesticide use is necessary to produce good quality fruit. Spray with a multipurpose fruit spray early in the season when shoots are 6 to 10 inches long. Spray again just before and after bloom and continue every 10 to 14 days until the grapes are full size.

Q: What must I do when planting peach seeds and black cherry seeds (not bing cherries) so they will grow into trees? We have tried most everything with no success. – Anita Grumpp, Peru, Ind.

A: Many trees can be grown from seed, but you may be surprised by the results. Many fruit trees must be propagated by cuttings, grafting, or other vegetative methods that provide exact duplicates of the mother plants. Reproduction by seed can be variable, and some desirable characteristics may be lost.

Seeds require stratification (moist chilling) to germinate. Place the seeds in a moist medium, such as peat moss, vermiculite or sand, and place in the refrigerator for three to four months. Then sow the seeds in pots, flats or other suitable containers with a loose, well-drained medium, such as a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite. Keep the trays moist in a warm, dimly lit location.

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