All About Propagation

GrowingPlants

Homeowners: propagation is an easy way to add more of the plants you love to your landscaping without increasing your landscaping costs. Choose from several methods of propagation, like cutting, layering, division, or seed germination, based on the type of plant you home to reproduce.

As every homeowner is aware, the cost of adding plants to your landscaping every year adds up! However, propagation is a fun and easy way for homeowners to increase the volume of the plants they love without paying for new ones.

What is Propagation?

Propagation is the process of producing a new plant from an existing one, either by seed or by using vegetative plant parts. Beginning new plants by propagation decreases landscaping costs and often allows you to produce plants only with your favorite characteristics.

When propagating a plant, you have several methods to choose from. Each technique serves a different purpose.

Asexual Propagation

The most common type of propagation is asexual, which involves using vegetative plant parts to produce a new plant. These include leaves, roots, shoots, and bulbs. If you have no plant seed available, or the seeds do not germinate well, asexual propagation is just about your only option. However, the primary benefit of asexual propagation is that you can multiply the plants whose characteristics you love.

Cuttings

As previously mentioned, asexual propagation can be done using different plant parts. However, the most common method uses cuttings: stems, leaves, roots, or a combination (like a stem with a leaf). Most cuttings can be stuck upright in the propagation medium, where you can expect roots and new shoots to grow.

Layering

Layering is another method of asexual propagation, in which new plants form off of a parent plant. Layering involves creating a wound in one of the plant’s twigs or branches, where the new plant will begin to grow. Approaches to this method include air, tip, trench, serpentine, and mound layering. 

Division

Plants with bulbs and rhizomes, offshoots, or clumping and multi-stem growth habits can be propagated by dividing large clumps into smaller sections to be transplanted. Orchids, ferns, nandina, and daylilies are a few of the plants you might propagate by division.

Sexual Propagation

Some plants cannot easily be propagated using vegetative parts. In these cases, sexual propagation, or seed propagation, is the route to take. While seed propagation does allow for variation in seedling characteristics, it is the only means of propagation for palms and the most successful one for plants like native azaleas and wax myrtles.

For seed propagation, collect mature fruits from the desired plant, separate the seeds from the fruit flesh, and clean them. Some seeds (like those from palms) should be planted immediately after being cleaned, although others may be dried and stored for later planting.

Note that if you harvest seeds from a plant’s fruit and plan to plant them later, make sure to store them in a place with cool temperatures (like a refrigerator) and 30-35% humidity.

What You Need

For successful germination, the appropriate environment needs to be provided.

To start with, you need a propagation medium. For most plants, an equal part mixture of peat moss and perlite is appropriate for asexual propagation, or a peat moss and sand mixture for seed germination. Some plants can even be propagated in water. In general, the medium you select should be free of weed seed and disease organisms, and soils should drain well. 

Other important factors include light, temperature, and humidity. Required conditions vary across plants, so check with your local nursery or agriculture extension office for specific recommendations for your propagation projects.

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