Propagation of Plants

An enjoyable and relatively inexpensive way of obtaining new plants is
to propagate them yourself. The basic techniques of propagation are
sowing and germination of seeds or spores; rooting of cuttings; layering;
and separation and rooting of offsets. The text entries describe the
method or methods to use for each plant and the following sections
provide some general guidelines on each technique. Follow the instructions carefully and make sure that pots, trays, knives, scissors and other
tools are spotlessly clean, preferably sterile. Use only proprietary potting
composts, never garden soil as it may contain harmful disease organisms.
The best time to propagate plants is early in their growing season, which
for most varieties is spring or summer. At that time, not only will
conditions be right for germination or rooting, but the young plant will
have sufficient time to grow on and become established in readiness for
the traumas of winter.

Seeds or fern spores
Fill a seed tray or half pot (pan) with seed sowing compost and sprinkle
the seeds or spores thinly on to the surface. If the seeds are small to large,
cover them lightly with compost. Very fine seeds or spores should be left
uncovered. Moisten the compost with a fine-rosed watering can, or a
hand mister for the fine seeds or spores. Cover the container with glass or
polythene and maintain the temperature at 19-24°C (66-75°F). Once the
seeds or spores have germinated, remove the cover; do not leave the
seedlings under cover as the growth will become soft and leggy. Prick out
the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and pot them singly.

There are several methods for propagating plants from cuttings, using
either the growing tips and stems, the stems by themselves or the leaves.
Cuttings should be taken only from plants that are healthy.

To take a tip cutting, cut off the growing tip and 5-10 cm (2-4 in) of
stem, using a sharp knife; for a stem cutting, remove a similar length of
stem. Dip the base of the stem into hormone rooting powder and insert
the cuttings singly or in groups into a pot filled with seed and cutting
compost. Cover the pot with a polythene bag supported on a stick
frame and keep the compost moist. Keep the temperature at 19-24°C
(66-75°F). Some plants can be propagated by laying sections of stem on
the surface of the compost. Keep it moist and maintain the temperature
within the range given above.

Leaf cuttings provide a simple and fascinating method for propagating
several varieties. A Saintpaulia leaf, complete with stalk, can be inserted
into seed and cutting compost by the stalk, where it will readily take
root. Begonia rex can be propagated by pegging a whole leaf, upper-side
down, on to the compost and cutting incisions in the main veins, or by
cutting a leaf into postage-stamp sized pieces and simply laying them
on the compost. Streptocarpus can be propagated by cutting a leaf in
half along its length and inserting the two cut sides into the compost.
All these methods lead to the production of tiny plantlets, which can
be removed and potted singly when they are large enough to handle.

Some plants, such as Spathiphyllum, form offets, which can be teased
apart and potted. Moisten the compost first to make separation easier.
When propagating cacti from offsets do not over-moisten the compost,
and wear protective gloves when removing the offsets. Treat bromeliads
gently as the offsets are easily damaged.

Layering is the technique used for propagating some trailing plants,
such as Chlorophytum, which produce plantlets at the ends of the
stems. Allow the plantletsto restin a pot filled with seed and cutting compost and they will readily root. Some plants, such as Ficus species, can
be forced to produce plantlets from sections of stem, a process known as
air layering. Cut half way into the centre of the stem then up for about
5 cm (2 in). Partially open the wound, dust it with rooting powder, and
pack moist sphagnum moss between and around the cut area. Wrap polythene around the moss and wait several weeks until roots form and fill the area. The plant-let can then be removed and potted.






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