Tag Archives: Genista lydia

A Plant Geek’s Haphazard Approach To Propagating Shrubs

The equipment and supplies for simple layering are simple–gloves, sand, compost, anchoring pins, rooting hormone, pruners and a spade. The mother plant, a Genista lydia, sits in back.

Have you ever wished you could get three shrubs for the price of one?  Well, you can, with a little know-how and patience.

You simply propagate new plants from the mother shrub.  There are several ways to do this, including layering, dividing, digging up runners and taking stem cuttings.

Today I’ll cover simple layering.  In a future post, I’ll review other propagation methods that you can perform in your garden.

My study of propagation began last fall when I bought Plant Propagation, an excellent reference book produced by The American Horticultural Society.  I learned about hardwood and softwood cuttings, heating pads, cell trays, rock wool and all manner of horticultural mechanisms.  And I soon realized there were all kinds of propagation equipment and supplies that I didn’t want to spend money on.  So I experimented on the cheap.

I wanted to propagate more Genista lydias from my existing genista.

This shrublet is one I started last spring from layering. So it has been in layering mode for 6 months. I’ll wait until next spring to transplant it.

First, I tried taking a genista cutting and growing it in a sand/potting soil mixture in a pot with a plastic bag over it to retain heat and moisture.  Within a week or two, tiny green buds started popping up all over the cutting.  But a few weeks later, the cutting rotted and died.

So after doing more propagation research, I decided to try simple layering.  You can perform simple layering on any shrub with branches low enough to reach the ground.  I used it successfully last fall on red meidiland ground cover roses.  So I figured it might work for Genista lydia, as well.  Other candidates for simple layering include climbing roses, spreading cotoneaster, forsythia, lilac, viburnum, daphne, raspberries and blackberries.

Here’s my approach:

Step 1.  Collect your tools and equipment.  Mine include gardening gloves, pruners, spade, anchoring pins (I had edging pins on hand, so I used those.  But you also can use smaller, less expensive landscape fabric pins), rooting hormone (such as Clonex or Garden Safe TakeRoot), compost and general purpose sand.  The Clonex set me back $20, but everything else is stuff I already had around the house.  You can make homemade rooting hormone, if you want.  Just google online for recipes.

After digging your trench, strip all leaves from the underground portion of your selected branch and scrape a thin coat of bark off of the bottom of the branch. Then anchor the branch to to soil. I took this photo before pushing the anchoring pin farther into the ground so that you could see the pin more easily.

Step 2.  Select a young branch that’s at least 10 inches long.  You’ll need to bury some of it and have enough branch left over to leave some vegetation above ground.

Step 3.  Dig a trench 4 to 5 inches deep and about 6 inches long beneath your selected branch.

Step 4.  Strip all leaves from the portion of the branch that will be buried.  Scrape a thin layer of bark off of the bottom of the branch to encourage rooting through contact between the plant tissue and the soil.  You can also apply rooting compound at this point, but I generally just wait until the transplanting phase to use it.

Step 5.  Anchor the stripped portion of the branch to the ground with one or more anchoring pins.

Once you’ve anchored your branch to the ground, cover the anchored portion with 2 to 3 inches of a 50/50 compost/sand mixture. Then backfill the remainder of the trench with soil.

Step 6.  Cover the anchored portion of the branch with 2 to 3 inches of a 50/50 compost/sand mixture.  Then backfill the remainder of the trench with soil.  I’ve found that the compost/sand mixture improves drainage and prevents rotting, which is often a problem in heavy clay soils.

Step 7.  Position the above-ground portion of the branch so that it’s as vertical as possible.  You can even stake the top, if needed.  I don’t stress out if the branch isn’t perfectly vertical because I’ll be digging it up later to transplant it anyway.  At that point, I can reposition the top as needed when I replant it.

Step 8.  Mulch the trenched area and water it regularly.  Then wait.  Depending on your growing conditions, your new shrublet may be ready for transplanting in 4 to 6 months.  I typically transplant in spring or early fall for best root growth.  I dig a hole, coat the new roots of the shrublet with rooting compound, place the shrublet in the hole, and backfill with a mixture of two-thirds soil and one-sixth each of compost and sand.

