Success in rooting cuttings can be just one
- I have found that success in rooting cuttings, azalea
or rhododendron cuttings in particlular, can be just
ONE out of any number stuck.
If you aresticking cuttings of anything rare and
precious, especially field collected cuttings, ONE
well-rooted cutting out of 20 or more should be
considered 100 percent success, if your intent is to
copy the exceptional plant (perhaps to establish a
stock cloned plant of an exceptional form,, to use in
later propagation), not produce hundreds for commerce.
Ocassionally I do root a high percentage of the
cuttings in a pot, and that just means I have more
plants to give away. Three is the most I ever keep of
a selection or variety.
The most difficult cuttings to root are those that
other people collect and send to you. Next most
difficult are those I collect in the field on a trip.
The easiest are cuttings from plants I am growing in
my woods or garden, since I can choose the ideal time,
multiple times really, for sticking cuttings.
I strive to produce at least one strong rooted cutting
per new cultivar propagated. For my purposes the
cutting should always be woody, not half-ripe or soft,
unless that is what someone gives you. And then you
just work with what you have, which often spells
success. Half-ripe cuttings work much better for
evergreen azaleas than deciduous ones in my
Leaves are always a consideration when you stick
growing season cuttings. If the leaves are fully
matured, remove the lowest ones, cut off the stem tip
and cut other leaves in half on an angle. If the
cutting has soft leaves and any soft, green growth,
those should be removed, which forces the stem to
start the season over.
People regularly ask me when it the best time to take
and stick cuttings. My usual reply is: "Anytime I can
get something exceptional," or "Do you have some now."
I like woody cuttings whenever I can get good ones
that have been cut well and kept well,
preferably in late summer, fall and in winter,
preferring just before winter's end, pre-spring I call
it. With dormant cuttings in very late fall, winter
and pre-spring, you don't have to worry about leaves,
just remove the terminal buds and bloom buds. Dormant
cuttings keep better in the fridge than leafy
cuttings, always in an inflated zip-closing bag with
no added moisture other than the breath needed for
inflating the bag.
As a way-out experiment I have some deciduous azalea
cuttings, woody and half-ripe that seem to be rooting
in a floating pot of sphagnum moss in my garden pond.
So far they are living. I rooted some Clethra
alnifolia in the same pot last season and an evergreen
Mike Creel, SC USDA Zone 8a
Nature is my Greenhouse
Join the Azalea Society of America