Passalong Plants - a Southern Tradition


The gardens of the South are usually a blend of many cultures such as native American, Spanish, French, African American, English and German. A beautiful book, The Southern Heirloom Garden by William C. Welch and Greg Grant, gives an interesting and detailed account of the story of our gardening heritage.

The many convenient nurseries in our area, which we tend to take for granted today, were not so prevalent in those early days of the South. Many, if not most, gardens were planted with "passalong" plants. Today many of the plants of our heritage can only be obtained at specialized nurseries or from friends and neighbors as "passalong" plants. These old plants are usually easy to propagate and are very well adapted to the local environment. So look around, meet your neighbors, and share your plants with one another. Just remember, according to Southern tradition you should never thank anyone for a "passalong" plant or it will not live and grow. Steve Bender and Felder Rushing have written an entertaining book about this aspect of our Southern gardening history. The book is titled Passalong Plants. So enjoy your gardens and our gardening heritage by sharing these durable, tried and true varieties of plants.

Jo Helen McGee, Smith County Master Gardener


Passalong plants are an important part of our Southern gardening heritage. A passalong plant is defined as one that can be easily propagated and given away. The question is, when and how does one acquire them?

Fall is a good time for acquiring pass-along plants, with divisions, seeds and cuttings as the usual methods of propagation. Here are some tips for each.

Divisions: the rule of thumb in plant divisions is that the plant should be divided opposite the season when it blooms. Thus, those plants that bloom in spring and summer can be divided now. Some plants to try in Northeast Texas are alliums, cannas, ox-eye daisies, coreopsis, crinums, crocosmia (corms), dianthus, Byzantine gladiolas (corms), daylilies, iris, and phlox.

Seeds: seeds can be collected and saved for spring planting or for starting early indoors or in a greenhouse. There should be many seeds available for such old favorites as coral vine, cypress vine, cardinal climber, hyacinth bean, butterfly weed, yarrow, coreopsis, purple coneflower, gaillardia, gaura, Maximilian sunflower, Turk's cap, salvias, and many others.

Cuttings: for plants that aren't winter hardy, you can make cuttings to carry over indoors or in a greenhouse, for setting out next spring.

Just keep your eyes open for passalong opportunities so you can participate in the enjoyable activity of sharing what you have with others and having others share with you.

Jo Helen McGee, Smith County Master Gardener


Quality roses are readily available in Tyler area nurseries; however, having a rose bush that you started from a cutting from the garden of a much-loved relative or friend gives that rose special meaning for you. Propagating roses from cuttings isn't difficult, and you will be rewarded with a rose that you will always treasure.

The best time of year to take cuttings is during the cool months-November through February. The most successful section of the rose to cut is the end of a stem that has recently flowered. Preferably, the stem has a withered bloom or a hip that is beginning to form. Cut six to eight inches with a sharp knife or pruning shears at approximately a 45 degree angle. Remove the spent flower or hip along the stem to the first group of vigorous leaves, being careful not to let the cutting dry out or be exposed to excessive heat or cold until it has been placed into the rooting medium.

Your choice of location is important to the success of your cutting. Roses favor a sunny spot; but when rooting a cutting, it is preferable to have protection from the burning afternoon sun. A location where drip from a roof helps keep the area moist is advantageous, but the soil should have good drainage. Remove foliage from the bottom half of your cutting and dip the cutting into a rooting hormone, tapping lightly to remove any excess. Use a pencil or similar device to make a hole for each cutting. These holes should be approximately half the length of the cutting and six to eight inches apart. Firm the soil around each cutting and water thoroughly.

Early in the rooting process, it is essential that the cuttings not be allowed to dry out. During a dry time, you may have to water every other day. Prevent damage from extreme cold by covering for a few hours or days as necessary. As spring arrives, your cuttings should sprout new growth. Again, it is important to keep the soil moist. Young plants are particularly vulnerable to stress during their first summer and should be left in place to strengthen their root systems. By late fall, your young plants will be ready to move to a permanent setting in your garden and should have their first blooms by the following spring.

Mary Wilkerson, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas Cooperative Extension

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