In the Garden:
Middle South
May, 2003
Regional Report

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In the congenial company of colorful coleus, my mound-layered scented geranium quietly transforms itself from one plant into four.

Appreciating Assets

While I object to being called cheap, it is true that spending money is not my idea of fun. So last week, instead of buying three scented geraniums, I bought one. But my new assets are appreciating! Within a month I'll have four rose geraniums, thanks to the easy propagation method called mound layering. This no-brainer trick works with many other plants, too, and it's especially well suited to semi-woody herbs, such as rosemary, lavender, and sage.

Mounding Basics
With mound layering, the objective is to coax stems into developing roots while they are still attached to the plant. Instead of trying to bend stiff stems down to bury them (another type of layering), you mound soil over the base of the plant. But first you must nick each stem with a sharp knife. Nick them as low on the stem as possible, just below a node (the junctures where leaves and new stems are attached). Cut only about one-fourth of the way into the stem. This modest wounding mobilizes the plant's defenses. For all plants, growing new roots is a major self-defense strategy.

To help plants root fast, mound one to two inches of soil over the base of the plant after the stems have been wounded. Pinch off low leaves, too, because you want the plant to stop growing leaves and grow roots instead. Also clip away any flowers or buds, because blooming plants get confused when they are asked to switch gears and concentrate on roots.

Mounding Herbs
You can have your lavender blossoms and mound layer the plants, too, but you'll need to wait to mound until later in the summer. After your herbs bloom, cut them back severely, thin out old stems, and then start the mound layering process. Rosemary, sage, and lavender that are mound layered in August will be ready to cut into transplantable, rooted pieces in late September.


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