You love your plants.
And you want to grow more of them. But what’s the best way?
Should you buy more seeds? Should you save your own seeds? Or is there another way?
Plant propagation shows you ways on how you can continue to grow your favorite plants.
You can do this not only with seeds but with other parts of the plants as well.
What is plant propagation?
Plant propagation is the process of creating new plants. This could be done using sexual propagation or asexual propagation.
Sexual propagation happens when the pollen and egg from plants are used to create seeds for a new plant. This method uses the floral parts of the plant.
The sexual propagation method is fast, easy and cheap. For some plants, it’s the only way of propagation. This method helps avoid transmission of certain diseases.
Asexual propagation happens when a part of the parent plant is used to create a new plant. The new plant is genetically identical to the parent plant. This method uses the vegetative parts of the plant like roots, stems, and leaves.
The asexual propagation method is usually slow for plants but may be fast for some. This is sometimes the only option of propagation for certain types of plants.
What is sexual propagation?
Plants make use of the pollen and egg to create fruits and seeds. That’s the method of sexual propagation.
The seed contains an outer protective coating. It has an endosperm that is used as a food reserve. And an embryo that is the plant itself.
The mature seed, when put in a growing environment, starts the germination process. And the plant begins to grow.
Which seeds should you use?
It’s important to pick the right seeds when using the method of sexual propagation. The seeds should be from a reliable and good source.
This could be organic seeds from farmers markets, local nurseries, or online stores. The seeds should not contain weeds, debris, or seeds of other plants.
Hybrid seeds may last longer, have better germination rates, and more resistant to diseases. You should only buy seeds that you need to plant for the year.
If you buy more seeds, you can store them in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator. You could also consider saving seeds from your own garden. The only problem is they could be hybrids that don’t produce the same plant as the parent.
How germination takes place?
Germination is the process where a mature seed can start growing into a plant. The seed needs enough endosperm to be able to sustain growth.
The environmental conditions should be just right for the seeds to germinate. Do remember that not all seeds will germinate. And from those that germinate, not all will grow into strong seedlings.
The factors that influence germination are water, oxygen, light, and heat.
It’s important that the seeds get a steady supply of water for good germinate rates. If you stop giving enough water, the seeds will die.
It’s important that the seeds get the right amount of light for germination. Some seeds like lettuce, petunia, begonia need light to germinate. But others like peas, beans, verbena prefer the dark.
The seeds that need light should be planted on the surface of the potting mix. They may be covered with a light layer of peat moss or vermiculite.
If you’re starting seeds indoors, you can use artificial light like fluorescent or high-intensity light. You should suspend the light 6 to 12 inches above the seeds for 16 hours per day.
Another important factor for seed germination is the amount of oxygen they get. At the start of germination, they need less oxygen. But as time goes on they need a larger supply.
Make sure that the potting mix you use is loose and well-aerated. Otherwise, germination will be poor and inhibited.
Different seeds need different temperature ranges to germinate. Most seeds do well in temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can maintain this temperature using radiators, cables, or heating mats. Do make sure that the temperature is maintained for 24 hours per day so seeds can germinate.
What are some methods to start germination?
Some seeds remain dormant until the environment is favorable for them to germinate. But there are other seeds that need to be coaxed to break dormancy.
You can use the method of scarification to help the seeds start germinating. This involves scratching, breaking, or softening the seed coating.
Acid scarification means soaking the seeds in sulphuric acid for some time so that the coat thins out.
Mechanical scarification means you use a metal file, sandpaper to thin the seed coating.
Warm scarification means you put the seeds in a warm, moist container where they can decompose and the outer coating breaks down.
Hot water scarification means putting the seeds in hot water and letting it cool for some hours. This helps the outer coating break down.
How can you start seeds?
There are some things you need to keep in mind when starting your own seeds.
The medium or substrate has to be the best you can use. It should be loose and have good aeration but should be fine. It should be sterile and free from weeds.
The medium should be able to retain just enough water while draining out the excess. It’s important not to use garden soil as it’s not sterile and can contain weeds, diseases, and chemicals.
A good mix is using ⅓ sterile soil, ⅓ perlite or vermiculite, and ⅓ peat moss. You can treat the soil you have to make it sterile.
