Layering is best for taking cuttings for those still classed as amateurs

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Two questions from readers recently have been on the possibility of cuttings from rhododendrons and clematis.

With both of these, layering is probably the best method for the amateur gardener, but it is not a quick process – a new plant with a good root system will take about a year. However, it is one of the easiest ways to get a plant for free.

In late summer, select a long shoot which will reach ground level and more.

Prepare the area where the shoot will touch the soil, adding multi-purpose compost. Make a notch about one inch (2.5cm) in the underside of the stem (near a leaf mode), add some moss to keep the cut open and gently bend it down onto the prepared area and peg it down with a piece of strong wire in the shape of a staple to keep it in place. Cover the stem with more compost and insert a cane or stake to secure the end of the shoot in an upright position.

It is from the cut in the stem that a new root will form and normally this should have produced a good root system in 12 months, by which time it will be ready to be severed from the parent plant.

Another method with clematis is the usual method with cuttings.

At this time of year, select a healthy shoot from the current season’s growth, about three feet (90cm) long, and remove it from the parent plant by cutting above a leaf joint.

Place it in a polythene bag immediately until ready to use so that it remains fresh.

Using a sharp knife, cut immediately above a leaf joint and again 2in (5cm) beneath it, so ending up with a few cuttings. Avoid using the very tip of the shoot as this will be too soft. Remove one of the leaves from each cutting to help reduce moisture loss and allow more to be planted into the same pot, but avoid overcrowding. Dip the base of each in hormone rooting powder and shake off any excess.

The pot should be filled with 50 per cent cuttings compost and 50 per cent either grit or perlite, and the cuttings inserted round the edge until a leaf joint is level with the compost surface. Give it water and then preferably into a propagator, but failing this, cover with a plastic bag and secure to keep in the moisture and place in a greenhouse or on a window sill, but not in full sun.