Marin IJ Articles
|September 2, 2000|
Propagate Those Plants and Share the Wealth
by Diane Lynch
One of the nicest things about being a gardener is sharing plants with friends, neighbors and other gardeners. For example, Marin is scattered with a wonderful grape-scented iris brought from Michigan decades ago because one lady has shared it with dozens of people who have passed it on, and on. Gathering seed, dividing perennials, and propagating cuttings are among the options for disseminating plants.
Propagation is one of the most fascinating and mysterious facets of gardening. It is the process of creating new plants of a given species to perpetuate the species. The two basic ways to propagate plants are sexual, which is how seeds come into existence, and asexual, which uses the vegetative or non-floral parts of the plant, such as leaves, stems and roots, to generate a new plant. The most basic form of propagation is plants that self-sow but with a bit of effort and little expense you can propagate enough plants to have an overflowing garden and much to share.
Q: So, can you take just any plant and root a cutting?
General guidelines for successful cutting propagation include using a healthy plant and watering thoroughly the day before so the plant is well hydrated. Use a light potting soil containing peat moss and vermiculite (you can make your own using equal parts builders sand, peat moss and vermiculite) and keep the cutting damp but not soaked until rooted. A cloudy day is ideal for propagating and a well lit but not too sunny area is best for storing the rooting cuttings. Remove all flowers from cuttings and dont despair if they wilt or the bottom leaves wither. Lateral or side shoots tend to root better than end or terminal shoots. Late summer is a great time to root cuttings so they can be planted during the fall to benefit from our winter rains.
Q: Okay, so what are the techniques?
Layering is a propagation method which occurs naturally in some plants (blackberries, currants, vines) and can be induced in others. A pliant branch is gently staked to the ground and covered with a little loosened, amended soil, leaving the last 6" to 12" above ground and staked straight up. Remove leaves from the area to be underground and gently wound this area by twisting or slightly nicking. Dust on a little rooting hormone and keep the area well watered. This method has the advantage of allowing rooting while still attached to the mother plant. Several weeks later when rooted, the plant can be cut off below the new roots and planted on its own. Rhododendron, honeysuckle, Wisteria, grape, pothos, heart-leaf Philodendron and Clematis lend themselves to this method.
Leaf cuttings work well on some indoor plants such as African violets, Sansevieria and jade plant. African violets can be propagated using the entire leaf or the leaf blade. Dust with a little rooting hormone and insert cutting vertically into the potting soil. Keep damp as described in softwood cuttings above. A tiny new plant will appear in a few weeks at which time the old leaf can be cut off.
There are several other techniques for propagating plants which appear in many basic gardening books. Smith & Hawkens Book of Outdoor Gardening has a good section on propagation. There is something almost magical about growing new plants from cuttings and many gardeners are happy to share starts with others. Experiment with things in your garden and you may be amazed at what you can propagate. Ask neighbors and friends if you can take slips to try rooting some plants you dont have; you can return the favor with a new plant.
Tip of the week:
This article appeared in the Marin Independent Journal on September 2, 2000.