Salvia is one of my favorite perennials to propagate and spring is the best time to do root it from stem tip cuttings. Pretty soon our gardens will be filled with salvia blooms and you’ll see why I like them so much. I’ll post a picture at the bottom of this post if you’re curious! The salvia in question for today’s post is a cultivar of Salvia nemorosa called ‘East Friesland’. The method of propagation I’ll show you is one that should work on many salvias and probably quite a few other perennials as well. So if you’ve been wondering if you can propagate salvia from cuttings read on!
How to Propagate Salvia from Cuttings:
First I locate an ideal stem for cutting. This particular stem has three nodes – one apical bud (at the stem tip), and two other nodes. I’ve done stem tip cuttings of salvia with only two nodes before so it will work but three will result in a larger plant a little bit faster. Once I’ve targeted the salvia stem tip I want I cut just below the bottom node. The nodes contain auxins which are naturally occurring growth hormones used to induce root or leaf growth.
What are nodes on a plant? Nodes are where the branches and leaves form on the plant. The internode is the area between two nodes.
Here’s a look at the salvia cutting after I’ve separated it from the plant. Notice that there are several leaves that aren’t necessary. I remove all the leaves except for two and pinch off the apical bud. That will encourage the auxins (natural growth hormones in plants) to work toward generating roots rather than making new foliage at the top. Once the salvia has rooted it will also encourage lateral branching for a nice bushy plant.
Here’s how the cutting looks after leaf removal. Two leaves and two nodes with a little bit of stem in between.
The next step is to dip the cut end of the salvia cutting in rooting hormone then stick it in moist rooting medium. Then I’ll wait for 10-14 days until rooting has occurred. Once I have roots I’ll pot up my new salvia.
The new salvia (S. nemorosa) should bloom by the end of this summer (at least here in Tennessee other zones may have different results). I’ve had success using this method of plant propagation with many other plants – go ahead and give it a try!
It doesn’t hurt the plant and makes it encourages it to become more full of foliage. Hopefully you can see why I want to make more salvia!
Here is a summarized step by step of propagating Salvia. You can apply the same procedures to many other perennials.
- First select healthy material from a healthy plant.
- Locate a good node to take your cutting underneath.
- Remove the extra leaves and the apical bud (the bud at the tip of the cutting). I generally will leave 1-2 leaves for the cutting total.
- Take a cutting and treat the end with rooting hormone. (not completely necessary but can help)
- Stick in a good rooting medium (sand, sand/peat, sand, potting soil, etc. read this article on sand vs soil as a rooting medium for more info.)
- Keep the salvia cuttings moist through either misting or tenting to maintain the humidity. Tenting can be with a plastic bag or a plastic container covering them.
- It takes about 3-4 weeks for roots to form. Check for resistance in the roots by gently pulling on the cutting. If it has resistance you may have rooting but if in doubt don’t yank it out! Give it more time and be patient if you aren’t sure the cutting is rooted.
- Once roots on your cuttings form pot them up to grow a more complete root system in a good potting soil.
An Update on some Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ cuttings
Why Did Your Salvia Cuttings Fail to Root?
No matter how easy a plant is to root you may have some failures. My last batch of salvia cuttings rooted at about 70% which I was pleased with but I still have 30% that failed. That is perfectly normal, there will be some cuttings that don’t work out.
Be observant of what failed as there may be clue in something that you could do differently next time. Maybe it was the time of year or maybe it was the type of cutting. It could be that you let the cuttings dry out or got them too wet. In order to root cuttings you need to make the best conditions possible for rooting and usually a failure means something wasn’t right and you can make an adjustment for next time. Then again maybe it wasn’t you, it was them! Just keeping going and keep trying until you get it right.
Salvia cuttings root very reliably and that’s a really good thing since they look so great planted in a large mass of plants. Use the cuttings to fill out beds, line border gardens, or share with friends. Salvia also can be a very good starter plant to learn about plant propagation if you are just beginning. Most salvia will root very easily from cuttings but also may be propagated through division or from seeds.
What Kinds of Salvia can be Propagated?
Here’s a short list of some of the types of salvia that you can propagate. There are many more so even if your salvia is not on this list give it a shot!
Salvia nemorosa (subject in this post), S. farinacea, S. splendens, S. leucantha, S. guaranitica, S. greggii, S. longispicata, S. leucantha.