Dormant Bud Cutting....How to with Hostas
Dormant bud cutting lesson from a rookie.(with more than a little help from
a friend) This is a technique pioneered by Alex Summers.
I spent Sunday morning at Honeysong Farm with Alex Summers and Russ Parsons
making dormant bud cuttings. This is my second lesson. Alex made about 100
cuttings, Russ dug, and I planted.
Alex makes bud cuttings on hostas that show sports on one or more leaves.
The theory goes that if these sports are not removed sometimes they will
stay dormant the next year and may never be seen again. When Alex takes his
cuttings he takes the whole plant down to single dormant buds. For those
not familiar with this process, this cuts a nice plant down to very small
pieces, but each small plant will have the characteristics of the leaf from
which it originated. Alex feels that single crown divisions are the best to
Timing is very important. We are in zone 7 and it was 10 days before our
expected first frost date of October 20th. There is a window here although
I don't know how large it is.
1) The first step is to dig the plant and remove all of the soil from the
2) Pull off each leaf carefully so as not to damage the crown any more than
possible. Under each petiole there is a dormant bud. If the
crown flowered that year there is usually not a scape bud present but
instead a hollow where the scape was attached. If the crown did not flower
that year a larger bud may be present in the center that will form a scape
next season. This scape bud may be many times larger than the dormant buds
under the petioles but it is treated the same way.
3) At this point all you have is the crown with its roots. Carefully with a
knife cut each bud from the crown. Make sure that each bud has some crown
material and also some roots attached to this crown material. If you know
which bud was with the sported leaf, (and it pays to know) make sure it
gets a good amount of crown and root. This is your million dollar hosta.
This is where experience comes in handy.
4) Re-plant each of the dormant bud divisions. Only cover the buds with
about 1/2 inch of soil. (note, for other rookies, bud side up) Alex plants
the divisions about 10 inches apart and all in the same area for easy
monitoring. Next spring these will be small plants about the size of tissue
culture starts. They need to be watched closely or they may be lost.(Some
people soak these divisions in a 10% Clorox solution for 10 minutes to
sanitize, Alex does not).
Alex believes that to much fertilizer cuts way down on the number of
dormant buds found. Jim Hawes has stated that fertilizer may delay the
formation of these buds because the hosta stays in a vegetative stage later
in the season.
This technique is usually used to separate sporting leaves in a crown but
could also be used to multiply any hosta.
For a more scientific discussion see Jim Hawes previous message on this
same subject from a few months ago right here on our e-Robin.
I welcome corrections and additions.
Your Hosta Friend,
Originally posted 10-14-97
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