George WeigelA cutting from a variegated weigela plant… ready to be stuck in potting mix.

Q: I’d like to start a new variegated weigela from a cutting off of a friend’s plant. What’s the best way to take a piece for regrowing? Would the same principle be valid for all deciduous bushes, including lilac?

A: Weigelas are fairly easy to start from cuttings.

The procedure is to snip 4- to 6-inch pieces off the tips of branches, pinch off all but the top set or two of leaves and dip the de-leafed section into a rooting hormone such as Rootone.

Then stick them into a very well drained medium. A 4- to 6-inch-deep flat filled with coarse builder’s sand is as good as anything. Some people use a 50-50 mix of perlite and soilless potting mix. Put the planted cuttings in a shady spot.

From then on, the key is keeping the mix moist enough to encourage rooting. The first 7 to 10 days are most critical. Wetting the mix several times a day isn’t overkill. You won’t rot the cuttings since your mix is so well drained.

Within several weeks, you should feel resistance when you give the cuttings a little tug. That means they’re rooting. You should also begin to see new leaf buds starting to appear from the tips.

At that point, you’ve got baby new plants and can transplant them into individual pots or into a shaded raised bed with good soil. I think it helps to give young shrubs one good growing season in that kind of pampered setting before transplanting them into their permanent location.

I’d take more than one cutting to increase the odds that at least one will root. Also helpful: take your cuttings early in the day and scrape a sliver of bark off the lower part of the cuttings.

The two best times of year to root weigela cuttings are June (softwood cuttings) and late fall (hardwood cuttings).

The process is the same for most shrubs, although some work better from hardwood cuttings than softwood ones. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t get something to root the first time, try again a few weeks later. The maturity of the wood you cut can make a big difference.

Lilacs also propagate easily by digging up rooted “suckers” that are emerging from around the perimeter of a mother plant.

I have a very scrappy weigela shrub which has never been properly pruned. It also lives in the shadow of a large cornus shrub/tree so it has got leggy for light. It’s not a good shape. I’m minded to make this its last year but want to replace with a new shrub of the same variety. I have a couple of hardwood cuttings from it which have rooted and seem to be doing ok, but I’m taking some softwood cuttings, just in case. Early to mid-summer is a good time to be doing this.

Before taking any cuttings I have taken my usual cleanliness precautions, giving the cutting surface, blades, scissors, dibber etc etc a good scrub with kitchen bleach spray. It’s temptng to dive straight in, but 2 minutes spent here will minimise the chance of any cross-contamination that may result in rot or disease in the cuttings. I do this before starting any cuttings activity, and also when switching varieties in the same session.

I trimmed off a few sprigs of this years growth from the shrub and went straight to setting them up.

Freshly trimmed sprig

I first trimmed off the very soft tip, which is too vulnerable to rotting off.

Each stem provided two, sometimes three, cuttings. For each cutting I have made a cut just above a leaf node, then just below the next leaf node. These are nodal cuttings. I also trimmed off the bottom leaves, and any leaf axils left behind, to ensure a clean stem, again to minimise chance of rot during the rooting process.

The first cut is the deepest.

This resulted in a bunch of two-leaved cuttings. In some cases, where the leaves are large, I have removed one of the leaves. This is to reduce moisture loss through the leaves. It’s a balance, as the cutting also needs leaf surface for photosynthesis.

Two nice cuttings.

I set them up in a clean 9cm pot, filled with a cuttings compost of 2 parts grit, 1 part vermiculite. It’s easier to dampen the compost first, otherwise it’s hard to make good holes with the dibber.

I dunked each cutting in water, then into rooting hormone powder. Just the cut end needs the powder, any excess was shaken off.

Just the cut end need the hormone powder.

I crammed them all in to one pot, giving them a spritz with fungicide. I’ve put them in the heated bench as bottom heat should help with rooting, but I will need to water them every couple of days to keep them moist.

Snug. As a bug. In a rug.

I’ll be back in a few weeks with an update on rooting.

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Semi-ripe Cuttings

SERIES 19 | Episode 10

Taking a semi-ripe cutting is a technique worth knowing because it’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to propagate new plants.

