Plant propagation can be one of the easiest and most rewarding elements of successful gardening. There’s several different ways to do it, and it often ends up saving you money by allowing you to buy less plants. Putting in the energy now may mean saving the dollars later!
All of this requires a bit of knowledge though, as there are several different methods of plant propagation. This article is going to overview the most popular methods, and ensure you have the ability to start propagating within your own garden.
Asexual versus Sexual propagation
Before we begin, there is a key distinction in the methods of propagation that needs to be made. Asexual propagation and sexual propagation, the two classes of methods. Asexual propagation involves no seeds, instead it involves using the parts of a plant (buds, leaves, roots, stems) to propagate. Sexual propagation involves using the seeds to propagate.
The way to determine whether asexual and sexual propagation is right for you involves considering the plants you’re working with, the time frame you have, and what materials you have available.
Asexual Propagation Methods
*Budding is a type of grafting, see the grafting listing below for more information.
- Sharp knife
- Method of joining the pieces (tape, string).
Budding is a type of grafting where you take a bud and join it to the stem of another plant to allow them to continue to grow together. This can be the easiest way to graft, because bulbs are relatively easy to connect with rootstock, but it can still be a complicated way to propagate (there are easier ways listed below too).
Types of plants this method works well with: Fruit treas, ornamentals (hybrid tea roses).
Cuttings are a bit unique in that there are different ways to plant different parts of the plant, so the materials differ.
- Some plants merely need a glass of water, others need soil or a plastic bag. Look up cuttings for the plant you’re doing to ensure you’re using the proper materials.
There is more than one way to perform a cutting propagation, that’s because there’s more than one part of the plant to cut. You can often use roots, leaves, or stems to propagate an entirely new plant. This again can take between weeks and months, depending on the type of plant you are trying to work with.
Types of plants this method works well with:
Leaf cuttings work well with African violets, gloxinias, peperomias, and snake plant.
Root cuttings work well for Goldenrain trees (and some other varieties) and Oriental poppies
Stem cuttings work well with coleus, geraniums, and pachysandra
- Containers for new plants
- Shovel or tool to dig with
Division is an extremely easy method for growing your garden. All you need to do is dig up the plant you want to divide, separate out the new growth, and plant the new growth in a new container. Voila, you’ve grown your garden with practically no effort on your part. You should be able to transport the divisions to the garden in no time at all.
Plants that work well with this method: Bamboos, bulb plants, clump or crown forming plants, daylilies, hostas.
- A knife (preferably a fairly sharp one)
- Grafting wax
- Method of holding the pieces together (tape or string)
Grafting is a little more complicated than some of the other listed propagation methods. The idea here is to basically join the stem of one plant to the roots of another well enough that they grow together.
The benefit of grafting is that it can allow you to multiply some plants that are particularly difficult to grow from the seed up, making it easier for you to grow your garden. It also allows a somewhat customization effect on your plants, you can choose rootstocks with certain desirable effects (either dwarfing or growth ones).
If done carefully, grafting certainly has its place in a successful gardeners methodology.
You’ll notice you need a bit more material here, that’s because this isn’t the easiest method of propagation, but it can work very well for some plants (listed below). In terms of a time frame, although it depends what plant you’re working with, grafting can take effect in just a few weeks to a single month.
Plants this method works well with: Cacti, herbaceous plants, rhodendrons, woody plants – including trees.
Depending on the type of layering you want to do you may well need…
- A knife
- Moss (sphagnum)
- Waterproof tape
Layering is something that some plants do naturally, and others need help with. Simply put, it’s the way of using the stem to produce another plant – while still connected to the parent plant. To do this, you bend your current growth to the ground level and separate a few inches of stem, placing it behind the tip of the stem.
Interestingly, it is possible to air layer. All that needs to be done with this is wind the stem a few inches below the tip, wrap it in sphagnum moss, and cover the whole thing in a thin sheet of plastic. This can allow the plant to healthily grow in the air, while still maintaining its own levels of moisture.
Layering is best done in early spring (for simple layering), but it can be done any time (if you air layer, though these still should be started in late summer or spring if you intend to transplant outside). It takes a few months, but is a fairly easy method to work with.
Plants that work well with this method: Corn plants, Witch Hazels, and Weeping Fig Trees.
- Clear plastic container or cup
You can get these “seeds” from ferns or catalogues. They are easy to plant, just cover them to give them space to grow and avoid contamination. This can take between months and years, depending on the variety of the plant.
Plants this works well with: Ferns, mosses.
Sexual Propagation Methods
- Growing medium of choice
Planting seeds is one of the easiest ways to propagate plants, and is relatively inexpensive. You merely need to plant the seeds in season (late winter indoors, or spring outside), and then tend them to encourage growth. The whole process can take between weeks and years (depending on the plant variety).
Plants that work well with this: Annuals, biennials, perennials, shrubs, trees, vegetables.