Making New Plants: Propagating Tropical Plants

This past spring I bought a Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha).  I saw the plant in a display garden in Long Island a couple of years back and wanted to give it a try. When I saw a scrawny little plant for sale in a greenhouse, I immediately purchased it this past winter.  It wasn’t cheap so I only purchased one.  Below is a way I make free plants or keep some tropical plants from year to year through our cold New England winter climate. I was able to turn my one scrawny plant into 3 mature bushes and enjoyed large mature plants through summer and fall. The plant added some much needed fall color to the landscape at that time of the year. The plant even made it through multiple frosts.

While it’s still too cold to bring the tropical plant outside, I take cuttings of any plants I’d like more off. I’m usually looking for straight, somewhat young growth, nothing too woody.  I place the cuttings in a clear vase filled with water and stick them in front of a sunny window.  I like clear vases so I can monitor the root growth easily.  Once the cuttings develop a nice root system, I pot them up and keep them through the winter as house plants.  I tend to cut them back often while they are in the house to prevent legginess.  Once the chance of frost is over the plants are planted outside. I’m always amazed how quick some plants grow once the heat of summer comes.  It’s not uncommon to get a 4′ shrub out filled with purple flowers from a little cutting.

Mexican Sage Cuttings
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Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


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