Plant propagation is the process of reproducing or creating a new plant or
seedling. Like all living organisms in Nature, plants must reproduce to survive.
Nature provides a variety of ways to do this in the plant world. Different
species will propagate or reproduce in different ways. Unlike the animal
world, many plants reproduce in multiple ways. Pretty amazing, huh!?!
Plant propagation is an important part of gardening, whether outdoors, or
with your indoor houseplants. When you have a great plant, and you want to
create a new one "just like it" for yourself or a friend, you need to know
about plant propagation. Here are the most common means of plant
Seeds are by far the most common means of propagation. The vast majority
of plants in the world produce seeds. The seeds are produced in the fruit
of a plant, or in the flower. In nature, the seeds dry out in autumn, and
then spend the winter in or on the ground. They awaken and sprout in the
spring as a young seedling.
Seeds are cast about by nature in a variety of ways. Some seeds fall to the
ground, and new offspring sprout up right near the location of the mother
plant. Other seeds are cast far distances by floating through the air. Good
examples of these are dandelions and poplar trees. Other plants use animals
to help spread their seeds in a wide area. Berries for example, pass though
the digestive system of birds, and are deposited long distances away. Other
seeds are contained in burrs that attach themselves to an animals fur, and
are carried for miles before being cast off by their unsuspecting transportation.
The number of seeds produced is usually proportional to the seeds survival
rate. Thats why some plants produce thousands of seeds, as only a few
ultimately find a suitable place to germinate.
Seeds are generally easy to collect and store away for next year. In
todays world of mass production, only a few varieties of a species
are readily available in seed stores, online, and in catalogs. Heirloom seed
sources and keeping your own seeds are a great way of retaining less common
varieties that may carry unique features or qualities. Those unique qualities
will make your garden stand out to both the casual observer and the garden
More information saving seeds.
Cuttings and Rooting Plants
This is the second most common form of plant propagation. But, it is sometimes
the most difficult. Sure, there are lots of plants that you can easily and
successfully propagate by cuttings. Then, there are others that are more
difficult. A good example of this are roses, which require a more controlled
environment and protection during the "cutting" stage. Remember, cuttings
demand more attention.
A good candidate for cuttings, is a healthy, growing plant, one that has
not gone dormant in the fall. Cut the end of a stem, generally three to four
inches long. Look for a stem that does not have a flower or a flower bud.
Remove any flowers and buds, and the bottom leaves. There should be four
to six healthy leaves on the cutting.
Some cuttings need to be placed in water, to allow roots to form. Others,
are placed in moist soil. Care must be taken to make sure the tender new
roots do not dry out. After a healthy new root system is formed, you can
then transplant your cutting into a container or into your garden.
Some plants, like African Violets, work well with leaf cuttings. The leaf
is either placed in water to root, or placed directly into moist soil. Some
leaf cuttings will grow pinned to the surface of the soil. The new plants
will root from the veins where they contact the moist soil.
More on propagation from cuttings and rooting
Roots Spread and Separation
Here is another common means of plant propagation. A classic example of this
is the grasses in your lawn, especially crabgrass! Another good example in
the home garden is asparagus roots. When planting asparagus, you take some
roots, spread them out, and cover them with soil. A few years later, you
can dig up the roots and separate them again, giving some to friends, or
just expanding your patch. Another good example of this is day lilies. When
you dig up the root, you can separate it and plant two or more plants next
year. Root separation is quick and easy for those plants that reproduce in
Grafting is not true plant propagation. It is not the recreation of another
plant, but is the transplanting of part of an existing plant onto another
existing host plant. In this sense it does not create a new plant. Grafting
is however, a common practice. Home gardeners who have limited space often
use this method for fruit crops. You can for example, graft a number of varieties
of apple onto one host plant. Some people have grafted up to seven varieties
onto a single tree. For those who try this, you can have a different apple
every day of the week from a single tree!
Some plants will send out shoots or runners with tiny little offspring attached.
The most well know example of this is spider plants, one of the most popular
houseplants. Another good example are strawberries. In outdoor home gardens,
the runners can be allowed to root where ever they grow, or trained in a
particular directions. For indoor gardening, the tiny baby plant can be cut
from the runner and planted in a pot filled with moist, rich potting soil.
A wide variety of flowers grow from bulbs and corms. The original bulb grows
smaller bulbs as offshoots. Pull bulbs in the summer after the plant has
died back. Separate the smaller bulbs from the mother bulb. Replant the bulbs
in the fall with a bulb fertilizer to help your new plant to grow.
More on Bulbs
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