Put it in an oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the internal temperature to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. You do this for ½ an hour and it should become sterile.
This helps protect the seeds from damping, diseases, and pests.
You can use store-bought trays and containers when starting seeds. You could also recycle things like yogurt containers, milk containers, plastic cups, and pots.
Make sure to wash them with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water so they become sterile. They should have at least a depth of 2 inches.
The multi-cell trays are beneficial to grow a single plant in each cell. This helps prevent root damage while transplanting. The only problem is the cells need more water than growing plants together in one container.
You also have the option of using biodegradable pots as containers. So you don’t need to worry about transplanting and place the pot in your garden soil.
The right time to sow seeds depends on when you’re going to transplant them. The seed growth can vary depending on germination and the environment.
The range of sowing seeds should be 4 to 12 weeks. You don’t want to start seeds indoors when the outdoor temperatures are not suitable for transplant. You’ll end up growing plants indoors in poor conditions. This makes them weak and spindly.
The seeds that need to stay in the dark can be planted into the potting mix. You can push the seeds into the soil at twice the diameter of the seed.
The smaller seeds are to be placed on the surface of the soil and watered lightly.
How many seeds you need to sow depends on the germination rates of the seeds. If the germination rate is between 40% to 80%, you can sow 2-3 seeds per cell.
If the germination rate is greater than 80% you can go frugal and sow only one seed. But if the germination rate is less than 40% means you can sow 3 or more seeds per cell.
If more than one seed is sown per cell, you need to later thin the seedlings. You do this by keeping the strongest one to continue growing.
Another way to start seeds is to pregerminate them. This helps improve the germination rate as the environment you use is controlled.
You place the seeds in folds of cotton cloth and give them sufficient moisture. The roots will form and you can then transplant them in containers or the garden. You need to be careful not to damage the roots as you transplant the seedlings.
Pregermination seeds have a shorter shelf life. You can transplant them to ½ depth that the seeds would need. Then cover the top with a little sphagnum and give it sufficient water.
The seeds need the right amount of water for good germination. You need to ensure the potting mix remains moist but not wet.
Once planted, spray a fine mist or place the pots in a tray with 1 inch of water. When the soil is moist take them out of the tray and let them drain.
Overwatering or drying out are the problems you may face when starting seeds. If the pots are placed in constant water, the soil may absorb a lot and the roots may rot.
Temperature and light
The seeds need a higher night temperature than room temperature for good germination. You can create areas of high temperature using heating cables or heating mats.
Once germination has taken place, you need to move the seedlings to a cool, airy location. Otherwise, the plants will have leggy growth and risk of diseases.
The seedlings need good light after germination. The best thing to do is place them in a south-facing window.
If the light is not good, you can use artificial lighting such as fluorescent or high-intensity lights. The lights should be 6 to 12 inches higher than the seedlings. And they should be raised as the seedlings grow.
You’ll need to keep the lights turned on for about 16 hours per day to allow good seed germination.
How to transplant seedlings?
If the seedlings are not in separate containers, you’ll need to transplant them. It’s important to not let them grow in the seed trays for too long. This can stunt their growth.
You know it’s time to transplant when true leaves appear above or below the cotyledon leaves.
To transplant the seedlings, gently take them out of the flats. If multiple seedlings are present in a cell, you need to carefully separate them. Make sure not to damage the roots.
Hold the seedlings from the leaves rather than the delicate stem. You can transplant the seedlings to a container or the garden outdoors.
Make sure to transplant the seedlings in a location with shade for the first few days. You can dig a hole in the container and put the seedlings to the same depth as the seed trays.
Cover up the roots with potting mix and water it gently. Keep watering and fertilizing every day as required.
Many plants can be transplanted with ease but there are some plants that don’t prefer it. You need to sow such plants directly into the garden soil. This includes plants like carrots, peas, beets, squash, and chard.
Medium to use for transplanting
You can use the same potting mix that you use for growing seeds. Just make sure this potting mix has good fertilizer.
Some potting mix comes with the fertilizer already included. Else you need to add the fertilizer every two weeks. It’s good to use house plant liquid fertilizer.
