Understanding Plant Propagation
There is no topic in horticulture that is more exciting or more interesting than plant propagation. Think for a moment just how fascinating the entire process of reproduction of plants really is.
All other life forms on earth have one way of reproduction and normally, it is a long, drawn out event before they either give birth or hatch an egg. Plants don’t reproduce like this at all and have numerous ways of reproducing themselves that are all unique.
Plants can reproduce by seed, leaf or stem cutting, by division of the plant or even its roots and they are the only form of life that can actually clone themselves.
How cool is that?
That’s like a human taking a nail cutting and reproducing an exact replica of themselves. That is very neat no matter how you look at it.
For the horticulturist it is truly amazing to be a part of this incredible process. For the nursey person working on plant propagation to be able to truthfully tell their friends; “Oh, today, I just did a little cloning” is pretty darn cool. `
Let’s explore some of the interesting methods of plant reproduction.
Propagation Methods by Cloning
Many plants reproduce by various means of cloning. An exact replica of the donor plant is reproduced when any portion of the plant is used as the cultivator.
The technology available for cloning plants today is incredible. Advanced hydroponic cloning machines are far more effective than the methods of past generations. The success rate is impressive, and the quality of the plants produced are superior.
Cloning is often performed to replicate plants that have specific, unique or superior qualities.
Stem Clone Cuttings
The process of propagation through stem cutting is the most common method of reproducing woody shrubs and some trees. Depending on the species a person can do soft or woody tissue propagation.
Today’s hydroponic cloning machines are a great advancement in the success and quality of stem cutting reproduction.
Plant reproduction by leaf cutting is one of the more common methods of producing new, cloned plants.
Leaf cuttings work very much like a stem cutting. A leaf is removed, divided and when placed in a cloning machine roots begin to form within days and a healthy, strong plant ready for transplant well within two weeks.
Plant division is another form of cloning where a single large plant and roots are cut into two or separate smaller plants. Hosta and daylily are often propagated through this method.
All the offspring produced by division are exact replicas of the donor plant.
The method of root cutting propagation is always best performed while the plant is dormant as this way the grower isn’t interfering or hampering the regular growth cycle. For proper root cutting propagation the sections of root should be cut at 3”-4” and a rooting hormone solution is used to expedite growth.
Layering is a very simple and highly effective method of propagation where no cutting is taken, or leaf removed. A branch of the donor plant is simply bent to ground level and completely buried.
Propagation by plant layering is based on the reproduction habits of certain plants which send out a shoot or branch that naturally root in the soil they lay on.
There are several different methods of plant layering but the all work on the same principle.
- Simple layering (standardized method)
- Mound layering (suitable for fruit or flowering trees)
- Tip layering (typical of raspberries or related)
- Compound layering (common to vining plants for multiple rooting)
- Air layering (generally used on houseplants)
All the various methods of layering are based on this principle with slight variations.
Propagation by layering doesn’t require any rooting hormone, a cloning machine or any special care because the new seedling plant is deriving all its nutrients from the donor plant. This is an extremely popular method of propagation because it is almost 100% successful.
Simple layering is common for spirea, potentillas or any other plant that tends to have branches that naturally bend towards the ground are excellent candidates for layering propagation.
Propagation by seeds, bulbs or corms
In these methods of propagation there is a little more work involved in passing on desirable traits of individual plants then there is through cloning. Some plants like bulb producing or perennial vegetables related to asparagus do not lend themselves to cloning.
Propagation of these plants need to be carefully cross-pollinated to pass on desirable characteristics or for producing new varieties.
These types of plants require that the grower wait for the plant to mature and produce a seed or bulb late in the season. Plants related to lilies produce non-tunicate bulbs which have scales that can be scraped and propagated in vermiculite.
Other mature plants produce corms which are simply bulbotumors that are swelled, underground stems that can be harvested and propagated.
Propagation through grafting
Although, not considered a true propagation method a person is still creating new, unique variety of plant by grafting two or more separate species.
Grafting is used to propagate almost all rose plants and is also the preferred method of propagating fruit trees. A grafted plant consists of the rootstock taken from one plant and the top growth of another.
The top growth is simply a branch removed from a donor tree which is then grafted to the rootstock of another. Flowering quince is a popular rootstock used in the creation of dwarf fruit trees and landscape ornamentals.
Other rootstocks are chosen for their cold weather survivability which is utilized in creating new cold tolerant varieties of fruit or ornamentals.
We hope that you come away from this with a better understanding of all the propagation methods that plants lend themselves to. We encourage you as a grower to get adventurous in trying some new method that you may not have considered before.
Once you enter the exciting world of plant propagation it can become almost addictive because plants are so open to different methods and creating a new and unique variety through propagation is one the most thrilling goals of any serious grower.
