Five methods of plant propagation

Six methods of plant propagation

Want to increase your stock of plants to gift to friends and family? Here are six ways to success.

Propagating plants means making new plants for free. We gardeners can save a fortune by propagating our own plants, rather than buying new plants from the garden centre.

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You can propagate plants from collecting seed, taking cuttings or dividing rootballs. Some plants are easier to propagate than others, and you can prolong the life of certain shrubs and herbaceous plants by propagating them.

You don’t need a lot of kit to propagate plants, just a bit of gritty compost, a container or two and an envelope to store seeds.

More on propagating plants:


1

Propagating by saving and sowing seed

Sowing seeds into a seed tray
Sowing seeds into a seed tray

Growing plants from seed is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of propagating plants. Simply leave a few seedheads on your plants after they’ve finished flowering, removing the rest to conserve the plant’s energy. Save the seed in an envelope to sow the following spring or sow immediately.


2

Propagating by layering

Pegging a strawberry runner down to the ground to promote rooting
Pegging a strawberry runner down to the ground to promote rooting

Pendulous shrubs and trees can root when stems make contact with soil. Strawberry plants make ‘runners’ that root readily to produce new plants. You can manipulate these natural methods of propagation by ensuring the stems or runners make contact with prepared soil. This is called ‘layering’.


3

Propagation by division

Dividing an established perennial plant with two large garden forks
Dividing an established perennial plant with two large garden forks

Dividing plants is a great way of propagating perennials. Usually done in spring or autumn, dividing plants also helps rejuvenate them, because smaller clumps means there’s less root material to compete for water and nutrients. Because you’re dealing with chunks of established plants and selecting vigorous growth, you’re likely to make robust plants with little aftercare required.


4

Propagation by basal cuttings

Taking a stem cutting with a knife
Taking a stem cutting with a knife

Basal cuttings come from the new growth that shoots up in spring, from a crown or tuber. By removing them using a sharp knife at ground level, you can pot them into gritty compost and encourage them to form roots. Taking basal cuttings isn’t the easiest method of propagation, but it’s well worth the hassle.


5

Propagation from root cuttings

Planting cuttings of root into a tray
Planting root cuttings into a modular tray

If you’ve ever attempted to move an oriental poppy or acanthus then you will know that any trace of root left behind has the ability and energy to regenerate. Gardeners can easily exploit the same phenomenon by digging up the plant, cutting small pieces of root and potting them up.


6

Propagation from stem cuttings

Propagating plants - taking stem cuttings
Propagating plants – taking stem cuttings

Taking stem cuttings involves removing pieces of stem and potting them up, encouraging them to develop roots. Some plants are easier to propagate from stem cuttings than others. Softwood stem cuttings can be taken in summer, while hardwood stem cuttings are taken in autumn and winter.

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