Flower Farming: 8 Easy Perennials to Take Cuttings From (And Grow On for Next Year)
As the season winds down, we’re getting ready for next year.
The funny thing about flower farming is that good flowers can be planted the same season - but great flowers need to be planned out 6-12 months ahead of time.
One of the things we are doing this year is expanding our perennial offerings for florists and wedding design, so we are in the midst of propagating a lot of hardy perennials for production next year.
It might be easier to just buy in plugs, but of course as you know flower farmers aren’t necessarily the most logical people. I actually prefer to propagate our perennials myself because I get a thrill out of seeds starting and cuttings rooting, and it’s cool to be able to say that I propagated hundreds of plants from one original “mother” plant.
There are some materials in particular that propagate very easily and readily from cuttings
One of the easiest and quickest plants to root from cuttings, I love mint because it is so easy. Literally, you throw some stems into a flat of potting mix and it will root within a week or two - and sometimes sooner! I’ve actually had mint root in as little as four days during the growing season.
It also doesn’t matter which type of mint you are trying to propagate - chocolate, apple, strawberry, spearmint, peppermint - it all roots quickly and readily.
A standard 6” cutting will work well to create a nice bushy transplant in a few short weeks, which will then go on to create a very nice plant.
Some people complain about mint being invasive (which it can be) but if you’re growing it for floral design, it’s not a bad quality to have in a plant. It’s one thing to have a patch of it growing in your garden, but it’s another thing to be able to have a large row of mint that you can cut nice long stems from to fill buckets for selling to florists and to use in designs - and taking cuttings is the easiest and quickest way to do it.
Incidentally, the mother plant you take the cutting from will determine the type of mint you’re propagating. Apple mint will make more apple mint, chocolate mint will make chocolate mint and so on.
Sedums are one of those perennials that you don’t even have to think about propagating.
In fact in some cases, they’ll propagate on their own from stems that fall off or that break off the plant - and you’ll find them already rooted and forming a new plant! I particularly love this because sedums are one of my favorite materials to use for floral design and are one of the favorites of our florist customers as well.
Being that they’re a succulent plant, that’s not surprising. But what’s nice is that you’re able to place cuttings out where you want them and they will start growing and developing into very nice plants on their own. You can totally ignore them, and they’ll do great on their own! Truly one of the most low-maintenance and fool-proof perennial plants you can grow from cuttings.
Although not the most popular or widespread foliage out there, artemisia (also known by its common name of wormwood) has become a great late-season foliage plant for us.
The silvery, lacy, herb-scented leaves are a wonderful delicate addition to any arrangement and make a great addition to centerpieces and bouquets. It particularly loves it here in the southwest where it gets hot and dry and plenty of sun, which means it can grow from a little quart pot into a 4’ x 4’ bush in one season.
Luckily for us, artemisia is very easy to propagate from cuttings. A 6” stem with a little rooting hormone will root in about two weeks, and go one to create a nice little plant in just a month or so.
If you’re like us, you’re mad about vines in floral arrangements. Being a big fan of Max Gill (the king of using vines and draping foliage in arrangements), there’s just something amazing about big vines and cascades of greenery in an arrangement.
Although not commonly used as a foliage material, ivy is a great draping and cascading greenery that lends a particularly elegant look to any arrangement you are using.
Ivy also roots easily from cuttings - you’ve probably noticed it crawling and creeping along the ground and rooting on its own - so you can do the same to create some nice little plugs of ivy plants to increase your collection.
Here’s the thing you should know about rooting ivy - it will only root so long as it is creeping horizontally. If you have it climbing on a wall, it will be pretty and be very healthy, but it won’t root due to the fact that its behavior changes based on its orientation in space. Plants are pretty crazy, right?
Catmint (Nepeta) is a nice little mounded perennial that has beautiful silvery leaves and delicate little purple flowers and a minty-herbal scent that I think is really nice. It flowers in spring and is great for floral design use once it flowers. Bees love it, and floral designers love it too!
Catmint isn’t a really popular plant to use in floral design, mostly because its stems don’t get that tall - only to around 18” or so, but that is short enough for us to use in centerpieces and other short designs. It’s a great foliage material to use in floral arrangements, really giving it that antique picked-from-the-garden feel when paired with other whites and greens.
Catmint is also one of the easiest perennials to root - simply cutting off a stem with a couple nodes will root in a few short weeks with some rooting hormone. It takes off quickly after it starts rooting, and will go from just a skinny little stem into a full-blown plant in a few months.
Incidentally, if you’re interested in selling foliage and flowers like catmint to florists, you definitely should. Floral designers need the interesting, unique materials that they can’t find from the regular wholesaler and can only obtain from a local grower -you can find out more in our book on selling cut flowers to florists.
It always seemed odd to me that hydrangeas - this big and bushy and massively fluffy bush - could root from cuttings.
But they definitely can, and are actually one of the easier shrubs (or subshrubs depending on who you ask) to propagate from cuttings. I prefer to take a semi-hardwood cutting during the middle of the summer, ensuring that I trim back the leaves to prevent loss of moisture from transpiration, leave it alone for a couple of weeks until it has rooted. Then off it goes into the hydrangea row!
Make sure that the variety you’re propagating isn’t patented of course - varieties like Annabelle or Blue Bird aren’t patented, but newer varieties may be.
Mums are one of those easy to propagate plants that everyone should know about, but they don’t, seeing as how many people don’t grow mums.
It’s a shame, because mums are very easy to propagate and grow on very readily from cuttings. It’s too late this time of year to take cuttings and have them root before frost, but if you can get cuttings from plants either overwintered or purchased in next year.
We’re particular excited about our mums this year that we’ve propagated from cuttings and have gotten big and bushy and are flowering now!
If you’re interested in how a large mum greenhouse does their cuttings, here’s a great video on sticking cuttings
I had forgotten about how easily roses root - especially this time of year with all the nice semi-hardwood growth - until Drew from Clara Joyce Flowers posted about rooting his rose cuttings in just a few weeks.
We started propagating a lot of our old and antique roses from cuttings - ‘Iceberg’ and ‘The Fairy’ among others - and they are coming along nicely. Roses rooted in the middle of the summer will go one to produce a nice gallon-sized plant by the end of the season - a great way to add to your rose collection.
Just make sure that you don’t propagate patented rose varieties (like David Austin Roses) - that’s a big no-no!
That’s just a few of the plants that will propagate via cuttings
There’s a whole lot more out there - a lot of the herbs like rosemary, oregano and lavender, lots of the vines like honeysuckle, clematis, akebia and virginia creeper, woody shrubs like smokebush, physocarpus, willows and dogwoods, members of the mint family like salvias and agastaches, and so much more.
Most of these do best when taking cuttings in the late summer/fall since they’ve developed the semi-hardwood stems necessary for this propagation. You can also try taking them in the middle of summer, but we just find that it’s so hot that the cuttings wilt more quickly than when things cool off in the fall.
Just make sure that if you’re selling plants to the public or selling the cut flowers that you don’t run into any patent issues. If in doubt, just find a variety that is definitively patent-free.
Like Growing Perennials?
If you’re interested in growing lots of perennials as a flower farmer, there’s a great market in using them in floral design and selling the materials to florists. They greatly reduce the amount of work needed for transplanting and starting from seed every year, and have been a gamechanger for our flower farm. You can find out more about the types of perennials to grow and how perennials have allowed us to make more money with less work in our book on growing perennials for cut flowers.