Propagation by Cuttings: Two Perspectives.

"If you have one tuber of a particular dahlia and you want to grow several plants of that dahlia without buying more tubers, propagation by taking either sprout cuttings or leaf cuttings may be for you. If you're one of those people who've come to believe that dahlia plants grown from cuttings produce better blossoms, taking cuttings may also be for you. If you are just curious about starting a plant by cutting off a sprig or a leaf and part of the stem and persuading it to grow, propagation by taking cuttings is certainly for you. I take cuttings because I am curious about the process and the results even though I do not really need the additional plants"...Ben Lawrence

"As spring approaches, it is time to start thinking about taking dahlia cuttings. Taking cuttings is not very hard to do and it is fun to try. It seems that everyone has their own system for taking cuttings. My first step is to figure out what dahlias I want to take cuttings from and how many different dahlias I want to get started. After making my choices, I bring the tubers out of storage. Always choose healthy, firm tubers. I place the tubers in an open plastic bag in our home for about two weeks. This lets the tuber warm and start to grow. If they are started directly in the medium, it takes them longer to start growing. I bring them out of storage at the end of January or beginning of February"...Calvin Cook

The first order of business in preparing to take cuttings is setting the tubers for growth. If you have lots of room, you can place each tuber directly in individual pots. However, if space is at a premium, you may set them up in a soilless potting mixture as shown in the picture on the right. Keep the potting soil slightly moist (not wet) at a temperature between 60 and 68 degrees fahrenheit. Some varieties will sprout rapidly-- others may take up to 6 weeks...Ben Lawrence


After the warming-up period in the plastic bag, I plant my tubers using a flat standard tray with drain holes as shown in the adjacent picture. The growing medium is a soilless potting mix of peat/perlite. Several satisfactory mixes are readily available at your local garden center.

I label each tuber with an indelible pencil and a four inch white plastic label to prevent mix ups. The crown of each tuber is left barely exposed as the tubers are covered with more growing medium. They are then watered and placed on benches under fluorescent shop lights. We do not have a greenhouse--but with the shop lights, the spare room in our house works just fine. The temperature is the same as the rest of our house. The sprouting tubers are left in these trays and never moved until we are finished taking cuttings"...Calvin Cook


"When a tuber puts out a small sprout, as in the picture at the right, it is time to put the tuber in a pot. If you continue to let the sprout grow in this tray, the tuber will put out lots of roots and many may get broken in the process of planting the tuber in a pot. The pot should be large enough to allow the head of the tuber to be an inch or more below the rim"...Ben Lawrence


"Cover the tuber with a soilless potting mix so the top of the tuber is barely exposed with the sprout showing as in the picture on the right. It is advisable to select pots at least 4"x4"x5" even if the tuber would fit in a smaller pot. The plant will need space to allow its roots to grow freely"...Ben Lawrence

Decision Time

Now is the time to decide whether to take "sprout" cuttings or "leaf" cuttings and whether you wish to do some experimenting or just want to get some additional plants of your favorite dahlias. Should you decide to take leaf cuttings, you may find that one or more of the tubers you set up voluntarily produced two or more sprouts simultaneously. If that happens, you must decide to remove all but one sprout to produce a plant from which to take leaf cuttings. Of course you could dispose of the sprouts that you removed but alternatively you could make those extra sprouts into sprout cuttings.

At this point "Propagation by Cuttings" divides into three separate presentations-- "Discovering What Works";
"A No Frills Approach"; and "Leaf Cuttings."

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