These types of cuttings are called semi-ripe because they are taken when the base of the new shoots are starting to turn woody and that is what’s meant by ripening.

Take soft wood cuttings in spring and hard wood cuttings in winter. But semi-ripe cuttings are best taken in mid to late autumn. The plants that best strike from this type of cutting include rosemary, viburnum, camellias and lavenders.

The method:

  • Look for a shoot that’s got some new growth attached to some old growth, and that’s what makes a semi-ripe cutting.
  • The younger or newer season growth is paler and joins lower down the stem where it’s a deeper brown colour. Rip the stem to leave what’s called a heel. (That means mixing the new and some of the old. That’s why it’s called a heel. It looks like the heel of a shoe.)
  • Strip the lower leaves from the stem -where it will go into the propagating mix.
  • Use honey or rooting hormone powder – and just dip the end of the stems into these products to hasten root development.
  • Use a dibber to make a hole and plant the cutting into that – it should go into the propagating mix about 7cm. Use a well drained sandy mix. Plant each one about a finger length apart. Plant 10 cuttings – and you should get about 10 to strike.

The roots grow from the all important heel in about eight weeks and will be ready to plant out in spring. Water them in and use the cut off bottom of a soft drink container over them as a mini glasshouse.

There is a knack to taking semi-ripe cuttings, but it’s fun, and a satisfying way to grow a mass of plants and it means you’ll save a bomb.

How to Take Hebe Cuttings

Hebe is a genus of woody plants, native to New Zealand, that contains 100 species, according to the Hebe Society, and more than 1,000 cultivars. If you are looking for a plant that will attract butterflies to the garden, consider planting hebe. It grows equally as well in containers as in the ground, prefers a somewhat dry soil and is a low-maintenance plant. Take your hebe cutting in the summer.

Prune 3 to 4 inches of the current season’s growth from the hebe. Make the cut just below a node (the area on the stem where a leaf joins it).

Remove the bottom two sets of leaves from the cutting.

Fill a planting pot with sand and moisten it until wet. Allow the water to completely drain from the bottom of the pot. Stick a pencil into the sand to create a planting hole for the hebe cutting.

Dip the cut end of the hebe stem in the rooting hormone and tap the cutting on the side of the jar to remove any excess powder.

Stick the hebe cutting into the sand far enough so that two leaf nodes (area on the stem where the leaves were attached) are buried. Pack the sand around the cutting to ensure good contact.

Place the pot in a well-lit area, out of direct sunlight, and water only when the soil dries. Plant the cutting in the garden the following spring.


Article by David Marks
Hebe are evergreen shrubs and, depending on the variety, grow from 20cm / 8in to 1.2m / 4ft high and roughly the same spread. They originate from New Zealand and Northern America. Use the checklist below to decide if a Hebe is suited to your garden conditions.

Note that hardiness is generally good for Hebes in the UK but some varieties are more hardy than others, this is noted in the section below entitled Varieties of Hebe.

Use the checklist below to decide if a Hebe is the correct plant for you and your garden:

  • They prefer full sun throughout the year but will also grow very well in semi-shade. In very low light conditions the plant will become leggy and may not produce flowers.
  • Grow equally well in open ground and containers.
  • They grow well in soil which is slightly acidic through to slightly alkaline, conditions which will be found in almost UK gardens. They can grow on light and heavy clay soils. They do not grow well in water-logged ground and prefer well-drained soils.
  • When grown in open ground they only require watering in very dry conditions. When grown in containers they will need more frequent watering from May to September.
  • Hebes tolerate neglect well mainly because their nutrient requirements are low and they grow well with minimal pruning.
  • Some produce attractive flowers, many are variegated and all are evergreen.
  • They rarely suffer from pests or diseases unless completely neglected.
  • The shorter varieties tolerate wind well and also grow well in coastal areas having good salt-tolerance.


Hebes are relatively low maintenance shrubs but a small amount of attention will ensure that they perform to the best of their abilities. The following care plan will help them do just that:

  • In March examine the plant for signs of frost damage. Prune away any frost damaged stems back to a healthy bud. This can be done at the same time as the annual prune (see below).
  • If your hebe is a flowering variety, dead head any flowers as they begin to shrivel up, this will extend the flowering period considerably.
  • Hebes in open ground should not be fed nitrogen rich fertilisers, they don’t respond well to that. But they will appreciate a feed in April and July with a handful of blood, fish and bone scattered around them and gently worked into the ground.
  • When grown in open ground hebes should only be watered in very dry periods. Water well if needed but not often.


