The definition of propagation is: the breeding of specimens of plant or animal by natural processes from the parent stock. One form of propagation is through seed. That's probably the way we are most familiar with. There are some other really fun ways to make more of a plant you love that you may not be aware of.
First is a tissue culture. Big plant breeders use this method all of the time. If they have a plant that has the characteristics they want, they take a piece of its tissue, slice it thin and put it in a dish to grow. It grows roots and then gets planted. That's how they get thousands upon thousands of exactly the same plant. Home gardeners likely won't be using this method so a similar but simpler approach is a cutting. On a smaller garden scale, let's say you have a favorite house plant like an African violet, geranium or coleus. It's so easy to make another one. You take a section of a branch, put it in water and voila! It grows roots and you can plant it. Impatiens and Philodendron are good that way, too. Now, you can't go and make copies of plants and sell them unless they aren't patented but if it's for your own use, propagate away.
Grafting is definitely an art form and one I have yet to master. I've done it a few times and it's fascinating to take root stock (the lower portion including roots of one tree) and take the scion wood (the top part) and with a special tool you cut a notch in the root stock and a reverse notch in the scion and fit them together like a puzzle piece. The lower section of root stock provides water and nutrients to the scion wood (the graft) and it grows and produces leaves and fruit. All apple trees are grown this way.
Second is rooting a cutting of a branch. There's an art to this but my suggestion is just get in and try it. Boxwoods, dogwoods, butterfly bush all root well. Cut a small new growth stem with very sharp shears, dip in rooting hormone and keep moist in vermiculite, sand or moist potting mix. If you cover lightly with plastic it helps keep everything from drying out. It may take a month or two but in time, you'll have an exact copy of that plant you love ready to put into a pot.
Some really easy ones to try are willows. In fact, a section of a small branch of willow can become a tree in just a couple of years. There are many plants that root well just being put into water. Google is your friend when exploring whether a branch from your friend's beautiful shrub can be propagated. Just ask first!
Propagation can save the home gardener lots of money in the long run but it takes patience!
Editor's note: Mechel Wall is owner and operator of both The Cottage Flower Shop and Wallflower Farm. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.Editorial on 08/01/2018
Print Headline: Let's propigate!