Ballota pseudodictamnus or more commonly called false dittany is from the family Lamiaceae. It is a dwarf, low-growing evergreen, growing to heights of 12 to 24 inches. They are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 8 through 10.
The ballota produces white flowers in the mid summer. The silver/gray foliage and stems are furry feeling. This plant is drought resistant and it provides winter interest. It takes 2 to 5 years for the Ballota to reach maturity. It is a low maintenance plant requiring only about 1 hour labor for total yearly care. It is a winner of the RHS AGM awards.
Before you go out, take a damp paper towel and a plastic bag to keep the stems hydrated. Water the evergreen the night before you take the cuttings. The best time to take cuttings is early in the day. If the Ballota pseudodictamnus is growing on someone else’s property, be courteous and ask for permission before taking your cuttings. You may land in trouble if you don’t. You’ll want to find pliable stems.
Cutting the Stems
Examine the Ballota pseudodictamnus to find healthy softwood or semi-hardwood stems, depending on when you are cutting them. Take softwood cuttings in the spring or early in the summer. Softwood cuttings are stems from tender new growth, and they are pliable when bent. If you wait to take cuttings late in the summer or in mid-autumn, take semi-hardwood cuttings.
Gather the stems with sterilized pruning shears. Take several 4 to 6 inch stems, cutting each just below the leaf node. The stems should have at least three to four leaf nodes. Cut off the flowers, and remove all but the top two or 3 leaves. Wrap the cut ends in the damp paper towel and place them in a resealable plastic bag.
Prepare the Pots
Mix equal amounts of free-draining potting soil and sharp sand or perlite together. Fill enough 2-inch pots so there will be one pot for each cutting. If you don’t have that size pot, you can use disposable cups. With those, you have to remember to poke one or two holes at the bottom so the water can drain away.
Planting the Stems
Remove a Ballota pseudodictamnus ste from your bag. Poke a hole in the soil with a dibble or pencil and insert the stem inside. Firm the soil around the stem to help hold it upright. I will make a note here. Before planting the stems, some people coat the cut end with rooting hormone. I only do this with stems that are difficult to root. Rooting hormone can have adverse results if you use too much, so only use a light dusting at the end. I
Moisten the Soil
Fill a tub or other container that has high sides with two inches of tepid water. The water level should fall below the rim of the pots. Allow the pots to soak until the soil is visibly moist. If you used the disposable cups, don’t soak them in water or they will start to decompose. Gently sprinkle water over the top. Take the pots out of the water, and place them on a drainage wrack so the excess water can drain away. Insert the pots into a plastic bag. Close the bag so it holds in humidity. To keep the plastic bag from resting on your cutting, insert bamboo sticks or pieces of wire longer than the cuttings. The plastic bag will rest on the sticks, not your plants.
Place the pots in a warm, bright location, but not in direct sunlight. Every day, check the soil for moisture and water the soil when it starts to dry. The soil needs to stay evenly moist, but not soggy or the cuttings will rot. If you notice mold growing on the soil, open the bag for an hour or so.
Watch for Growth
When you see new growth on the stems, this tells you that the cuttings have formed roots. You can also gently pull on the cuttings. If you feel any resistance, the cutting has rooted. It should not pull out of the soil easily.
When the stems have rooted and are visibly growing, open the plastic bag an inch. The next day, open the bag a little more. Keep opening the bag more over the next 7 days. Leave the pots in the open bag for another 2 days. This reduces the amount of stress that the young plants go through.
Transplant the young Ballota pseudodictamnus in the prepared garden area. If there are chances of frost in the area, transplant the rooted cuttings into a bigger pot. Continue to grow the shrub indoors until the weather is warm and there is no chance of a frost.
Gardening: Ballota pseudodictamnus
Perennials: Ballota pseudodictamnus
National “Sunset National Garden Book”; Sunset Books; 1997
“American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants”; Christopher Brickell; 2004