how to propagate lavender

We had a research period prior to the start of the lavender farm and one thing was made clear to us right off the bat… starting from seed is not the way to go. In addition to a low success rate, planting lavender from seed will result in a plant that is not true to variety. They will become variations of the parent plant rather than clones. We decided to order from credible suppliers with the hopes that we could create our plugs for future plantings by way of propagation.

Propagation by rooting is the process of taking a cutting from a parent plant and causing it to set down roots, thereby creating an exact clone of the parent plant. Every plant has its own rate of propagation. Lavender takes a few weeks to form roots and several months until plantable size is reached.

We planted our first baby plugs, ordered from Victor’s Greenhouse and James Greenhouses, in May of this year (2018).

Here they are September 2018.

Isn’t it amazing?! The field is set back far from our house and within the last month have we been able to actually see the plants from our yard. They used to be indistinguishable and now they draw people in from far away. I can’t even imagine them next summer when they will be double the size and blooming!

We were encouraged in the first stages of research to find that propagation could be achieved with very little supplies, meaning our first season may be the only season we would need to work with an outside supplier to acquire the necessary plugs.

After deeper research we found that the main variety we wanted to go with, Phenomenal, charges a royalty for all plants propagated. Since a farm in Pennsylvania owns the rights to the Phenomenal variety of lavendula x intermedia we decided to try our hand at propagating the other four varieties we have planted. The plan is to then buy all Phenomenal lavender plugs directly from the supplier (Peace Tree Farms) next spring.

It is hard to say when the best time to propagate is in our given climate zone, but it is recommended to take hardwood cuttings in the fall and spring and softwood cuttings only in the spring when plant growth is vigorous.

We didn’t want to pass up on this season to try our hand at propagation by cutting so, although we were a bit late to the punch, we see it as a learning opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. We took mostly hardwood cuttings, but a few softwood, as well, for the sake of research 😉 . Hardwood cuttings are more likely to succeed while softwood cuttings are easier to take and are less harmful to the parent plant.

Before we got started we had to stock up on the necessary items.

Here’s our shopping list:

-sharp knife or ( I used a vegetable peeler)

-rooting hormone, liquid or powder form

-rooting soil- 60% perlite, 30% peat moss, 5 % orchid potting mix, 5% soil starting mix

-clean, 72-count plug tray

Directions from Lavender Lover’s Handbook:                                                              (written by: Sarah Berringer Bader)

1) To take a hardwood cutting, find a branch close to the base of the plant and feel for a bump, indicating a leaf node. Using sharp, clean scissors, cut a 3 to 4 inch piece at a 45 degree angle just below the node. For a softwood cutting, clip a 3 to 4 inch continuous piece from the tip of a growing stem.

softwood cutting

2) Pull off the leaves from the bottom 2 inches of the cutting.

3) Using a sharp, clean knife, scrape the  skin off the bottom portion of the cutting on one side.

4) Put the rooting soil in the container and water it well. Dip the cutting in the rooting hormone and stick it into the soil.

5) Keep the soil moist and the cutting warm (68-70 degrees) throughout the rooting process, which may take up to 4 weeks.

6) Check for roots after a few weeks by gently tugging on the cutting.

7) Transfer your rooted cutting into a larger container. Water it well and then allow it to go a bit on the dry side. Protect your new start from extreme elements.

8) When your lavender begins to grow it will produce a top shoot that will need to be snipped off level with the rest of the foliage to force it to branch.

In her book, Sarah Berringer Bader notes that every plant grower will tell you a different method for propagation. It is best to take the trial and error approach to really find out what method works best for you and the varieties you cultivate.

So here goes nothing! We check on these babies every day. They get watered each morning after I give the chicken’s their breakfast and so far everything looks good! There were a few plugs that formed black leaves after the first week and they were quickly removed from the cell tray so the apparent fungus didn’t spread to other cuttings. After a week of monitoring, it seems that the rest were unaffected. We dialed back the watering when we noticed the leaves blackening so we are hoping that helps the other cuttings succeed.

I will keep you updated on our success rate. With little to lose and knowledge to gain, I am happy we decided to take a run at propagating this first year. Fingers-crossed it works! I am taking suggestions on what to serenade them with every morning to encourage root development. I will take input, but anything in the soft-rock genre will be quickly disregarded.

-Kelly

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