Purchasing plants can be costly at times. However, a way exists where you can get more for your garden at no cost by propagating ones that are growing in your yard or perhaps on the property of a friend or neighbor.

All it takes is a little time, effort and knowledge. The procedure involves taking cuttings, getting them to form roots and then growing them into sizeable plants. They can be planted at a later time.

Now is an ideal time to collect softwood cuttings from your favorite landscape plants. Azaleas, forsythias, hollies, Japanese aucubas, roses and gardenias are some that are easy to propagate. However, propagating dogwoods, redbuds and Southern magnolias can be challenging to grow from cuttings.

Always take ones from vigorous, healthy growth, preferably from the upper part of the plant. Avoid taking stem cuttings from any plants showing signs of insect injury or disease damage. For best rooting results, take cuttings that are four to six inches long from this year’s growth. Be sure to cut the base or bottom end of the cutting at a slant just below a leaf or bud for optimal rooting response.

The leaves from the bottom half of the cutting should be removed to reduce moisture loss. The ones that you collect should be kept moist and out of direct sunlight until they can be placed into the rooting mixture.

Although some plants, like gardenias, will usually form roots when placed in a glass of water, this method is not the best. A mixture of one-half coarse construction-grade sand and one-half peat moss makes an excellent media for cuttings to develop healthy root systems.

Another option is to purchase a sterile rooting or potting-soil mixture at a local garden center. These mixes quickly soak up water yet provide good aeration for proper air and water movement throughout the soil. The rooting or soil mixture itself can be placed in almost any type of container or pot as long as the container has drainage holes.

You will be much more successful in getting new roots to form on the cuttings if you first dip or dust the ends of your cuttings into a rooting powder, which are sold under various trade names and can be purchased at most garden centers. They contain a hormone that causes tissue in the cuttings to form new roots readily.

Insert the ends of the cuttings approximately two inches deep in the soil mixture and then thoroughly water them. Cover the container with the cuttings with a plastic. In essence, you will be creating a mini-greenhouse which decreases water loss and stress and increases rooting response.

Place it in an area that receives bright light, but not direct sunlight because it would dry out the cuttings. The rooting or soil mixture needs to be kept moist, but not waterlogged or dripping wet.

Most cuttings will root within three months. Once they do develop a good, fibrous root system, transfer them to individual pots containing a mixture of one-third sand, one-third peat and one-third sterile topsoil. You will most likely need to “finish out” or grow these small transplants for one or two years in a nursery row fashion before they will be of a size to use in your landscape. Do not allow the pots to freeze solid during the winter as this will severely injure the roots. Keep containers in a protected area or mulch the pots well or heal them in during any freezing weather.

If you enjoy certain garden plants and would like more for free, consider propagating some of them. You can plant them in your home landscape or share with family and friends.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011 or tdaly@uga.edu.