There is one caveat to propagating your own plants asexually—that is, by any method other than planting seeds.  Don’t propagate patented plants.

Here’s the deal when it comes to patents.  When a breeder introduces a new plant, the breeder applies for a patent, which is valid for 20 years.  It’s only fair that the breeder should have an opportunity to recoup its costs and make some profits for developing the new plant.  Once the patent has expired, it’s all right to homeowners like you and me to propagate the plant asexually.

So do your research online to find out whether the plant you want to propagate has a patent in force.  Otherwise, you could face severe legal penalties.

This Genista lydia transplant looked dead within a few weeks of being moved to its new home in April. But the small plant hung in there and began producing blooms by June.

June 27, 2019 update:  In April of this year, I transplanted a Genista lydia branch that had been anchored in the ground for a year.  Once in its new home, the branch began turning brown from transplant shock.  But by June, it had grown new branches and even bloomed.  When transplanting Genista lydia, don’t give up on it too soon.


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Does Plant Trenching Work? The Story 2 Years Later

The transplanted Veronica pectinata has grown to four times its original size and is now 3 inches high and 2 feet wide.

In February 2015, I moved from my home in Denver to my sister’s home in Windsor, Colorado for a temporary stay while waiting for the closing on my house in Fort Collins.

I brought plants with me from my Denver home, as I wrote in a March 2015 blog post on trenching plants. I dug a trench and used it as a temporary parking spot for the plants. I had intended to replant the plants after three months or so. But that three months stretched into seven.

One Genista lydia (foreground) survived. It’s now 10 inches high and 28 inches wide. In a few weeks, it will be smothered with bright yellow blossoms.

Now that two years have passed, I would like to report how those plants fared. The plants included two Genista lydias, one Veronica pectinata, three Pawnee Buttes sand cherries (Prunus besseyi ‘Pawnee Buttes’), two Meidiland fire roses, one Cheyenne mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii ‘PWY01S’ Cheyenne), one bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum), one regent serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia ‘Regent’), two Corydalis ophiocarpa, and three Isanti dogwoods (Cornus sericea ‘Isanti’).

Keep in mind that the ground was frozen when I dug the trench and installed the plants, so there were undoubtedly air pockets around some of the roots. Backfilling a trench with chunks of ice-encrusted clay soil is never a good idea, but I was desperate. During the 2 ½ months that I stayed at my sister’s place, I watered the plants every other day. But once I moved out, the plants received no water other than rainfall until September 2015, when I transplanted some of them to my new yard.

Also, the plants suffered high winds and blasting sun, as well as munching from horses and rabbits.

In other words, I would have been hard pressed to find more miserable conditions for preserving plants.

So, which plants survived this ordeal?

One Pawnee Buttes sand cherry survived in spite of repeated munchings by rabbits and horses. This plant is now 11 inches high and 30 inches wide, and is fast approaching bud break.

Survivors: One Genista lydia, one Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, one Meidiland fire rose, one Cheyenne mockorange, one bloody cranesbill, and one Veronica pectinata.

Decedents: One Genista lydia, two Pawnee Buttes sand cherries, one Meidiland fire rose, one regent serviceberry, two Corydalis ophiocarpa (shade-loving plants), and three Isanti dogwoods.

Concerning the survivors, the Genista lydia still looks straggly, but is gradually filling in, as is the Pawnee Buttes sand cherry. The Meidiland fire is small, but it looks happy. I ended up giving the Cheyenne mockorange to my sister. She divided it into three clumps. Two of the clumps survived. The bloody cranesbill and Veronica pectinata are performing like champs.

Plump buds on the Pawnee Buttes and cherry look as though they’ll burst open within the next week or so. The foliage of this drought-tolerant Colorado native turns a brilliant red in the fall.

As for the decedents, the Meidiland fire rose lived and was transplanted in my new yard. But I didn’t have a sunny spot to park it. So I planted it in a shady spot, which hastened its death. And in fairness to the dogwoods, I have to say that they were in the ground for almost two years because I didn’t have a place for them. But they stuck it out for months until death. The rest of the decedents just conked out over the course of seven months.

