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Luz Maria Salazar propagates succulents in her well-stocked greenhouse at Bamby’s Flowers on State Street in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
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It’s a good time to propagate

Chris Cash, my favorite professor in the SUNY Cobleskill Plant Science Department, gave his propagation students free rein of the 17 university greenhouses while attending his class.

As a result, we produced over 100 Rosemary Christmas trees and 500 geraniums for the graduation ceremony. It was obvious I had caught the propagation bug, and here are a few of the techniques I learned that I would love to pass on to fellow gardeners.


Here, in Southern California, the possibilities of learning more about making plants from existing annuals, herbs and succulents are endless.

For those of us who use herbs on a regular basis, there is no need to purchase those “live herbs” from the specialty food stores. These are simply tall herbs with roots that have been refrigerated in plastic bags. Although they may look alive when you buy them, in truth they only last for a week.

You can, however, use these “live herbs” as cuttings to make more plants. The propagation method described will work best with well-established herbs from your garden or a neighbor’s, or from larger, well-established plants purchased from the garden center. Now is the perfect time of year to start cuttings for your spring garden.



This kitchen favorite is easy to propagate, especially considering there are now over 10 varieties available from garden centers — whether spicy Thai basil, lemon basil with a citrus flavor or large leaf basil perfect for a salad or to wrap your chicken salad.

Take a cutting at least 3-4 inches long, removing the lower leaves with two pairs of leaves remaining on top.

Place the cuttings in a glass container, making sure to keep the leaves out of the water. The old-fashioned Ball jars are perfect for this since they have raised upper collars.

As soon as the roots appear, repot into a plastic or clay 4-inch pot. Place pot in an indoor room, not in direct sun. Wait until the plant has at least six sets of leaves before harvesting.

When harvesting just a few leaves, pick from the upper sides of the stalk. If more are needed cut a few inches of the entire stem. Once the plant is sturdy and well-established it can be transplanted outdoors.


Cut 3-inch pieces from the soft stem, avoid the hardwood at the bottom of the stalk. Remove bottom leaves and place in Ball jar, with only stem touching the water.

As soon as roots appear, repot into a 4-inch pot filled with potting soil and keep in warm room until established.

To direct sow into pots, take cutting in same manner, cutting below the node, and remove lower leaves. Fill clay pot with potting soil and poke small holes to place stems in. Press into soil, making sure they stand upright. Place pots in warm room, with indirect sunlight. In about three weeks, roots will develop and the plant can be repotted or stay in small pot.


This herb is used in a variety of Mexican and ethnic recipes and can be grown in a pot or in the ground for most of the year.

Take cuttings from young stems, about 3 inches long, cutting just above the node. Remove the bottom set of leaves, leaving two pairs of leaves at the top. Take at least four cuttings, so you can process them all in one pot.

Fill a 4-inch clay or plastic pot with lightweight potting soil. Water before inserting herbs. Poke holes with a finger or pencil, and insert the four stems. Press into soil.

Place in a warm room with indirect sunlight. In 2-4 weeks they will have rooted and can be placed outdoors in pots or transplanted into the ground.


Both basil and coriander can be transformed into delicious sauces by simply processing in blender or food processor.

Harvest three cups of leaves, rinse briefly and dry with towel. Place in separate bowl. Add ¼ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons walnuts or pine nuts, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 cloves sliced garlic to blender jar and pulse until thick. When mixture is thick, add herbs gradually until it resembles mayonnaise. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Bamby’s Flowers in Carlsbad grows enough specimens so that everyone can create their own succulent garden for a few dollars per pot. Photo by Jano Nightingale



Although this is not a long-lived plant, the show that it puts on in any sunny room will charm your family. Every few weeks I cut long stems from my garden, strip off the bottom leaves and place in a tall glass jar. If you place in a kitchen that receives natural as well as overhead lighting, the stalk will begin producing orange flowers on a daily basis.

They will bloom for weeks if you remember to change the water! Nasturtiums don’t transplant well, but they make a wonderful cut flower.


Tuberous begonias can be multiplied through stem cuttings. It is necessary to wait until the new growth has started before cutting is done.

Cut stems that are approximately 4-6 inches tall, with lower leaves removed to promote air circulation. If you have the room, you can propagate four or five plants at a time.

Using a standard 4-inch clay pot, filled with moistened potting mixture, make a hole with the finger and press the base into the bottom of the hole and firm soil. Place entire pot in plastic bag in a cool room with indirect light. Do not place on a windowsill, which will dehydrate the plants. Water only when soil feels dry. In a few weeks you will have new plants, ready to bloom outdoors, filled with pink, red and white blossoms.


Considering the price of single “dinner-plate dahlia” — so named since the flower can exceed the size of small plate, these beauties are worth saving year to year. Be sure to dig up after they are done blooming and keep in a dry place.

Divide with a sharp knife with those bulbs that are protruding from the stem, making sure that the bulb is still attached to the stem.

This process is best done after the flowers are finished in late summer, but if they are still in the ground, it can be done in March. With each primary bulb producing at least six roots, you have just saved yourself over $20!


We are all familiar with the multitude of succulents growing everywhere in North County, so it would be easy to create a succulent garden from just cuttings.

On a recent visit to a small gem of a local florist, I discovered hidden treasures in the tiny greenhouse at Bamby’s Flowers on State Street in Carlsbad.

Co-owner Luz Maria Salazar demonstrated the ease with which succulents can be quickly transformed into lots of baby plants. This technique works for any of the low-growing aeonium or echeveria, which are characterized by the multitude of rosettes or offshoots in a pot or growing laterally on the ground.

I watched as Luz held a 4-inch pot in her hand and gently pulled one of the offshoots of the mother plant out of the pot. “See,” she said, “it’s that easy! Just pop them into another pot, and you have a new plant.”

With over a hundred tiny 3-inch pots festooning their small greenhouse, Luz and her husband, Angel, are growing enough specimens so that everyone can create their own succulent garden for a few dollars per pot. Once you take them home, they can be easily propagated into more plants.

Bamby’s is located at 2763 State Street in Carlsbad and is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with special bouquets, cut flowers and plants featured for all occasions including the Easter season. Call (760) 828-3554 to make a special order.

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and horticulturist and teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Contact her at [email protected] for upcoming classes.

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