Tip of the Week: Creating More Climbers

Yearning for a sweltering swag of Clematis that mirrors your courtyard cascade? Rest assured, early summer is a great time to spur new growth for such a climbing creation.

Make the cut: Taking softwood cuttings (that is, cuttings from young unripened stems) is an easy way to ensure that you always have new plants ready to replace short-lived wall shrubs.

  1. Cut 3-inch long lengths of stem in early summer and root them in pots of a proprietary cutting mix or an equal mix of peat or peat alternative and coarse grit. A 4-inch pot can house several cuttings.
  2. Trim the cuttings just below a leaf joint and remove most of the leaves. Protect from potentially searing sunlight and wait from two weeks upward, depending on the genus, for the climber to root.

Layer for quicker results: Layering, or bringing a shoot down to the ground, can be done at any time of the year to all perennial climbers. Those with pliable stems, such as honeysuckle, are easier to bring down to the ground level.

  1. To layer a climber, take a stem and bend it down to the ground. Make an angled cut on the underside, almost, but not completely severing the stem.
  2. Bury the stem in the ground, keeping the cut open, and hold it down with a metal pin or with a large stone bearing down on the soil.
  3. Once the layer has rooted and is producing new growth, cut the stem still linking it to its parent plant. 

Adapted from the Horticulture Gardener’s Guide to Climbers & Wall Plants by Philippa Bensley. Learn more about this book.

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