Summer’s not even over and I’m offering you advice for saving money next spring. It’s really quite simple. Just take cuttings from this year’s annuals and propagate them yourself. It’s really easy to do, and you might find that you’ve begun a most enjoyable gardening hobby.
Begin by deadheading your annuals. That’s the practice of removing spent flowers before they can go to seed. Keep the leaves and stem intact. Obtain a supply of small pots (4” max.) and a container of rooting hormone. It’s a powder that helps the stems sprout roots. You can find it at any garden center.
Cut three-to-four inch sections of green stem from the plants you’re planning to propagate. Dip the bottom end of each stem into the rooting hormone, the same way many people dip scallions in salt before eating them. If you don’t want to use rooting hormone, or don’t have any, go directly to the next step. Your plants should still develop roots but it may take a bit longer.
Place each cutting, root end down, in one your pots filled with potting mix. Don’t use soil because it’s too dense and heavy. Soilless potting mix is made up of lightweight, water retaining materials like peat, Perlite and vermiculite.
From now until next spring, your plants should live in shaded spots indoors. They like to be kept moist but not soaked, so don’t overwater. Soon little leaves should begin to appear, and you may even have a flush of winter flowers.
Depending on the flower(s) you choose for this experiment, and the size of your pots, you may have to transplant them partway through the winter. Larger plants may outgrow small pots rather quickly. Warning: Newly propagated plants may need more care than your other houseplants.
In spring, when the last frost threat has passed, your propagated plants should be ready to live outside. To prepare them for their new lives, move them outside onto the deck or patio and let them get used to their new environment. This is called “hardening off.” If a late frost is predicted during this time, take the plants indoors at night.
After your new plants have hardened off sufficiently, transplant them in the ground, in decorative containers, raised beds or elevated beds – anywhere you’d plant the annuals you buy at a garden center. You’ll be using the same process at home as commercial growers use in their greenhouses.
When friends and neighbors find out that you propagated your annuals rather than buying them, they’ll be envious and you can beam with pride over this accomplishment. And, you can use the money you saved to buy more plants. Maybe you’ll save enough to buy a tree or shrub.