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Leading the way with Dianthus

British National Carnation Society

Articles 2

I knew I should not have mentioned the weather, yesterday the signs were right about a cold snap and this morning woke to find a severe frost with the odd snowfall. Mind you at least we were well warned of such by the weather forecast but it’s still a shock to the system when temperatures plunge in just 24 hours. This will curtail any further potting on for now and it’s a good job all of the menial tasks have been done whilst the weather was more clement. All of the plants have been sprayed with a fungicide/pesticide mix and I do like to give them a tonic feed of African violet feed which assists in the plant forming a good root system. This will be just about it for the plants now that the cold weather has arrived of course no one can predict what the weather will be like next week and it may well turn out to turn milder (I know try not to laugh) but that’s the fun I suppose the not knowing but past years have shown that the plants will start to go into their hibernation mode and we must remember that Border Carnations are garden plants and its only for show reasons that we bring them under cover, they are totally frost hardy and we must keep on reminding ourselves that they need their rest; so NO heat is required whatsoever.

I have been asked about cuttings and why not layering, this is something that I do in that I take cuttings from Mother Plants simply because it suits my needs. I have found that there is no difference in the overall growth or bloom from a cutting to a layer and this has been supported by better growers than me. I prefer cuttings as I want to empty the old pots and clear out the growing areas as quickly as possible especially whilst the weather allows such, I do not want pots of layers lying around for months but I must state that this is my way and I am sure there are many growers who prefer to take layers.

The other question has been what size of cutting should I take? I would suggest that a cutting should be at least 4-5 pairs of leaves and not as asked a tip cutting such as one would take with say a Fuchsia. The cutting could be in certain cultivars over 3” long and in some cases shorter and it all depends on the cultivar, there are a few common reasons why cuttings fail to root. The first thing to remember is the fact that when you take a cutting you are immediately depriving it of its moisture source, that is it will have no roots through which to absorb water. The foliage will then collapse and the cutting will invariably die. At all stages you should do whatever you can to avoid this moisture loss. Once the cutting is inserted in its allotted compost the cutting should never be devoid of moisture. If you are unable to look after the cutting on a daily basis where you could look at the cuttings and see if they require a gentle misting over then you should think about covering the cutting, this can simply be a clear plastic bag, a sheet of polythene or some form of propagator lid for mass cuttings.

 The best time for collecting cuttings is in the early morning whilst the Mother plant is still turgid (full of water). Later in the day if it is hot the shoots may well be depleted of moisture. Cuttings can be taken later in the day but extra care will be needed to conserve and replace any moisture. Popping your cutting material into a plastic bag and keeping it out of the sun is a good start. Splashing a few drops of water into the polythene bag will help to keep a good humidity level. I personally prefer to drop the cuttings once taken and tied  together in bunches of the same variety into a prepared     fungicide/pesticide mix until needed.

  Cleanliness is important. Your cuttings knife should be clean as should any tray or containers and lids that you are going to use.

 The cutting should be prepared and inserted into the cuttings compost as soon as possible and if possible right after taking it from the plant. If they are to be left alone then cover them with a plastic cover as soon as. It is essential to do this as at this stage moisture loss for the cutting is a big problem. It is imperative that you keep the new cuttings container out of direct sunshine.

 The compost mix for rooting cuttings can be simply some peat based general purpose compost, with an added 25% of sharp sand. Washed sharp sand or horticultural sand is best used as builder’s sand often has high lime or salt content. Alternatively you can use my preference which is Perlite instead of the sand. If using Perlite then go 50/50 with the compost. The added sand or Perlite simply ‘opens’ up the compost a little to allow free drainage, and also allows air to get into the compost.

  Some cuttings can simply be rooted in moistened sand, but the new roots are normally brittle, and easily break off on potting up. I also use Hormone rooting powder, as well as having ingredients to assist the cutting to grow roots the powder will also have a fungicide and this is useful to prevent in any attack of any fungi when taking the cutting. Make sure though that you never use more than is suggested on the package otherwise it will have a detrimental effect of the rooting of your cutting. It can even rot the base of the cutting if you use too much.


Cuttings of Borders can be taken even during flowering but I prefer to take them when the plant dictates which for me July-August is normally when, but this year for instance I took the cuttings late in August as at the time when I would normally take the cuttings the weather was too hot for the cutting to root. I have as a matter of interest just taken more cuttings of cultivars that I am short on, these will of course take longer to root and from past experience I am sure they will catch up but at this time of the year there is no guarantee of rooting.  


Frosted greenhouse and plummeting temperatures, no heat is required whatsoever for the plants; do not panic they will be OK they are frost hardy.

The cuttings have made great strides and such good root growth that I have potted some on into final pots.

The Picotees have been potted two to a two litre pot, this I find restricts the bloom from becoming to “blousy” looking, which Ann S Moore is prone to do if overfed.