Productive propagation

From hobby gardening, to cottage industry, propagating your own plants comes with the satisfaction of creating new life.

Growing up, my mother’s hobby propagating orchids for export fascinated me. Hers was a world of petri dishes, test tubes, flasks and agar whereas when my time came, I stuck with cuttings in potting mix, and in water.

Many plants reproduce on their own by dropping seeds or growing suckers. Planting the suckers, or growing the seeds is relatively easy with a good potting mix, as is propagating plants taking stem cuttings. The latter involves trimming off a healthy portion of a stem, placing it in water or potting mix until it develops roots, and then planting it in a pot or directly in the ground.

Stem cuttings can be propagated at almost any time during the parent plant’s active growth period (spring, summer, and autumn), and you can take cuttings from many woody plants (plants with hard stems) during their dormancy (late autumn, winter).

In colder regions such as Christchurch, take cuttings before the frosts arrive, root them indoors, and then transfer them to pots to be planted out in the spring.
Plants that grow well from cuttings include hydrangeas, azaleas, forsythia, roses, clematis, asters, chrysanthemums, and gardenias.

How to grow plants from cuttings:

A colourful array of small pots livening up a patio, balcony or indoor area adds another dimension to growing your own cuttings. Mix and match your pot colours and sizes, stock up on potting mix, rooting hormones for hard and soft wood. Wear gloves and a mask if you wish, and follow these steps.

  1. Clean your pots thoroughly, then fill with potting mix.
  2. Select a healthy plant from which to take cuttings, and look for green, soft (non-woody) stems to cut.
  3. Using a sharp pair of clean secateurs, make a neat cut just
    below a node where a leaf or flower bud attach. A cutting
    should include at least two leaves and one node,
    approximately 10-15cm long.
  4. Place the cutting on a flat, hard surface, and make a clean, partial slice through the middle of the node with a sharp knife.
  5. Remove all but one or two leaves on the cutting to allow photosynthesis. Trim larger leaves.
  6. Wet the end of the cutting and dip in rooting hormone (optional). Some plants root easily on their own, while others benefit from stimulation. Tap off excess hormone.
  7. Using a pencil (or similar object), make a planting hole into the potting mix, slightly larger than the stem diameter, and plant the cutting. Gently tamp the soil around it.
  8. Keep the container in a warm spot, avoiding full sunlight until new leaves start sprouting.
  9. Water regularly, but avoid too much watering.
  10. Transplant when roots have developed.

Did you know?

Plants that root easily in water include many herbs, such as mint and basil, coleus, impatiens, begonias, and philodendrons.


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