Here’s a topic I’m a huge fan of: PLANT PROPAGATION! I’ve talked about it repeatedly and those of you who have followed Growing The Home Garden over the years have seen some of my plant propagation experiments. I thought for today’s Friday Five post I would highlight the various common forms of plant propagation. I highly encourage those of you who have never tried it before to give it a go. Some plants are very easy to propagate and nothing can beat getting free plants for your garden!
Five Methods to Propagate Plants
- Seeds! Seeds are one of the most popular methods of plant propagation around. Seeds are nature’s way of making more plants and sustaining the species through the diversification of genes. Every time a seed is planted there is a chance that there will be some variations in the plant’s traits which could make it more adaptable to the environment or change its appearance in some small way. Seeds are pretty easy way to grow plants. Often all a seed needs is good soil and adequate water. Sometimes though the seed needs a treatment that breaks down the seed coat either called scarification or stratification. Scarification occurs when the seed coat is scratched or nicked to allow water to flow to the embryo. Stratification breaks down the seed coat through the use of cold temperatures and simulates winter months. Both of these techniques simulate the natural conditions with which the seed needs to germinate. Red bud seeds are a good example of seeds that need this treatment. A couple months ago I planted a flat of redbud seeds I’ve had stratifying for a couple years. None germinated until I nicked the seed coat then within a week I had germination. Sometimes a seed needs both treatments!
- Division! While it’s true that a “house divided against itself cannot stand” a plant divided will create a stand. Division is one of the easiest ways to make more plants. In most cases simply digging up a clump of a plant and gently pulling apart the plant sections will give you a host of plants. Daylilies and hostas and two very easy to separate plants for dividing. Ornamental grass divide well too but due to their thicker clumps a blade of a shovel or sharp knife may be necessary. Use water to clean off the clump so you can see the divisions more clearly. It may also remove some of the clay that may be binding the roots together and make them easier to divide.
- Layering. Layering involves pinning down the branch of a plant to encourage a node to begin forming roots. I use layering every year since it is a nearly fool proof method to propagate plants. Most of the time I pin a branch down with rocks that happen to be near by. It helps to dig a mini trench where the node will be then cover the branch with soil before placing the rock on top. After a couple months check the root formation. If you have roots cut it away from the main plant and pot up or replant. If there aren’t any roots try again! This is a great way to produce shrubs with a larger size than you could with cuttings. I really love rooting oak leaf hydrangeas with layering. They can be tricky through cuttings but have a very easy time when layered. I also layer a lot of viburnums.
- Cuttings! I love making cuttings. The big advantage that cuttings have over layering is that you can make a whole lot more plants. The disadvantage is that they are smaller and harder to root. The ideal size and type of cutting to take varies greatly among plants. Some plants will root with an internodal cutting. Others require a nodal cutting. Some need to be greenwood while others root best as hardwood. In general the first year’s growth provides the best material for cuttings. Cuttings can be taken from stem tips, stem sections, basal sections (close to the crown), and from the roots. Some plants will even respond favorably to leaf cuttings! Perennials root fairly easily and can be producing roots and new growth within a couple weeks. Shrubs and trees take longer to root so expect about 6-8 weeks before rooting starts. This is very general information about a wide topic so make sure you look up how to propagate a plant before you get going! Of course you could do what I do – try and see what happens!
- By far the trickiest way to propagate plants is through tissue culture. I’ve been reading about the tissue culture method but have never attempted it. There are some kits you can assemble to do this in your home instead of a laboratory but a sterile environment is crucial. Tissue culture involves taking a sections of a plant and applying certain chemicals to them to create plantlets. Once the plantlets are formed they can be put in soil to grow onto their own roots. The advantage to making more plants this way is easy to see – massive quantities of plants can be produced. This is how many of the nursery plants we see in the stores go from the breeder to the consumer so quickly. Plants can only divide at their normal rate of growth and tissue culture allows the breeder to propagate thousands of plants from just a few. I would love to see how this is done someday in person – maybe I’ll attempt it, but not anytime soon!
These are the main methods of plant propagation you will find used today. Which propagation method is your favorite way to make more plants?