5 steps to create new plants from a growing shoot

In the soil-layering process, a cut or fractured plant produces roots when the wound comes into contact with soil. Follow these 5 soil-layering steps to create your own new plant from a growing shoot.

5 steps to create new plants from a growing shoot

1. Time to layer

  • The best branches for soil layering are nonflowering ones that have grown in the current year; they provide the freshest shoots
  • Layer deciduous plants in fall or winter
  • Layer evergreens in fall or spring

2. Layer your shrub

  • Fork over the surface of the soil around the plant
  • Choose a flexible branch and bend it down until it reaches the ground 20 to 30 centimetres (eight to 12 inches) from its tip
  • Strip the leaves from the branch
  • Wound the underside with a knife by cutting a shallow tongue in the direction of the growing tip; or injure the surface tissue by twisting
  • Dig a seven- to 10-centimetre (three- to four-inch) hole at the spot where the wound touches the ground, and partly fill it with equal parts peat moss and coarse sand
  • Push the branch into the hole, forming a sharp angle at the wound
  • Peg the branch to the ground with a bent piece of galvanized wire 15 to 20 centimetres (six to eight inches) long
  • Stake the upright tip
  • Fill the hole with soil
  • Repeat the process with other branches
  • Water the whole area thoroughly, and make sure that it never dries out
  • Carefully scrape away the soil after 12 months to see if the plants have rooted

3. Plant your new shrub

  • If roots are well established, sever the new plant from the parent branch
  • Lift it out with a good root ball
  • Plant it where you want it
  • If the roots have not grown well but the top growth seems healthy, replace the soil and wait a few more months before checking again

4. Layer to grow new vines

Serpentine soil layering is a handy method of propagating vines and many shrubs with long, vinelike stems, such as honeysuckle and jasmine. It should be done at the same time as ordinary soil layering, using the long, trailing shoots that have grown during the current year.

  • Bend a shoot carefully to the ground and, where it touches, dig a hole five centimetres (two inches) deep
  • Wound the shoot on the underside, as with ordinary layering, and peg it into the hole with a bent piece of wire (a hairpin or paper clip will work)
  • Fill the hole with equal parts peat moss and coarse sand
  • Cover with soil and firm down with your fingers
  • Leave the next two pairs of leaves above ground; then repeat the layering operation
  • Continue along the entire length of the shoot
  • Water well and do not allow to dry out

5. Plant your new vines

  • Scrape soil away a year later to verify that each buried point has rooted
  • If roots are established, sever the sections between the exposed leaf pairs, and plant in the normal way
  • If roots aren't established, rebury the shoot for a few months longer; then check again
  • Instead of pegging the shoots directly into the ground, prepare small pots of light soil mix, sink them into the ground, and peg into them
  • The layers can then be moved without disturbing the new roots

Soil layering requires some attention and patience, but if you follow these steps you'll benefit from the pleasure of creating something new on your own.

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