We've long used propagation as a means to grow more plants, try out a new one or give one away. Typically they've been simple cuttings or branches that have broken off — put in a glass of water and voila a new plant! But there's actually several methods to propagation and a little bit of an art to it — find out tips on how to grow new plants (for free!), after the jump.
If you have a plant that you like, and want more of, propagation is an easy and free way to grow more. We've also found ourselves lusting after a friend's plant (and vice-versa) and using a clipping is an easy way to make a trade. But beyond that, there's actually a few ways to get propagation done and make sure it's sucessful. This Old House wrote up a great guide on doing so, and there were quite a few tips that we weren't aware of:
- Light: You can propagate most plants on a windowsill that gets only indirect light (harsh sunlight will bake tender cuttings).
- Stem Cuttings: So-called softwood cuttings are easiest to root. Dip the bottom tip of the cutting in a rooting solution, following the package directions — these hormones signal plants to put out roots. Fill a tray with a dampened, sterile growing medium, such as perlite and insert the prepared cuttings. Make a cover or dome to create a moist environment, like a miniature greenhouse, to foster the growth of the roots.
- Growing in Water: Place cutting in a glass of water (make sure the leaves stay above the water line). Keep cuttings out of direct sunlight and make sure the water level stays constant. When the roots are about 1-inch long, it's time to take the cutting out and plant it in a soilless potting mix. Don't wait too long or the cutting will develop "water roots" that can absorb nutrients only from water and won't grow properly once they are planted in soil.
- Root Division: Many clumping perennials that develop a thick mass of roots can be divided to make more plants when they are starting to leaf out in spring or before they bloom. Consult a garden encyclopedia to learn when you should divide any particular plant; some species should be dormant, others need to be in active growth.
- Leaf Cuttings: This method works easily on mostly tropical and subtropical species including leafy succulents. Take a thick leaf and cut it into 1-inch-wide sections with a clean, sharp razor blade. Each section should include a strong vein. Place the sections vertically, vein-side down, in a tray of moistened rooting medium, such as perlite; cover with a dome to keep moisture in. When roots, followed by small leaves, form at the base of the cuttings, they're ready to be transplanted to a small container with potting mix.
Check out the entire This Old House article for more tips and a variety of propagation methods.
(Image: Ken Druse/This Old House)