How to grow photinia from cuttings
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To grow photinia from cuttings is a straightforward task. Just follow these steps for a good chance at successfully propagating this plant in this way.
I have had the most success with Photina cuttings when taken in late summer or early autumn (Fall) where the cutting is taken from the current season’s growth and the base of the cuttings will be hard and the tip soft. You can also take them as softwood cuttings.
Prepare the pots and soil
I like to have all my pots ready to plant the cuttings straight away as soon as I have taken my cuttings. However, if you take the cuttings first, make sure you place them in a moist plastic seal bag to keep them hydrated until you’re ready to plant them.
Prepare small pots about 8cm wide (1-litre pots I use). Make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom. You can put several cuttings in the same pot as long as you don’t crowd them. Give them plenty of space to grow and establish their root systems. I tend to space 3-4 cuttings around the edge of the pot as I find they’re less likely to rot.
For the potting media, I like to use a 50-50 mix. I either use multi-purpose compost and perlite/grit or seed and cutting compost and fill each pot up to just below the rim of the pot.
Take the photinia cuttings
To grow photinias from cuttings, you have a choice of taking a softwood cutting in the early summer (usually ready a little bit sooner) or semi-hardwood cuttings in the late summer or autumn which is what I personally do. The process of growing the cuttings is the same in each case.
To take the cutting, choose a plant stem that is healthy and disease free. Look for a leaf node that’s 8cm or so down the stem from the tip and cut firmly across the stem. You should aim to have three leaf nodes on your cutting (nodes are where the leaves grow from the stem. Use a good sharp pair of secateurs or a sharp knife that you’ve sterilised before this task to ensure the cuttings don’t pick up any diseases. If you’re taking the cutting later in the growing season (in the autumn), make sure to choose a stem that’s still a little soft and not completely hardwood. Ideally it should be hard as the base of the cutting and soft at the tip
Remove the lower leaves from the cutting leaving just 3-4 leaves at the top of the cutting. To reduce moisture loss, I usually also cut the top set of leaves in half.
Plant the cuttings
Optionally, you can now dip the ends of the cuttings in rooting powder to give then a head start, this I recommend as I find it does help get them started although I have also done it without with a lot of success.
Put 3-4 cuttings around the edge of each pot just pushing them down the side of the pot. Place the bottom of each stem about 4cm down into the soil. The cuttings shouldn’t touch each other at all. If they do, they’re too crowded so take one or two out. I usually just push the cuttings down but you can also use a dibber or piece of cane to make a small hole for the cutting.
The main cause of photinia cuttings failing to grow is that they become waterlogged. Placing several cuttings in the same pot helps each one to not get too much moisture. By planting them against the inside of the pot I also find this help prevent them from rotting off.
Finally, pat each cutting down so that each cutting stands gently but firmly upright.
Water in the photinia cuttings
You can place the pots in a shallow tray of water for 30 minutes so that the compost absorbs moisture. Or water them from above as usual with a fine rose and make sure you give them enough water so that it drains through the pot.
You have a few options now, ideally, they can be placed in a greenhouse or cold frame and if you give them bottom heat they usually root a little quicker. You can cover the pot with a clear plastic bag unless you have a propagator with a lid on. If you put a bag over the pots, remember to take them off and let them air a little.
Place the cuttings in an area where they get sunlight and keep them well-watered. Check after each watering that they’re not soggy and waterlogged.
After two or three weeks, you should see some growth in the cutting and the development of some foliage but it can take a lot longer.
If the cuttings are growing so well that over-crowding occurs, consider moving each one to its own pot. Once they are well rooted, pot on the cuttings into 9cm pots and grow them on unless established.
Transplant the cuttings
Before planting the cuttings permanently outdoors, remember to harden them off. Move the cuttings outdoors for a few hours a day to start with, gradually increasing the time they spend there. Remember that photinia like full sun or partial shade; somewhere sheltered from the ravages of bad weather is preferable.
The key to success is really in the watering. Keep them moist but don’t overdo it or they will rot off.
When the cuttings are acclimatised to their new location, go ahead and plant them in the ground.
If you’re not sure if your photinia look right, check out my article Photinia pests and diseases. And if you’re creating cuttings to ultimately transplant into pots, I help there too in How to grow photinias in pots and containers.