More on Grow Room Seed Starting & Cloning
The key to a successful garden is getting your plants, before they are even full-fledged plants, off to a great start. Seeds, seedlings, and cuttings are all times when a plant is at its most vulnerable and specific care is needed for them.
At Hydrobuilder, we offer everything you need for plant propagation. Whether you’re looking to increase your seed germination rate or want your prize plant’s genetics beautifully passed down from generation to generation you can rest assured your plants are in good hands.
When seeds are hydrated, an enzyme is activated and the germination process starts. That’s the reason keeping seeds sealed in a container with low humidity is the key to storing them long term.
There are a lot of ways to germinate seeds from simply sticking them into their final grow medium to providing them with their own unique environment that’s designed for high germination rates and getting seedlings off to a great start. Seedling trays, for example, are designed to air-prune the roots, and building a strong root system is the key to successful propagation whether your germinating seeds or cloning.
Germinating seeds in a setup designed for them is great since final mediums, lights, etc are meant for much larger plants. It’s very easy to provide too much light and water, which can easily kill seedlings when germinating in setups designed for the later growing stages. The seedling stage is by far the easiest time to kill your plants, so it’s important to treat them with care.
Germination will take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks, so patience is a virtue. You’ll also want high humidity (60% and up) and a temperature range of 65°F to 75°F, so make sure to check out humidity domes and heat pads if you live in a dry or cold area.
Tools Needed for Germinating Seeds
- Grow Media – Plugs & rootcubes
- High humidity – Humidity domes
- Seedling Tray
- Fresh / Healthy Seeds
- Low-Intensity Light – Fluorescent bulbs
The most obvious reason for plant cloning is to keep the genetics that you love from plant to plant, but cloning comes with a lot of other perks.
- Reduce Grow Time – A cutting/clone will take a week or two to take root after it has been removed from the mother. After that you can continue to keep the plant in the vegetative state or you can jump straight to flowering which cuts down on weeks of grow time.
- Indefinite Supply – Never buy seeds again.
- Always Have Female Plants – Cloning means an exact copy and that means every cutting taken from a female plant will be female as well.
For clones, you can follow the same guidelines for lights, temperature, and humidity as you would with seeds and seedlings. Cloning is a fairly easy process as well, because in essence you simply cut off a stem with leaves from a mother plant, stick it into a grow medium, and then wait for roots to grow from the stem.
Most growers improve their cloning success rate by taking a cutting from a mother plant that is in the vegetative stage as opposed to flowering, and dipping the cutting’s stem in a rooting gel before planting.
Tools Needed For Cloning
- Cutting Tool – Preferably sterile
- Grow Media – Rockwool, plugs & rootcubes, etc.
- Rooting Agent / Cloning Gel
- Mother Plant
- Cloning Machine / Seedling Trays
- Low-Intensity Light – Fluorescent bulbs
Find All of the Propagation & Cloning Supplies You Need
Cloning Machines – Creating a strong root system is the key to successfully cloning a plant. Cloning machines make the whole process easier, can cut the cloning process down by half, and pushes your cloning success rate close to 100% every time. A cloning machine is essentially a mini hydroponic system, and if you’re planning on cloning your plants it’s highly recommended to use one.
Clone & Seedling Lights – Cuttings, seedlings, and young plants are often stressed by the high-intensity light that is needed for later growth phases. This is why many growers have a different lighting system setup for the early stages. After the initial cost of a purchasing separate lighting system, most growers see returns on their electric bills, and with the speed and health of the young plants.
Trays, Domes, & Root Cubes – Propagation trays and domes allow you to shrink down your plants’ environment giving you easier control and management over them. This results in better germination rates and healthier plants. Root cubes provide the ideal media for creating stronger roots system, and helps seedlings and cuttings from drying out.
Seedling Heat Mats – New growers often forget that soil temperature is just as important as the temperature outside the soil/media. Heat pads and digital thermostats ensure that seedlings receive an even temperature both under and above ground which promotes faster germination and growth.
Cloning Gels & Root Enhancers – You know that root health is the biggest factor in successful propagation, that’s why we offer a wealth of rooting hormones and enhancers, and cloning gels that offer the optimal levels for stimulating strong root develop fast. We offer gels, solutions, sprays, and powders giving you your preferred method of application.
Cloner & Seedling Packages – When you’re first learning about growing it can feel overwhelming because of all the different systems and components that make them up. You need to figure out a lighting setup, a grow media setup, what your nutrients are going to look like, etc. That can be a lot to handle and leave you with a headache, so that’s why we offer complete cloning and seedling packages that give you everything you need to get off to a successful and stress free start.