When we find a plant that grows and produces well in our gardens, it is natural to want more of that plant. The first impulse may be to head out to the local garden center to buy another plant. However, many plants can be propagated and multiplied right in our own gardens, saving us money and producing an exact replica of that favored plant.
Dividing plants is a common method of plant propagation that most gardeners are familiar with. Yet, not all plants can be divided as simply and successfully as hosta or daylily. Instead, woody shrubs or cane-bearing fruits are multiplied by layering techniques, such as tip layering. Continue reading for tip layering info and instructions on how to tip layer propagate.
What is Tip Rooting?
Mother Nature gifted many plants with the ability to regenerate when damaged and to multiply on their own. For example, a woody stem flattened and bent from a storm may actually start to produce roots along its stem and at its tip where it touches the soil surface. This is a process of natural layering.
Cane-bearing fruit, such as raspberries and blackberries, also naturally propagate themselves by tip layering. Their canes arch down to touch the soil surface where their tips then root in, producing new plants. As these new plants develop and grow, they are still connected to the parent plant and take nutrients and energy from it.
This past summer, I watched this natural process of tip layering occur on a two year old milkweed plant that had been flattened by a harsh storm. A few weeks later, as I went to cut off and remove the stems that had been flattened to the ground, I quickly realized their tips had rooted just a few feet (1 m.) away from what remained of the parent. What I had initially thought was a devastating storm, actually ended up blessing me with more milkweed plants for my monarch friends.
Tip Layer Rooting of Plants
In plant propagation, we can mimic this natural tip layering survival mechanism to create more plants for our gardens. Tip layer rooting of plants is most commonly used on plants that grow canes, such as blackberries, raspberries, and roses. However, any woody or semi-woody species can be propagated by this simple method of rooting the tip of plant. Here’s how to tip layer propagate:
In spring to early summer, select a cane or stem of the plant which has the current season’s growth on it. Dig a hole 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.) deep, approximately 1 to 2 feet (31-61 cm.) away from the plant crown.
Trim off the foliage on the tip of the selected cane or stem for tip layering. Then arch the stem or cane down so that its tip is in the hole you dug. You can secure it down with landscaping pins, if necessary.
Next, backfill the hole with soil, with the tip of the plant buried but still connected to the parent plant, and water it thoroughly. It is important to water the tip layering daily, as it will not take root without proper moisture.
In six to eight weeks, you should see new growth begin to emerge from the layered tip. This new plant can be left attached to the parent plant for the rest of the growing season, or the original stem or cane can be cut when the new plant has formed adequate roots.
If you do allow it to remain attached to the parent plant, be sure to water and fertilize both as separate plants, so that the parent plant is not depleted of its water, nutrients, and energy.