Growbag Blog

Propagate to accumulate!

It’s all very well to have gorgeously colourful plant catalogues dropping through the letterbox with every delivery but have you seen the prices this year, folks?

By the time you’ve picked out some bedding for the tubs, and chosen one new shrub, you’ve blown the dosh you were saving for new shoes or fixing that leak in the bathroom. Terrifying! 

So this week we 3Growbags are all going to be discussing  easy ways to get more plants for free – or at least very cheaply……. 


Yes, these are unprecedented times which call for radical action. My sisters have witnessed (with, I’m sorry to report, more than a little schadenfreude,) the decimation of my garden of eclectic just-hardy specimens in this winter’s bitter freeze, and the cost of replacing like-for-like would mean family budget restraints amounting to having to sell some of the dogs (Tim’s labrador already looking nervous).

I don’t think we can let the economy drive evict Tim’s dogs ……

I haven’t yet resorted to Elaine and Caroline’s new wheeze of doing their plant shopping at Lidls – apparently they’ve both separately bought camellias there this week; I asked what cultivars they had in stock and apparently you could have “Pink, White or Red” (I daren’t tell Louise – she’ll be horrified).

This is Elaine’s Lidl Camellia…..
…….and this one’s Caroline’s!

But I HAVE ransacked the house for any packets of annual seeds that has ever been bought but never sown, came free with a magazine, or was collected in an unlabelled brown paper bag in 2018, and I’ve sown the lot (can’t believe it’s come to this, how the mighty have fallen, this is usually Caroline’s territory).

Some of the packets said ’sprinkle seed where they are to flower’ but I’m not falling for that old rouse. I’ve lost count of the number of seeds I’ve ’sprinkled’ never to see any discernible sign of life ever after. They’ve all been sown in pots in the glasshouse and are being sequentially pricked out into plug trays. I’ll harden off the hardy annuals for planting out at Easter and hang on to the half-hardy ones until the end of May.

Okay so not everything came up, but enough to cheer up the garden this summer

It has meant finding a bit more space to accommodate all the plug trays but I’m actually really looking forward to ringing the changes and having a garden full of the ephemeral colour and cheerfulness of annuals – sometimes the worst thing to happen can turn out to be the best thing …

What I’m hoping for this year


Good luck with that, Laura! By the by, dear sister, if you’d put those old seeds in cups of water for 15 minutes, you could have saved yourself a bit of space on the potting bench (viable ones sink, the rest don’t). I, like you, have loads of seeds and seedlings on the go now, but there’s a lovely way of making BIG plants for free too.

Growing plants from cuttings is often very straightforward, rather magical and immensely satisfying.  The principle is so simple – you take bits of a plant, a shrub, a tree, you stick them in a growing medium and if you have got the conditions right, they will grow roots and become an exact replica of the parent plant.  If they don’t develop roots, what have you lost? Absolutely nothing.  If they do, you’re rockin’ and rollin’.

Let’s make some new plants! No harm done to the parent plant and nothing lost if they don’t root. Just magic if they do.

Yes, yes, there’s loads of ‘horti-business’ talked about hard-wood, soft-wood, root- or stem-cuttings, etc, etc.  If you’re a beginner, ignore all that. Please just have a go.  Google the question if you really want chapter and verse (at the end there is a link to a video I made a while ago, giving more details about shrub cuttings). Rotting before rooting is the ever-present danger (and never a good look, I find) but simply bash on (Caroline hasn’t quite learned the necessity of patience in gardening yet, I’m sorry to say, but we’re hoping she’ll get there).  You’ll be THRILLED when the trick works. 

Rooted cuttings of Euonymus, Abelia and myrtle – just by clipping bits off and sticking them in a pot…..

Indoor plants are right on trend, but they are becoming jolly pricey too. Lots of the most popular types will even grow roots in water – try bits of Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue), Schefflera (umbrella plant), Monstera (Swiss cheese plant), Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant), Spathiphyllum (peace lily), Tradescantia, or Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia (African violet), simply in jars of water (which you change every 3 days) on a window-sill.  

Stems of Schefflera – the umbrella plant – will root in water

What about herbs? Lavender, sage, rosemary, mint, oregano, basil, etc. – cuttings from these will all happily grow roots in water (why not just buy one small pot from the garden centre and snip some stems off?).  

Strip the bottom leaves off a rosemary cutting, put it into water for a few days and watch for the roots to come……….

