Issue: December 20, 2003

Start new plants from holiday wreath?

Question:

I have a beautiful wreath on my door. After the holidays are past, can I take the plants from the wreath and start new plants from them?

Answer:

It is not impossible with some plants, but even those which would otherwise grow new plants will probably have dried too much and will be dead by the time the holidays end.

However, if you want to try to start new plants, the needle leafed plants are unlikely to form new plants, especially pine, spruce, juniper, fir, and similar plants. Broadleaf evergreens are a better choice for propagating to form new plants. English ivy, if it is used in your wreath, is one of the easiest to grow. To keep it from drying, hide some moist sphagnum moss, cotton batting, or other absorbent material inside the wreath next to the stems of the plants you want to propagate. Keep this material moist. Disassemble the wreath as soon as possible after the holidays. If the plants have not dried too much (and weren't too dry when you started), you may have plants that will grow into new plants.

Take three-to-four-inch cuttings from the plant material in the wreath. Choose plant pieces that are pliable and are not brittle. Look for a bright green layer of tissue just under the bark. This layer is the cambium and is very important in propagating new plants. If it has dried to a dull green or brown, the cutting will not form roots. Place these healthy cuttings into a pot of moist potting soil in a warm, brightly lighted location. The base of the cutting (the part that is naturally closest to the roots) should be placed into the soil after treating its base with rooting hormones. You can identify the natural base of the plant by locating the buds at the base of each leaf. Buds will be just above the petiole where the leaf attaches to the stem. Arrange the cuttings so that the buds are above the petiole.

Placing the cuttings and their pot with potting soil inside a white plastic bag to maintain higher humidity may also help. Don't seal the bag too tightly since too much humidity will cause rotting.

After all this effort, remember that most plants from a wreath will have dried too much. However, gardeners often enjoy a challenge. Perhaps you can take a plant that is as good as dead and resuscitate it to create a free, new plant. It may be easier to buy a healthy plant but much less challenging.

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Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu or at https://www.facebook.com/DesertBloomsNM/. Please include your county Extension Agent (aces.nmsu.edu/county) and your county of residence with your question!

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page: desertblooms@nmsu.edu.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.