New Plants for Free

New Plants for Free

Would you like some free plants?  If you’ve got a gloriously healthy evergreen shrub or a magnificent tree growing in your garden, then why not take semi-ripe cuttings to increase your stock and share the joy of these beautiful plants with your neighbours, friends, and family?

Ivy looks good all through the year and will grow almost anywhere, except for wet or waterlogged ground.

Ivy (also known by its botanical name of Hedera)

Ivies flower during September, October, and November. The flowers are an important food source for bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects.

Many plants can be propagated using semi-ripe cuttings, including ivy (Hedera).  I’m highlighting ivy, as it’s an incredibly versatile and valuable plant that’s beneficial for insects, birds, and wildlife.  Indoors, ivy makes a lovely houseplant; while garden plants look splendid throughout the year.  Ivies make marvellous foliage plants to decorate your home at Christmas or to use in flower arranging; they’re enchanting plants to have around!

Ivies are hardy plants, but ivy doesn’t have to be grown outside – ivies can be grown as houseplants.
Variegated ivies brighten up dull areas of the garden.
Hedera hibernica ‘Deltoidea’. is a slow growing climber with heart shaped leaves. If left unpruned, this ivy could eventually grow up to 3m (9.8ft) tall, spreading 1m (3.2ft) wide.
Some ivies produce leaves with attractive veining.

Growing conditions

Ivy is quite a rarity: a plant that thrives beneath trees, in the darkened depths of the garden; yet is also content growing in dazzling sunshine.  Plants grow as climbers, clothing walls and fences, attaching themselves with adventitious roots, meaning there’s no need to tie plants in.  (It’s wise to check things haven’t got out of hand: prune by early February at the latest, before birds start nesting.)  Ivy can be trained to form topiary shapes; used as evergreen hedging or effective ground-cover.

Crocus tommasinianus and Hedera helix create a natural carpet in this spring garden.
Fibrex Nurseries’ beautiful exhibit of ferns and ivies, at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Continually wet, waterlogged soils won’t appeal to ivies, this is one of the only situations where ivy won’t thrive.  However, ivy grows in inhospitable conditions where many plants fail, like fairly dry soils in deep shade and polluted areas, by busy roads.

Ivy changes as it ages

Mature ivies produce upright shrubby growth without any clinging tendrils. At this stage of their lives, ivies form curvaceous evergreen shrubs that produce flowers and fruit that truly benefit bees, butterflies, hoverflies, birds, and wildlife.

Young ivies grow as climbers, but as plants mature, they transform, becoming shrubby plants with upright, non-clinging growth.  If you want ivy to become shrubby, the trick is not to prune, so as to avoid stimulating your plant to produce juvenile growth.  Mature ivies flower in late summer and autumn.  Ivy flowers are a valuable food source that sustains bees and butterflies; the berries that follow provide a veritable feast for birds, in wintertime.

By late autumn and winter, ivy flowers have been pollinated and the flowers become berries. Ivy berries are an important food source for birds over winter.

Take care – ivy is an irritant

Ivy can be an irritant, so it’s advisable to wear gloves and a long-sleeved top, whilst handling this plant.  Rummaging about with ivy releases ivy hairs and dust into the air, these effects are worsened in dry weather.

If your ivy isn’t flowering yet, it may be that you have a young plant that hasn’t reached maturity.

When is the best time to take cuttings?

Mornings provide the optimum time to take cuttings; plants take up water early in the day so their stems will be turgid at this time.  Ensure your plants have all the moisture they need, by giving them a good drink the afternoon or evening before you take your cuttings.

Tools for taking cuttings

Choose a pot with a hole at the base that allows water to escape out the bottom.  I use a peat-free, gritty compost for cuttings; you could also use home-made compost or garden soil.  When taking cuttings, use sharp, clean tools; secateurs or scissors are ideal but you could use a knife, if you prefer.

When taking cuttings, bring a plastic bag and a bottle of water with you; pop the cutting straight into your bag and splash a little water over to prevent your cuttings drying out.  Keep your bag of cuttings in a cool shaded area, but don’t delay, pot up your cuttings asap!

Propagate your healthiest plants

Be selective in the plant material you use for propagation.  Ignore lacklustre or flagging plants that aren’t in their prime.  Be choosy; look for strong, healthy plants that are free from pests and disease.

How to take semi-ripe cuttings

Buddleja roots easily from cuttings. Here’s how to propagate Buddleja and other shrubs and trees using semi-ripe cuttings.

Semi-ripe cuttings have young, soft growth at their tip and a section of older, ripened stem at their base.  The cutting is firmer here, as the stem has started to toughen as it matures.  To take a semi-ripe cutting: select healthy growth and cut a 10-20cm (4-8”) length of stem.  Make your cut just above a leaf, so your plant won’t be left with a bare stem tip sticking up.

Trim your cutting just below a leaf; as this is where your new plant’s roots will grow from.
Carefully remove the lower leaves from your cutting, as this part of the stem will be covered by compost. Leave your cutting with a minimum of two leaves – if your plant has large leaves these can be can in half to reduce water loss.

To prepare your cutting: trim the stem directly below a leaf (this might mean you only cut a tiny snippet from your stem).  Gently remove the lower leaves, leaving at least two leaves at the tip (cut large leaves in half to prevent water loss).  It’s important to protect the tip of your cutting, as this is where your cutting’s roots will grow from.  Take a pencil or plant label and push it into the compost at the edge of your pot, then insert your cutting into the opening you’ve made.  One pot can hold many cuttings; there’s room to insert a ring of cuttings around the circumference of your container.

Place your potted cuttings in a sheltered spot, away from harsh, direct light and extreme temperatures.  It’s not essential, but you can pop your cuttings in a propagator if you have one.  Alternatively, insert three sticks into your pot and pop a see-through bag over the top to maintain the humidity levels around your cuttings and create beneficial growing conditions.

This is a Buddleja plant that I’ve grown from a cutting I took in July 2019.

It goes without saying, but never take cuttings without gaining permission first.  Most folks will be happy to oblige you with a cutting; however, they may prefer to prune their plants themselves and give you the plant material.

These Buddleja plants were grown from cuttings I took in July 2019.

Plants for sunshine

If you’re gardening in a bright sunny area, consider propagating lavenders and herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage, using semi-ripe cuttings.  These plants add a Mediterranean feel to the garden; they thrive in sandy and free-draining soils and love to be warmed by the sunshine.

Lavenders produce beautifully fragrant flowers that attract bees and butterflies.

More plants to propagate in July

Camellia japonica ‘Commander Mulroy’.

Why not grow your own holly tree or conifer?  Evergreen shrubs, like Viburnum, Hebe, Ceanothus, and Camellia can all be propagated using this simple method.


For more gardening advice for July, please click here.

This article was first published in the July 2020 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

Other articles that may interest you……….

To see lots of articles with gardening advice for July, please click here.

For tips on plants to grow for bees and butterflies, please click here.

For tips on growing vegetables, please click here.

For tips on growing fruit, please click here.

To discover Jonathan Hogarth’s tips to care for Hostas in summer and autumn, please click here.

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