Use the dose that is recommended by the manufacturer. Too much fertilizer can damage the seedlings.
Containers to use for transplanting
There are many types of containers available for transplanting. You want something that is economical, durable, and with sufficient space.
The type of container to choose depends on the type of plant and environmental conditions.
You can also use a regular pot but it wastes space and may not drain water well.
One of the best containers is peat moss ones. You need to tear off the surface before the transplant. This helps to prevent it from wicking water. You can bury such a container into the soil and cover it.
You can also use peat pellets soaked in water. This type of container helps to directly plant the seedling without the need to transplant.
When using containers for transplant, make sure the depth is enough for the roots. And there are holes at the bottom for drainage of excess water.
How to harden the plants?
Hardening is the process of strengthening the seedlings so they can withstand outdoor conditions.
This should be a gradual and slow process so the plants can adapt. You need to start at least two weeks before the transplant. The idea is to transition the plant from being soft and vulnerable to being hardy.
You can keep the seedlings in a temperature range of 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This could be done indoors or outdoors.
You can start keeping the seedlings outdoors in shade for some time. Don’t keep them out if the temperature goes below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Or if it’s too windy outside.
You can gradually increase the exposure of the seedlings to sunlight. This helps the plants increase the creation of carbohydrates and thicken their cells.
You need to be careful not to do it too suddenly or the plants will be damaged. After proper hardening, you can plant the seedlings outdoors.
What is asexual propagation?
This is a method of propagation by creating clones of the parent plant. Only some species can be propagated with this method.
The asexual propagation methods include cutting, layering, grafting, budding, and division.
How to use cuttings to propagate?
This is a method of propagation where you cut a part of the parent plant to propagate. The part could be leaf, stem, or roots.
The cutting method can be used for herbaceous and woody plants. You should use a sharp knife for the cutting so you don’t damage the parent plant.
You can dip the cutting tool in rubbing alcohol or a solution made using 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. This helps prevent diseases from spreading to healthy plants.
Once you’ve cut the part of thep plant, remove the flowers and buds. This helps it focus on developing roots.
Put the cutting in a good cutting medium like perlite, vermiculite, water, or coarse sand. Before putting it in the cutting medium, water it well.
You can use a root hormone to speed up the rooting process. The leaf and stem cuttings can be placed in direct sunlight. And the root cuttings should be placed in the dark till new shoots grow.
How to use layering to propagate?
This method of plant propagation works when the stem is still attached to the plant. It’s touched with rooting hormone so the roots can grow.
Some plants use this method on their own while some need assistance. This method has the benefit that the stem continues to get food and water from the plant.
You can start this method by wounding or bending the stem sharply. The medium in which you bend the stem should provide good aeration and moisture.
The method of tip layering is where you insert the tip of the plant into the soil. The tip grows downwards and then upwards. The roots form at the bend and turn into a new plant.
Compound layering is a method where you insert the stems and remove them alternatively into the soil. Wound the part of the stems that go into the soil.
Mound layering is a method where you cut back the plant to 1 inch during the dormant season. As new shoots come out during spring, you cover them up with soil.
How to use division to propagate?
Some plants have more than one rooted crown. These can be separated and grown into new plants with the division method.
If the stems are not joined, you can just pull them apart. If they are joined, you need to cut the stems and the roots. Then dust them with a fungicide before replanting.
How to use separation to propagate?
This method of propagation can be used for plants that produce a bulb or corm. The new bulbs form near the originally planted bulb.
When the leaves have withered away, you can dig up the bulbs. Separate the bulbs and immediately plant them into the soil to grow roots.
Small bulbs may take 2-3 years to flower while large ones take about a year.
New corms and cormels form on top of the original growing corm. When the leaves wither, you can dig up the corms. Dry them out for 2-3 weeks in indirect sunlight.
Separate the new corms and dust them with fungicide. Then store them in a cool, dry place till time to replant.
Now you know what it takes to continue growing your plants.
Of course, you can save some seeds and keep growing your plants.
But there’s also the choice of asexual propagation where you grow plants from parts of the parent plant.
Maybe you can use a combination of both methods if it works for you.