Propagating plants is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. This asexual means of reproduction produces a plant that is genetically identical to its parent.
There are a variety of plant propagation tools and methods; from taking cuttings to layering to dividing and more. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.
One of the most amazing things about plants is that every cell has the ability to duplicate all parts and functions of the plant. By taking a cutting of a leaf or stem and creating the right conditions, you can create an entirely new plant. Start with a stock or “mother” plant that is in great health and has plenty of stems, so that if one is removed, it will not harm the plant.
Propagation by stem cuttings is the most popular plant propagation method for woody shrubs and ornamental plants. This is also a good technique for houseplants.
Houseplants are often quite easy to propagate. Look for a healthy stem absent of flower buds, disease and insects. Using a sharp, sterile knife make a clean cut at a 45° angle to maximize the rooting area. Cuttings should be about 3-6 inches long (shorter if the plant is small) and include the tip of the stem, and at least two or three sets of leaves attached.
Remove the bottom set of leaves (new roots will often develop from this area) and dip the end you just cut into rooting gel. This will help seal the cut plant tissue and promote new root growth (optional). Then place the cutting into a small pot with moist vermiculite, perlite or other soil-less potting mix. Be sure to poke a small hole in the growing medium before placing the cutting into it. This way the rooting solution won’t rub off of the stem.
Keep your new plants warm and in bright light, but out of direct sunlight. Many cuttings will also benefit from added humidity. To increase moisture and create a mini-greenhouse effect, place the pots in a clear plastic bag. Do not let the plastic you use to cover the pots touch the cuttings. Mayonnaise jars, milk cartons, and plastic soda bottles can also be used to cover cuttings.
Once the cuttings have developed roots this can take a few days or a few months replant them in another container with moist, but not wet, potting soil. (To identify whether roots have formed or not, pull lightly on the plants. If they pop right out, they are not ready. If you feel some resistance, go ahead and repot.)
Until the new plants have become fully established, carefully monitor the amount of moisture and light they get. Remove dropped leaves and diseased plants from the area as soon as they are noticed to keep fungus from spreading to healthy plants.
Plant cuttings into pots filled with a soil-less potting media just deep enough to support the stems and hold them upright. Do NOT use garden soil as it will remain too wet, causing the cutting to rot before rooting.
This soil-less mix is ideal for rooting cuttings, but should be replaced with a richer potting mix once they show signs of growth.
- One part coconut coir, peat moss or vermiculite
- One part perlite or sterile builders sand
Combine all ingredients with a small amount of water and mix thoroughly until evenly moist. A light solution of organic starter fertilizer or seaweed extract can be added to this recipe.
After the cuttings are planted, you can trim the leaves to about half their size. They’ll still be able to photosynthesize light, but won’t lose so much water through transpiration.
Place the containers in a plastic bag to raise the humidity level around the cuttings, or purchase a misting system to keep your new plants adequately moist. After about 6 weeks check to see if roots have formed. If the containers you are planting in are small you may notice roots protruding through the drainage holes. Otherwise, give the plant a gentle tug. If the plant pulls right out it isn’t ready — replant it. It you feel resistance, it’s ready to be repotted.
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