Cloning a Corkscrew

Cloning plants may sound a bit like creepy science, but it is a great way to get more of the plants that you love. Plant propagation is one of the most basic tools of a plant lover, and over time will save you lots of greenbacks. The methods are many, but if you are a beginner, cuttings take little to begin and is easy enough to try without harming your host plant.

A great starter plant is Willow, both forgiving and strong. I used a corkscrew willow (salix matsudana 'golden curls') this spring, and now have a few dozen healthy saplings, waiting to be replanted later this year. Cuttings can be taken in late autumn to early spring. I chose spring, as it is when new shoots are most vigorous.

1) Choose green or semi-ripe wood from this season's growth, firm at the base but soft at the tip. Ideally 4-6" is good, as this will easily fit into a seed starter tray. 2) Remove the tender tip to stimulate root growth hormones, and remove all but the top 2-3 leaves. If they are more than one inch, cut them in half. 3) With a sharp knife, cut out a sliver of bark at the base. This encourages rooting by exposing more of the root making cells. 4) Dip the base of each cutting onto dab of honey, a natural fungicide, and place them into a cell pack or seed starter tray with peat moss or other seed starter potting mix. The cuttings should be deep enough to stay upright, and you may need to pack the peat around it to help. Do this while the peat moss is still dry. 5) water thoroughly and cover the seed tray to keep humidity in, or place a white plastic bag over the pots. Check regularly to make sure the cuttings aren't wilting or getting moldy. If some of them look damaged, quickly remove them. If you see new growth, keep monitoring. Your baby willows have taken!

Don't worry if not all of the cuttings make it. Experimentation is key, and you will become better at knowing your plants's needs through trial and error. Keep a record of the date and method by which you planted, to improve your cutting's success rate next time.