This time of year is ideal for taking Euphorbia cuttings before they start to put on too much growth in the spring. They’re also really easy to do and a great way to increase the stocks of plants that you have. You can take divisions at this time too but I’ve not done a guide on that yet as the ones that I have are too small this year. I’ll put one together for some different perennials later, the same method applies to Euphorbias so it’ll be easy to follow.
Choosing the cutting
There’s not a great science behind this but it’s best to choose one that’s healthy and has a little growth starting, also one that won’t make the plant look unbalanced or deformed when it’s removed. This one above was sticking out of the side so it was a perfect choice, the atmospheric rain drops were simply because it was raining.
Taking the Euphorbia cuttings
One thing to note with Euphorbia cuttings of all types is that they exude a toxic latex when they’re cut. This stuff is an irritant and won’t be pleasant if you get it on your skin so it’s best to use some gloves when handling them. You can see in the picture below how the latex appears, it’s easy to have it splash about if you’re not careful with it.
It’s worth at this point standing the cuttings in a glass of cold water for a few moments as this remove the latex and will stop the flow of any more from the cut.
Preparing the Euphorbia cuttings
When the plants are cut they’re effectively still living as the transpiration system will still be functioning, but without the roots there is no easy way for the plant to take up water from the growing medium. For this reason you need to remove some of the lower leaves to stop too much moisture leaving through them, the plant will still be respiring and water will still be getting lost from the cutting. Then make a clean cut an inch or two from the lower leaves using a drawing motion not a pressing motion using a very sharp knife. If you were to look at cuts made to plants even with sharp implements you’d be amazed at the damage that is caused. Really close up even what looks like a clean cut can look like it was made with a blunt axe.
This bit was from the Gardeners World tips, basically it’s to dip the end into some ground charcoal. It’s not in anyway essential but will help seal the wound where the latex was getting out, I assume it’s to absorb any moisture. I’ve not done this with other cuttings but anything that might help them strike is going be good.
You can see here how the charcoal has made a nice coating over the end.
Planting the Euphorbia cuttings
Now all you need to do is inset them into a pot. Make a hole to the correct depth using a pencil or similar implement and pop in the cutting pressing it down firmly. Put them at the edge of the put as this way they’re going to dry out more slowly, they should be kept a little damp at all times anyway. I should use a low nutrient, free draining growing medium to plant them in, I use the same potting mix that I use for seeds and then make sure that I move them into a more general purpose potting compost when they’re rooted and growing.
And then label them, always label them, in fact always label everything. However much you thing that you’ll remember what’s in a pot you will forget. 3 months later and you have a variety of things that you may know the genus but was it odoratus or latifolius?
Caring for the Euphorbia cuttings
And lastly pop them somewhere warm to take root, keeping them moist, making sure that they don’t dry out at all. I’ve put these in a heated propagator as it’s still on from the winter germinations that I’ve been doing. Given the recent UK weather it may be on for a little longer too.
Most of these steps for for all softwood cuttings and many hardwood cuttings so you can experiment with different plants. Next time I do some propagation I’ll add a guide for that too.