There are many simple techniques to propagate all types of garden plants, from perennials, shrubs, and climbers to fruit trees. You don’t need specialist equipment; divisions, layers, and some cuttings can be left to root in the ground with little additional help, although a cold frame is useful for some plants.
This easy method can be used to propagate most herbaceous perennials, and to rejuvenate large, tired clumps that are no longer flowering well. You can also divide newly bought perennials, providing they are large enough, to make the most of your purchases.
Plants to divide:
Dig up plant
In early spring, select a healthy clump of plants and water them well. Cut back any top growth to the ground. Using a fork, lift the clump, taking care to keep the whole root ball intact.
Divide with forks
Cut solid crowns into portions with a spade or old bread knife. If you can’t pry other pieces apart by hand, use two forks back-to-back to split the clump into smaller sections, ready for replanting.
Discard dead central portions of overgrown clumps. Replant healthy hand-sized pieces with strong buds in soil improved with well-rotted organic matter, such as manure. Water in well.
Layering shrubs and climbers
The stems of climbers and shrubs sometimes root when they touch the soil, and you can harness this tendency to make new plants. This is useful for shrubs, such as rhododendrons that can be difficult to propagate in other ways.
Make a slanting cut
In spring, from the base of the plant select a flexible stem that bends to the ground. Remove side stems and make a shallow slanting cut on the underside, 12 in (30 cm) from the tip. Dip the cut in hormone rooting powder.
Peg down stem into soil
Use wire staples, or a large stone, to firmly anchor the wounded section of stem just below the soil surface. To aid rooting in poorer soils, pin the stem into a shallow depression filled with moist potting soil.
Plants to layer:
Other layering techniques
Basic layering works for a wide range of shrubs, and by varying the technique, you can also use it to propagate woody climbers and fruit bushes.
Ivy and honeysuckle
Climbers, such as ivy (Hedera), and honeysuckle, Lonicera, often root where their stems are in contact with the soil. Either pin stems down yourself in autumn or spring, or check your plants for any stems that have rooted naturally. Use a hand fork to lift any stems with roots, and cut them between each rooted section to make new plants, which you can then grow on.
In summer, propagate blackberries and their hybrids by burying the tip of a healthy, young stem in a hole 4 in (10 cm) deep. In a few weeks a new shoot will appear; transplant it the following spring.