Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Yard & Garden Planning

Confessions of a Plant Thief

by Kim Haworth


It's easy to be a plant thief of the breadbox poppy (Papaver somniferum). The seeds are simple to collect and germinate readily.

I have a guilty secret. I am a plant thief. It must be genetic, because my granny was a plant thief too. Dearie, as she was known, would enter one jar of jelly in the local county fair just so she could get into the fairgrounds the day after the fair closed. That's when exhibitors are allowed in to pick up their entries. Dearie would move in early and pick up prize-winning fuchsias, begonias, and other picture-perfect plants that had been entered by the local garden club competitors. She would nab the goods before their rightful owners could claim them. She looked so sweet that nobody ever questioned her as she passed through the gate with her carload of booty.

Safer Thievery

I'm not as bad as Dearie, but I do help myself to seeds if they're ripe and ready. More often, though I take cuttings if I see a plant that appeals to me. I just nip off a 6-inch piece of stem. Usually the tip of a branch or stem will do, but if the plant is blooming, I have to cut in a bit deeper.

Cuttings are an excellent way to propagate most perennial plants, including coreopsis, achillea, begonia, dianthus, heliotrope, lavender, nepeta, and penstemon. I have been especially successful with stolen parts of Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), chrysanthemum, various philodendrons, and coleus.

A Recent Theft

Just last week I was tempted by a Santolina rosmarinifolia with bright yellow flowers that looked like little pincushions. The plant was growing in a container at a local high school. This nice compact specimen was blooming its heart out. It would make a perfect addition to my garden and I had to have it!

So, with a sharp pocketknife that I always have on hand, I cut several stems, including flowers, from various locations on the plant. If you take all of your cuttings from the same area, you will leave a hole in the foliage. If you take cuttings from different parts of the plant, nobody will ever know you have been there.

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