What Is Plant Propagation?
Plant propagation is the process of reproduction of plant life; it also refers to causing the biological reproduction of plants. The reproduction of plants can be sexual or asexual. Sexual plant propagation produces a new generation of plants via the exchange of genetic material from parent plants. Asexual propagation is the reproduction of plant life that is identical to a single parent. Seeds are involved in sexual reproduction, and various cuttings and grafting are used in asexual reproduction.
There are some distinct advantages to plant propagation by seed. Depending on what plant is desired, it might be the only means of reproduction. It is almost always the easiest and most economical method of producing plant life and is the only way of acquiring new varieties. The use of seeds to grow plants is one all-natural way of avoiding certain diseases. Vegetables and flowers that are annual or biennial are often grown from seeds; perennials can be grown from seeds, but some will not flower after one season.
Despite the advantages of plant propagation by seed, it is not always recommended, especially when dealing with a variety that is not native to the region where it is to be planted. This is because the seeds could grow into noxious weeds, attract destructive insects and give way to diseases. Gardeners are advised to familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations governing the importation of plant life, in order to prevent harming the environment. Residents of the United States can check with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unhealthy seeds can harbor disease, so gardeners are advised to be sure that only healthy seed is saved and used for future crops.
Asexual plant propagation involves plant cuttings to achieve reproduction, but there is no variation in the crops obtained in this manner. Instead, the offspring is an exact replica of the single parent plant. Stem, leaf and root cuttings from which plant material regrows are often used to propagate houseplants. Other methods of this type of reproduction include layering and grafting. Fruit-bearing trees cultivated in orchards are often propagated by grafting.
Many people have returned to organic gardening to help protect the delicate plant life on Earth, because animal life also depends on plants. This is why farmers and gardeners often are encouraged to participate in plant propagation for heirloom flowers, fruits and vegetables. One of the best sources for plant cuttings, seedlings and heirloom seeds is a gardeners’ club or association in which participants not only exchange knowledge and ideas but also seeds.
What Are the Best Tips for Plant Propagation?
Plants propagate in a variety of ways, and each method requires a different set of tools and knowledge. Propagating seeds is by far the most common method used at home, because seeds are inexpensive, readily available and easy to manage, although it is not without problems such as disease and low germination rates. Some people like to use cuttings to start new plants, a method that is easy to start but sometimes hard to make work, depending on the original plant. Grafting has become a popular form of plant propagation, especially with fruit trees and roses, although it takes patience and some skill to make work.
For plant propagation using seeds, one of the most important aspects is the type of medium in which they are initially planted. It should not be straight garden soil or even potting soil, because these can contain harmful bacteria or detrimental nematodes that could kill the seeds as they start to grow. Instead, a special germinating mix should be used because such mixes are light, allow good water drainage and are sterilized before being bagged to reduce or eliminate the chance of disease.
Except for seeds that grow fast, it also is a good idea to start propagation indoors. Although it is not necessary, using a germinating tray can be very helpful for plant propagation. This is a basic tray with a clear lid that can help the seeds to germinate and provide a place for them to grow until they are ready to be planted.
When attempting plant propagation through cuttings, the first thing to look for is a good stem to cut. It should be below a node on the plant, and the stem to be cut should have at least two branches on it. The cutting should be about 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) in length and stripped of any leaves on the bottom few inches. The stem also should be planted in a sterile growing medium to help reduce the risk of disease.
One inexpensive but very useful thing that can help a cutting to take root is to use a special growth gel. This gel, which usually comes in small cups, has growth enzymes in it that will help the cutting to take root faster. Cuttings tend to do well when allowed to take root indoors before being hardened off or transplanted later.
Whatever method of plant propagation is being attempted, water is one of the most important aspects that will contribute to success. The planting medium needs to be kept moist, but not overly so. A self-watering system can help here. Make sure the soil is loose and aerated so excess water can drain down through it and prevent the possibility of the plant or seeds rotting. Keeping the soil loose also can help oxygen reach the roots, which is vital.