Buddleia stems will do it too, and Fuschia, penstemons, Coleus, Gaura, willows, hydrangeas, bedding plants like busy lizzies, etc.,etc. ….. truly bonkers not to at least give it a try, you know. My husband is, at this very moment, getting spring onion trimmings to root in a small jar on the window-sill……

Trimmings from spring onions will grow roots in water ready for planting in the garden

picture of Caroline

I’ll tell you it isn’t all motherhood and apple pie. I’ve tried to follow Elaine’s instructions to the tee…snipping above this bud, below that one, not too long, not too short, stripping the foliage, putting grit in my compost blah blah blah, but success is as elusive as a lottery win. I simply don’t have the knack.

Nor is seed-sowing a guaranteed push-over for me. Just look at the germination rate of my Rudbeckia here – one single seedling from an entire packet despite investment in yet another propagator (I appear to have lost two in recent years…exactly, what would Lady Bracknell say?)

No, listen to me folks, just take a spade and whack it through the root base of your neighbour’s Acanthus/Achillea/Alchemilla/ (and we are nowhere near the Bs yet.) This way you get a perfectly mature root system all beautifully encased in soil, promising shoots already over-achieving and the only after-care required is to dig a little hole and pop it in your own garden and give it a good slosh of water.

Chopping perennial plants into pieces means it’s easy to share the love!

And if your neighbour is selfishly not growing the sort of thing you want, remember you can simply buy that cherished plant from a nursery and divide it before planting – truly three/four/five for the price of one!

Believe me, division is the most cost-effective and dependable way of increasing your garden stock AND, wrapped in a bit of old newspaper and stuck in your hand luggage, it can comfortably travel from London to Inverness with no ill-effects – you have my word on this!

So our message this week? THRIFT is the new LIFT! Get out there and start seed-sowing, dividing and taking cuttings.  We are looking forward to hearing all about your triumphs (and failures!) with propagation, everyone!

This is how to move your pot full of seedlings on to their next home. Here is the video of Elaine potting up shrub cuttings. Not forgetting how much money you can save by growing your own veg, here’s Laura planting up some lettuce seedlings.

And for those of you who were intrigued by the story of the Linn Botanical Garden restoration on Gardeners’ World last night, we were lucky enough to have had a guided tour by the inspirational new owner, Matthew Young last autumn (actually on 8th September, the day the Queen later passed away 🥲). Read about our fascinating visit by just typing the word Linn into the search box at the top of this page, and the story should magically pop up.

Louise’s Great Plant this Month is a climber that needs very little coaxing to achieve success. Click on the box below to find out what it is and if haven’t got one, put it on your list!

NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

10 replies on “Propagate to accumulate!”

Your little border rake!!! I thought a bit pricey but beautiful and a great idea. Well one afternoon later this is now an essential – it makes reaching all the soggy gunky dead leaves from around my fruit bushes pleasurable and I haven’t even started on the borders. Well worth the money.

Fantastic, Annie – thank you so much for making the effort to write in and tell us how much you like it! What you say about this little implement is exactly the reason that we chose it for our online shop. Hope it serves you well for many years. Happy gardening, from Elaine and the other 2 Growbags.

Hi Marysa, Elaine here. Thank you very much for writing in. You have neatly summed up our two main aims – informing and making people smile. It’s great to hear that we are managing to make progress in these departments! Hope you keep enjoying our writing and have a wonderful gardening year.

Thank you. I love reading your blogs. So informative, inspiring and amusing too 😁👩‍🌾👩‍🌾

Hi Paula, Elaine here. Thank you so much for letting us know that you enjoy our blogs – we love writing them, but it’s quite a lot of work each week. So it means a great deal that our readers make the effort to write in and tell us we’re on the right track. Hope you have a fab gardening year, and do spread the word about us – we are always keen to find new followers!

Hello dears ” naughty ” sisters,
J’adoooore your saturday posts😉.
Les dénominations “officielles “Lidl, rose, blanc , rouge m’ont fait hurler de rire 🤣🤣🤣🤣
Sell dogs ? hum😼 …Goodyear idea says my cat…😹😹

Hi Catherine, Elaine here. Thank you very much for writing in and letting us know that you enjoy our blog. We have such good fun writing it – I’m glad that it comes across to our readers here and abroad! You’re quite right, of course – when it comes to selling off the dogs, all the cats would be queuing up.Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far, and that Laura can find other ways of saving money……Wishing you a happy gardening year from the Growbags.

oho Caroline, you have expressed my experience(s) entirely. I’ll concentrate on my other ‘skills’ for better results. May the Spring be with you and all.

Scott, thank goodness it’s not just me! Caroline here, and I have to say I’m agog as to what your ‘other skills’ are – we need to know! So nice of you to comment on our blog. Here in the Highlands we’re not quite out of the woods yet – going to be minus 2 on Sunday and then we’ll still have what’s called the ‘lambing snow’ to look forward to, but things are generally looking up – such a good state of affairs! Wishing you a wonderful weekend X

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