Propagating your Clematis

Certain methods of propagation are so simple that it would be a shame not to use them.



If you take a stem or branch of some cherished woody plant, bend it down and bury it a few inches (or more) in the ground adjacent to the parent, you will have a good chance of getting a new rooted plant in 6 to 12 months, having invested perhaps a half an hour of time.

  • To try this easy method, sometime during the cooler parts of the growing season, choose a particularly long, flexible stem and bend it to the ground to see if it will reach easily to a nearby place in the earth and beyond, while still connected to the parent plant. If there is no such stem, encourage one to grow down low, then next year propagate it.
  • Find a place on the stem which can be buried some inches underground and still come up with a good length on the other side. Prepare a comfortable hole perhaps 6-8 “wide and deep in that location. Wound the place on the stem that reaches the bottom of the hole by making a slice through the underside of its outer layers.
  • Dunk the cut in a little rooting powder[1], shake it off, then set the stem in the hole firmly (no wiggling stuff) with a  4-6” U shaped ‘anchor pin’[2] in the bottom of the hole. Puddle, tamp and bring the covering soil to grade, perhaps adding a modest sized stone over the rooting place to stabilise the earth and help to mark the location.
  • Keep the area from drying out too much through the seasons. Before you can cut the new plant away from the parent, you will be waiting 6 months to perhaps a year, depending on the plant type, just to give you a rough estimate of when to check back on the root zone. You can probably peek a bit to see how the rooting is going along by carefully squirrelling the loam away from the rooting place.
  • When good roots have formed at the wound, cut the new plant away at this umbilical connnection between the parent and the new roots, and now you can take the baby to plant wherever you like.
  • Sometimes over the years, things get sick, squashed or eaten, so if I have more than one of each of my favorites, I feel safer.
  • There are woody plants you come to value, but you may never be able to find a second time. Perhaps it came from a long ago garden, but for whatever reason, your favorite plant may not be currently available in nurseries. Plants go in and out of fashion, hence in and out of the local nursery trade, so special varieties can disappear. Named varieties sometimes undergoe subtle genetic changes, and your specimen may carry more desirable traits than the one bought some years later, from a different propagation source. For real world examples of close calls, please read the Clematis histories in my previous post. There are so many stories of plants nearly lost, amongst natives and hybrids…….

A little propagation of the particular kinds we value, for whichever good reasons, will help to keep the Best things in our Green world.

If you have friends or family with vines you admire, perhaps they will let you try this multiplying technique within their homegrounds. Hopefully together you will create some offspring to travel to your place. The plants in your grounds will then also carry your memories of the people and places from whence they came.

This simple propagation technique works for many other woody plants if their branches or stems can be brought to touch the ground. I usually bury the current years’ wood, if there’s a choice.

Sometimes it won’t work, but many times it will, and you have risked little.

[1] I use a widely available Rooting Horomone which has a fungicide in it (My current one is made by the Dragon Corp. in Roanoke, Virginia) If you are a recreational propagator, just get the little 4oz. pack for a few dollars. Even this amount will do lots and lots of rooting experiments.


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