Plants are amazing organisms. They produce their own seed in most cases or start new versions of themselves through stolons, runners, bulbs, corms, and many other methods. Plant propagation for beginners is a matter of trial and error often, but some tips can help guarantee success.
Learning how to propagate plants just relies on knowledge of some of the most common ways plants reproduce and a bit of info on the ways to utilize each method.
If you ever started a seed in grade school, you probably know the fundamentals of this most basic way to grow a plant. However, there are other propagation basics for certain varieties of plants that go outside of seed starting. Seeds are the first way of propagating for beginners, but there are a variety of other ways to start new plants.
Seed propagation is probably the style most of us are familiar with, but it isn’t the only way. In most cases, seed is simply sown in soil, kept warm and moist, and will grow. Some seeds need special preparation though. There are those that need to be vernalized or given a long chilling period. Others need scarification or damage to the hull to help seedlings escape, and others need stratification or a brief period of cooler temperatures.
To know which your seed needs, consider what its cold tolerance is and where it grows natively. This will give you an idea of what treatment your plant seeds will require. If you haven’t got a clue, try several seeds in a different manner and see which works best.
You can often start seed more quickly by wrapping it in a wet paper towel in a baggie for a few days. Soon you will see roots and the seed will sprout, ready for soil.
How to Propagate Plants Other Ways
Seeds aren’t always the answer. Some plants, such as fruit trees, need grafting to produce fruit that is identical to the parent plant. Others will propagate best through division. Most perennials are in this category and can be separated to make new plants. Still other plants are easier to begin from cuttings of the parent plant, or in the case of woody varieties, from stem cutting or air layering.
Not to get too complex, but a cutting is from an herbaceous species and can root in water. Stem cutting is a process where you place the cut end in moistened medium, while with air layering a wound is made in the wood, packed with moist sphagnum moss, and covered in plastic to root.
Propagating for Beginners
The easiest propagation for beginners is from seed or cuttings. In the case of seed, pay attention to the seed packet. It should say when to start the seed, how deep to plant, whether it is best to start indoors or out, and when to plant outside if begun indoors. Know your zone so you can understand the zone map. Use good seed starting soil or make your own sterilized mixture to reduce the chance of fungal disease.
With cuttings, your best chance is from young plant material. Generally, all you have to do is place the cutting in a glass of fresh or denatured water. Change the water daily. Once you see roots, plant the new start in fresh potting soil. These easy methods are almost fool proof provided the new plants have sun, warmth, and consistent moisture.
The Beginner's Guide to Propagating Plants
Creating new flowers from those already in your garden isn't just about saving money.
Want to have some fun with nature? Create a new plant. You can do that through a process called propagation, by which new plants are produced either by sowing a seed or taking a cutting from an existing plant. Propagation can be broken down into two basic methods. The first, known as sexual propagation, involves the floral parts of a plant and the union of the pollen (male) and egg (female) to create a new individual, or seed. Plants grown from seed may not be identical to, and have different characteristics from, the parent plant. The second method, called asexual propagation, uses the vegetative parts of a plant (stems, roots, or leaves). It involves taking one of those parts from a single parent plant and causing it to make a new plant that's genetically identical to, or a clone of, its parent. If a parent has a special characteristics, such as variegated leaves, so will the new young plant.
There are several benefits to learning how to propagate plants, all outlined below.
It's more of a marathon than a sprint with hardwood cuttings. The best time to take these is later in the year when the leaves have fallen from deciduous shrubs or the plant is dormant, from November to March. The same rule applies about where to cut, but these plants are growing slowly and it's going to take weeks to put out roots.
Fortunately the stem that you cut off is hard, with either no leaves or just sleepy winter ones, which don't lose much water. The test of whether these cuttings have taken will come next spring – if they start to sprout new leaves, it's worked.
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Because division is the easiest and safest way to propagate a mother-in-law plant, this article will only focus on dividing your existing plants to create new ones. Beginners will find this method easy to follow using these steps:
Step 1: Gather the materials you need.
To propagate a plant, you’ll need a sharp pair of shears or a small hand saw to cut the plant. You’ll also need repotting basics such as fresh potting medium, containers, and a small hand shovel. A gallon-sized pot works well, along with a well-draining potting mix.
Step 2: Pull the plant from the pot.
Mother-in-law plants grow from thick organs under the soil known as rhizomes. These are the pieces that allow new leaves and stems to grow. Pull the plant entirely from the container to begin working. The amount of new plants you can make depends entirely on the size of the current plant.
You’ll want to locate the rhizomes that are just beneath or very close to the ground. Then, take note of how many there are, and where they’re located, to divide the plant into smaller pieces. They may already have roots forming or show roots that are just beginning to bulge out.
Step 3: Divide the plant into sections.
Use something sharp such as a knife, pruners, shears, or a small hand saw to cut the plant’s base into sections. Whatever you choose to use, make sure it’s sharp and sterile.
Most gardeners simply cut the plant in half, while older plants may house multiple rhizomes that allow you to cut the plant into more sections. Each new plant should house no fewer than three rhizomes and one healthy leaf for the best results. Gently pull the plant apart into smaller sections, working as close to the base as possible and cutting the roots that connect each section to the mother plant.
Step 4: Plant each new section into a fresh pot.
After about two or three days, the rhizome will be healed enough to plant it. Place the new sections into their pots. I prefer to use a gallon-sized container with a mix of half traditional potting soil and half cactus potting soil. Ceramic pots are heavier and can keep the container in place if your plants are tall whereas plastic containers work just as well.
Step 5: Stake tall new plants.
If your new plants are still top-heavy, you may need to stake them upright to prevent the pots from tipping over. Pieces of bamboo work well to create your own small stakes, and offer the plant support you need. In addition, you can use twine to tie the plant to the bamboo.