Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

A Hedge for Practically Nothing

You want to plant a hedge, but the price of hedge plants is beyond your budget? Why not start your own hedge from cuttings? Begin this summer for a starter hedge next year. And yes, you can take cuttings of any hedge plant, even conifers like arborvitae (Thuja spp.). After all, the nursery grew its hedge plants from cuttings, so why not you?

Look for a neighbor who is trimming a hedge of the variety you want and ask if you can pick up the prunings: they make excellent cuttings! Or if you have the shrub in question at home, simply harvest branches about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) in length. You can do this any time from May to the end of July.

20150704AFill a tray or pot of with moist growing mix (the container must have drainage holes). For each cutting, remove the lower leaves (those that will be covered in mix) and brush a little rooting hormone on the end of the cutting with a cotton swab. A #2 hormone is best for most hedge shrubs. Insert the cuttings into the mix, spacing them about 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) apart. Always take twice as many cuttings as you think you’ll need in case they don’t all root. (If they do all root, well, sell your surplus and make a bit of cash!)

20150704CCover the container with a transparent plastic dome or bag to create a greenhouse effect (high humidity helps rooting) and place it in partial shade (outdoors) or in bright light (indoors), such as under a fluorescent lamp. Wait 3-8 weeks. Check the state of the soil occasionally: if it begins to dry out, water.

When new shoots appear on the cuttings, or when cuttings resist when you gently pull on them, it means they are rooted. Remove the dome or bag bit by bit over 4 or 5 days and then gradually acclimatize them to outdoor conditions: a few days in the shade, a few days in mid-shade, etc. Plant them in the ground in a plant nursery (perhaps a corner of your vegetable garden). Mulch heavily the first winter.

Next spring, your hedge will be ready to plant… and it only cost you the price of a bag of potting soil and a bottle of rooting hormone!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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