An annual prune will do your hebes a power of good. It will keep the plant to a reasonable size and, especially with taller varieties, stop stems bending over and crowding the centre. If the annual pruning is neglected, most hebes will eventually become bare at the base with all the foliage at the top of the plant.

  • March is a good time to prune a hebe because new buds will be visible.
  • Never prune back into old dead wood, always prune back so that at least a couple of buds are still present on each stem.
  • With shorter and more compact varieties only prune to maintain a good shape. Removing the top 5cm / 2ins is about right.
  • With taller varieties prune back the top 20cm / 8in or so. Pruning a few stems back further (but always leaving two buds) will open up the centre of the plant and encourage new, colourful growth.


The main need for growing hebes in containers is to water them so that the compost is kept moist but not water-logged. Rainwater collected from a water butt is the best source of water for hebes in containers.

From April to September a feed once every two months with a small handful of blood, fish and bone worked into the surface of the compost. In winter place the plants where they out of the wind and have some frost protection – against the wall of a heated house will do fine or in an unheated greenhouse.

Many varieties of hebe are eminently suitable for growing in containers because the majority not only produce flowers but also have interesting foliage. From our own personal experience we have recommended a few tried and trusted varieties, these can be found at the end of this article here.


Hebes are remarkably healthy plants but they do suffer from a few diseases in particular.


Known officially as Septoria Leaf Spot, this causes small brown marks on the leaves. There is no immediate effect on the plant but if left to its own devices this disease will significantly reduce the vigour of the plant and cause it to grow leggy.

This fungal disease is most noticeable in October to February. In March time when new leaves begin to develop the older affected leaves are shed. In some years the symptoms may appear as early as June.

Treatment consist of applying a general purpose fungicide either in September or as soon as the symptoms are noticed if earlier. Two or three applications at fortnightly intervals are recommended.


The symptoms are irregular brown marks on the tops of the leaves, with a light grey fungal growth on the undersides of the leaves. Lower leaves are more affected compared to leaves higher up the plant. This is caused by the fungus Peronospora grisea. The causes are cold soil, bad air circulation and damp conditions. The only cure is to avoid those conditions. You may need to move your plant to a sunnier position. Eventually the disease will kill your hebe if not attended to.


The symptoms are whole stems which turn brown and die back. If you dig the plant up the roots will be found to have rotted. Growth will slow down completely. Poor soil conditions, bad drainage or cold are the main culprits. There is nor cure other than to improve the soil conditions. Most affected plants are probably best dug up and destroyed. Start again in better soil conditions with a new plant.


Hebes grow best from semi-ripe cuttings. The best time to do this is from July to September. Look for stems which have grown this year where the base of the stem is slightly woody but the top 10cm to 15cm (4in to 6in) is soft and green. The best stems will be at the top of the plant and fully exposed to the sun. Avoid taking cuttings from stems which have flowers on them.

Use a sharp knife to cut off a 10cm / 4in stem just below a leaf node. Trim off lower leaves so that only four or so remain at the top. You can dip the base of the cutting in hormone rooting powder but this is entirely optional, we don’t do this. Fill an 8cm /3in pot with multi-purpose compost and insert the cutting into it so that at least 3cm of the stem is in the compost. It can be inserted further but you don’t want the leaves to touch the compost.

Water the pot from the base, insert a marker with the variety name and date the cutting was taken. Cover the pot with a plastic bag which is kept off the leaves. Keep the cuttings in a light place but not in direct sunlight. The bag should be removed after four weeks at which stage the cuttings will have begun to root. Keep the cutting in the same pot over winter in a light, frost free position such as a greenhouse or against a heated house wall.

In spring the next year, pot the plant up into a larger pot (15cm / 6in) and let it grow on. Keep well watered and fed with blood, fish and bone every couple of months. In early September the hebe can then be planted in its final position outside or into a larger pot.