So from all of this, I conclude that trenching works well for moving plants, as long as you have decent planting conditions and can take care of the transplants. My plants experienced horrible planting conditions and neglect, yet some of them have survived it, and a few have even thrived. Interestingly, with some identical plants, such as Genista lydia and Pawnee Buttes sand cherry, one plant lived while one or more died. I expected the Genista lydia to transplant much easier than it did, given that it’s drought-tolerant.

If you want to improve your chances of success when trenching, backfill your trench with a mixture of good topsoil and compost, such as two parts soil to one part compost if you have heavy clay soil. Avoid planting in areas with strong western afternoon sun, if possible, so you won’t stress the plants while they’re vulnerable. And keep your plants watered without over-watering them.

Once you’re ready to move the plants to a permanent home, make sure you install them so the plant’s crown is even with or slightly above ground level. If you install plants too deeply, the crown and roots may rot from water accumulation.

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Want to Move Your Plants Without Killing Them? Try Trenching

Plants stand, mulched in their trench, until their move to a permanent home.  Identifiable tenants (from front) include autumn brilliance serviceberry, Cheyenne mockorange, Genista lydia and Isanti dogwood.

Plants stand, mulched in their trench, until their move to a permanent home. Identifiable tenants (from front) include autumn brilliance serviceberry, Cheyenne mockorange, Genista lydia and Isanti dogwood.

Have you ever turned down a friend’s offer of free plants because you didn’t know where to plant them? Or have you missed an opportunity to move plants from one home to another because you didn’t know how to care for them? If those occasions arise again, consider parking your trees, shrubs and perennials in a temporary trench. That way, you can keep them alive while you prepare a more permanent location for them.

I recently sold my Denver home to a developer. It’s not something I wanted to do, but because my house had severe mold issues and was sitting on valuable land, selling the house for a scrape was the most sensible option.

Fortunately, the builder told me that I could take all of the landscape plants with me. That, of course, wasn’t feasible. So I gave many of the plants away to neighbors so my babies could live on in the neighborhood. There were quite a few plants, though, that I took with me—stalwarts, such as Genista lydia, Isanti dogwood, serviceberry and Cheyenne mockorange.

I moved the plants temporarily to my sister’s home in Windsor, CO in late February, which is just about the worst possible time to move plants. I dug a trench about 1 foot wide, 25 feet long and 5 inches deep. The ground was frozen, so the clay soil came up in massive, solid chunks. I then placed the plants in the ground, preserving their root balls as best I could, and replaced the soil chunks, piling them around the root balls. Needless to say, there were all kinds of air pockets around the roots—not a good situation. But as the weather improved and the soil softened, I began filling in the air pockets.

It’s now late March, and the plants are starting to bud out and behave normally.

Shade-loving Corydalis ophiocarpa stays alive and even puts on new growth in the sunny trench.

Shade-loving Corydalis ophiocarpa stays alive and even puts on new growth in the sunny trench.

Is this a good long-term situation for the plants? Absolutely not. But for the 2 ½ months until I move to my own place and transplant them, they should be fine. Even my corydalis, which prefers shade, is hanging in there, putting on new growth in the sunny trench. I planted my ground covers in an area of the trench that’s about an inch below grade to help them retain water in Windsor’s dry, windy climate.

I water the plants every other day. It’s a good idea to keep them mulched for water conservation, weed prevention and soil temperature moderation. Dig your trench a foot or so deep, if the soil’s not too hard, to provide maximum room for roots. And try to move your plants when they’re not in bloom, so they can focus on growing roots instead of producing flowers.

Tiny red leaflets emerge from stems of the fire meidiland ground cover rose.

Tiny red leaflets emerge from stems of the fire meidiland ground cover rose.

The next time someone offers you plants or you move to a new home, don’t leave beloved plants on the table simply because you don’t have the perfect spot for them yet. Dig a trench to create a small parking lot. Chances are, your plants won’t mind, as long as they don’t have to stay there for more than about 3 months.

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