Updated: Apr 24, 2018
Last year I bought the most beautiful poppy – Papaver Princess Louise, with tissue thin peach petals do delicate they were almost see through. Realistically I needed around 20 of them to make an impact on my garden but my budget would only stretch to a measly 2 plants. I would also love to use then on my arrangements this year and although the petals have a very limited life the seed heads look great in arrangements. Seed collection provides mixed results and the plants do not always come true so they are best propagated from cuttings.
Papaver can readily be propagated from root cuttings to give true identical plants to the mother. They will naturally reproduce from broken roots left in the soil so cuttings do have a high success rate. Always choose a healthy mother plant to give offspring the best chance of success and water well a few hours before so that the roots have the change to take up as much water as they can before being cut, alternatively take cuttings in the morning when the mother plant is much less likely to be dehydrated.
Generally cuttings taken from a very young plant will not have as good success rate as from an established plant at the end of the growing season with strong thick roots however Papaver will freely self propagate from broken roots left in the soil so in good conditions the success rate should still be good in the spring. The advantage of autumn cuttings is that they will flower the following year. Propagating in late summer/early autumn also gives them a little time to establish and over winter without drying out and a good run of warmth through the spring to establish a good root system before the heat of the summer. They will also establish much quicker if given some bottom heat, around 18degrees is ideal.
All cuttings need good drainage and root cuttings are no exception. The cuttings will be in their pot for quite a long time so it is essential that they do not get waterlogged and have a free root run. Simply fill a tray with equal parts good quality seed&cutting compost and grit or pearlite. Do this preparation before you start to take your cuttings so that you can pop them straight in. Water the compost to ensure it is damp all the way through.
Then dig up your required mother plant taking care not to damage the roots. Using a sharp knife take 8cm long cuttings from the roots choosing those which are pencil thickness. Simply lay each root onto the tray of compost a few centimetres apart. Cover with a little sieved compost. Water in and place the pot out of direct sunlight, a bright but shady spot is ideal for the first week while they settle into their new home. Cuttings can then be over wintered in a greenhouse or cold frame.
Root cuttings cat also be inserted into pots vertically. Choose a pot which is deeper than the max length of your cuttings – say 10cm deep. Make long holes in the compost with a pencil and insert the cutting until the end is flush with the top of the compost.
I am really looking forward to a garden filled with peachy blooms this summer.
To read up on the basics of taking cuttings read my blog How to take cuttings – A beginner’s guide.