Other “easy-care” shrubs in this series include Camellia, Magnolia, Mahonia, Choisya, Skimmia, Mock Orange, Lilacs, Potentilla and Rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus). Also see here for the full list of shrubs we have reviewed in detail.


There are many hundreds of different hebes so the list below sticks to those which are easily found online and / or in garden centres and which we believe perform well in most UK gardens. Many are also very suitable for growing in containers.

We have listed them according to three heights, up to 60cm / 2ft (small), between 60cm / 2ft and 1.5m / 4ft 6in (medium) and over 1.5m / 4ft 6in (large). For those interested in an in depth study of hebe flowering, frost resistance and other care aspects for a very comprehensive article by Oregon State University.


Small hebes are suited to growing in rockeries, containers and open ground.

Hebe Red Edge

Raised by County Park Nurseries in New Zealand.

Height and spread 45cm / 18in
Leaf colour Blue green with fine purple margins, especially noticeable in autumn and winter
Flowers? Light mauve flowers which fade to white. Produced in June to July
Growth Habit Bushy and spreading
Frost Hardy? Hardy in most areas of the UK
Containers and rockeries Ideally suited for both.
Awards RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Buy online? Our recommendation for buying Red Edge online would be Crocus.

Hebe Wild Romance

Height and spread 60cm / 2ft
Leaf colour Dark and light green with purple and black top growth. Variegated throughout the year.
Flowers? Purple flowers from July to September
Growth Habit Bushy, rounded and compact
Frost Hardy? Not fully hardy. Will require protection in freezing conditions.
Containers and rockeries Ideally suited for both if they can be protected from hard frosts.
Awards None
Buy online Our recommendation for buying Wild Romance online would be Larch Cottage Nurseries. .


These hebes are suitable for all gardens, including small ones, as well as containers.

Hebe albicans

One of the most widely available varieties and for good reason.
Highly recommended.

Height and spread 1.2m / 4ft
Leaf colour Blue grey, evergreen
Flowers? White flowers in June and July
Growth Habit Forms a dense rounded shape
Frost Hardy? Hardy in most of the UK
Containers and rockeries Good for larger containers
Awards RHS Award of Garden Merit
Buy online? Our recommendation for buying Hebe albicans online would be Crocus. .

Hebe Heartbreaker

Can be reluctant to flower especially on younger plants.

Height and spread 75cm / 2ft 6in
Leaf colour Glossy mid-green turning red in winter, evergreen
Flowers? White flowers in June and July
Growth Habit Compact and dome-shaped
Frost Hardy? Hardy in most of the UK.
Containers and rockeries Ideally suited for containers
Awards None
Buy online? Our recommendation for buying Heartbreaker online would be Crocus. .

Hebe rakaiensis

Best grown in full sun.

Height and spread 1m / 3ft
Leaf colour White and green June to October, spectacular pink and white in November to May
Flowers? White flowers in June and July
Growth Habit Compact and dome-shaped
Frost Hardy? Hardy in most of the UK.
Containers and rockeries Ideally suited for containers
Awards RHS Award of Garden Merit
Buy online? Our recommendation for buying Hebe rakaiensis online would be Crocus. .


These hebes are suitable for most gardens but not containers.

Hebe Midsummer Beauty

Good for larger gardens but not smaller ones.

Height and spread 2m / 6ft
Leaf colour Green on top reddish purple underneath, evergreen
Flowers? Long spikes of lilac flowers which fade to white July to October
Growth Habit Rounded but loose shrub
Frost Hardy? Hardy in most of the UK.
Containers and rockeries No
Awards None
Buy online Our recommendation for buying Midsummer Beauty online would be Mclaren’s Nurseries. .


Below we list the key strengths and weaknesses of Hebes in general.

HARDY (to -7°C)
FLOWER TIME Normally June to July

Many of the pictures on this page are courtesy of the Hebe Society. Many thanks for their permission to use them.

How to grow plants from cuttings

1 of 1 Been given a bunch of gorgeous hydrangeas? Provided their stems are firm and fresh, you can grow free plants.

Growing your own plants for free is a great feeling. You can fill your garden for a fraction of the cost, replenish tired plants and share special ones with friends.


• Take cuttings if you want loads of plants – such as a new buxus hedge – or if you’ve spied a particularly choice perennial or shrub in a friend’s garden. Unlike seed sowing, when taking cuttings you always get an identical plant to the parent.

Roses can be grown from cuttings and it’s easier than grafting.

• There are several types of cuttings: semi-ripe, hardwood, heel, leaf and root.

• For semi-ripe cuttings, use 10-15cm shoots that are neither too weak nor too vigorous – aim for somewhere in the middle of the plant. They should have just a few leaves – cut off anything liable to wilt.

Avoid shoots that have flowered or are in bud. When planting, use a pencil to create a hole, then poke in the cutting – this avoids damaging the exposed cells at the base. Semi-ripe cuttings take 8-12 weeks to root.

• Hardwood cuttings are best for woody plants like hebes, viburnum and buxus. Take cuttings in late autumn/early winter and poke the dormant stems into soil.

• Conifers and evergreen shrubs root better if the wound at the base has a large surface area – such cuttings are known as heel cuttings. Find a short, semi-ripe shoot near a main branch or stem, and gently tear the shoot down and away from the parent, leaving an exposed triangular sliver of older wood on the bottom.

• Leaf cuttings are an easy way to grow many house plants, such as begonias and streptocarpus. Pin flat into a tray

of peat-based mix. Use a knife to cut through every main vein on the underside as new plantlets form only at wounds.

• Root cuttings are a no-fuss option for perennials with fleshy roots, such as acanthus, lilacs, Japanese anemones and verbascums. Cut pieces of root into 4-8cm


• Raising roses from cuttings is much easier than grafting – and with new rose bushes costing up to $25 each, you’ll save a bundle doing it yourself.

• In autumn, select strong, pencil-thick canes that have already flowered. Cut off any buds or hips and any soft, sappy growth at the top.

Take cuttings that are at least three leaf nodes long and trim just above the node at the top and just below the node at the base.

To speed up root formation, dip the base of your cuttings into hormone gel.

• Mix compost and coarse sand to make a gritty cutting mix, and poke the cuttings in. Keep moist.

• Leave rose cuttings undisturbed for 4-6 months, or until you can see roots coming through the base of the tray, then repot and grow on for a year.


• No. You can buy commercial rooting gels and powders, which contain plant hormones to promote root growth, but they’re not essential. For tricky subjects, rooting gels do improve your chances of success, but there are still no guarantees.

• Why not make your own rooting stimulants? Willow water is a time-honoured DIY option, as willows contain high levels of two natural rooting hormones: indolebutyric acid and salicylic acid. Willow water is made from young green or yellow twigs and stems soaked in either boiling water overnight, or cold water for a few days. It can also be used to water your cuttings once potted up.

• Active manuka honey works wonders on difficult cuttings. Make sure it has a UMF of at least 15+.


• Suckers are rooted shoots that can pop up some distance from the parent plants. Suckers can be a nuisance if you don’t want them, but when they’re free raspberries, they’re a sweet bonus! Just dig them up and transplant elsewhere.


• Layering involves pegging down

a branch or shoot horizontally so that it sits in constant contact with the soil. (At its most basic, this is how strawberries reproduce from runners.)

• Take a nick out of the stem to create a small wound before burying it – this encourages root development. All things going well, in a year it will grow roots and the rooted plantlet can be cut off the parent. This is a useful method for many plants that do not root easily from cuttings, such as camellias and rhododendrons.

• Air layering involves partially cutting

a stem below a leaf axis, wrapping it in damp sphagnum moss or peat, and sealing it in plastic. When (or if) roots form, the new plant can be separated, carefully trimmed of excess leaves and potted up until a decent-sized root ball has formed.


• Some plants do all the work for you. After flowering, many bromeliads die – but not before they produce free pups around the base. Just prise these off by hand and replant.

• Epidendrum orchids sprout babies, complete with roots, on their stems.

• Hen and chickens ferns (Asplenium bulbiferum) are child’s play to propagate: just pluck off the tiny ferns that spawn along older leaves and nestle into moist potting mix.


• Many perennials can be readily dug up, chopped or sliced into smaller pieces and replanted in fresh soil. This process is known as division.

• The best times to divide perennials are autumn and early spring. Cut the top growth back by at least half and use a sharp spade to slice through the rootball. Replant in a hole enriched with compost and keep well-watered until you see fresh new growth. Lengths during their dormant season and nestle into moist potting mix.

Make sure you plant them the right way up and be patient – this method can take a few months.

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About Semi-Hardwood Cuttings – Information On Semi-Hardwood Propagation

One of the most rewarding things about gardening is propagating new plants from cuttings you take from a healthy parent plant. For home gardeners, there are three primary types of cuttings: softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood, depending on the growth stage of the plant. Exactly what is a semi-hardwood cutting? Read on to learn the basics of semi-hardwood propagation.

About Semi-Hardwood Cuttings

Semi-hardwood propagation is suitable for an amazing variety of plants, including evergreens and deciduous plants and trees such as:


  • Butterfly bush
  • Holly
  • Arborvitae
  • Jasmine
  • Barberry
  • Camellia
  • English ivy
  • Yew


  • Dogwood
  • Blueberry
  • Honeysuckle
  • Forsythia
  • Rose
  • Quince

Semi-hardwood cuttings generally root easily and don’t require a lot of special knowledge.

When to Take Semi-Hardwood Cuttings

Semi-hardwood cuttings are propagated when the stems are partly, but not fully mature. At this point, the wood is relatively firm but still flexible enough to bend easily and break with a snap. Semi-hardwood cuttings are usually taken between late summer and early fall.

How to Take a Semi-Hardwood Cutting

Take semi-hardwood cuttings from the growing tips of a plant using clean, sharp pruners or a sharp knife. The plant should be healthy with no signs of pests or disease, and should have no flowers or buds.

Cut the stem just below a node, which is the small protrusion where leaves, buds or branches will grow. Cuttings should be unbranched and as straight as possible. Ideal length is about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.).

Strip the leaves from the lower half of the stem, but leave at least two upper leaves intact.

Semi-Hardwood Propagation Tips

Plant semi-hardwood cuttings in a container filled with sterile, unfertilized potting mix or clean, coarse sand. You may want to dip the stem in rooting hormone just prior to inserting the cuttings in the potting mix.

Water enough to settle the potting mix around the stem. Cover the pot with a plastic bag to create a greenhouse-like environment. Place the pot in indirect sunlight. Avoid direct light, which is too harsh and may scorch the cutting.

Water as needed to keep the potting mix lightly moist but not soggy. This is infrequent as long as the pot is covered with plastic. Poke a hole or open the top of the plastic bag if you notice moisture dripping down the inside. Too much moisture will rot the cutting.

Cuttings may root in a few weeks or several months, depending on the plant. Remove the plastic and move the cuttings to individual containers when the roots are ½ inch to 1 inch long (1.5 to 2.5 cm.). At this point, you can feed the young plant, using a diluted water-soluble fertilizer.

Move the plant outdoors when it is mature enough to tolerate outdoor heat and cold – usually a couple of growing seasons.

Propagate Trees and Shrubs with Semi-Hardwood Cuttings

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Expand your collection of trees and shrubs with semi-hardwood cuttings.

Take cuttings when the new growth has started to harden and turn brown. Use sharp pruners to cut 4 to 6 inch pieces from the stem. Remove flowers, seedpods, the lowest leaves and about an inch of bark from the bottom of one side of the cutting.

Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone for woody plants. Place the cuttings in a container filled with a mix of coarse sand and peat moss or a similar mixture. Space the cuttings so the leaves do not touch. Water thoroughly and cover with plastic to conserve moisture. Place in a shaded location.

Roots should begin forming in several weeks. Gently tug on the cutting. If it resists, roots have started to form. Now remove the plastic bag, separate the cuttings and repot into their own individual containers.

Harden off rooted cuttings and plant in the garden at the end of the season or next spring.

A bit more information: Abelia, Artemisia, Camellia, Caryopteris, Deutzia, Viburnum, and Weigela are a few of the shrubs that can be propagated this way. You may choose to leave the rooted cuttings in the container for the first winter or summer after propagating. Those gardening in cold climates will need to provide winter insulation. Simply sink the pot in the ground or move it to an unheated garage. Water whenever the soil is thawed and dry.

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