Updated: Jun 16
✦ Creating plants is one of the true joys in horticulture.
The raw excitement of Spring has begun to ease off and we all now attend to our recently acquired plants, obtained in a dizzy state of euphoria that the onset of the growing season always brings.
We now reassess our gardening priorities from a frenzied bout of planting into a rhythmic balance of feeding, weeding and watering. While watching the garden is precisely why we garden, it seems us gardener types always like to be doing something more with our vegetative buddies… so we propagate.
Creating plants is one of the true joys in horticulture. There are many techniques and methods that we have access to.
The simplest method of plant propagation. Always an exciting journey to see the emergence of a small plant as it arrives out of its sleeping cocoon.
I have found memories of a great gardener once talking to me about a seed. He would remark how IBM (the computer company) would claim to have developed the first micro-processor… this is the first one he would say as he held a tiny seed in his gnarled, well-aged fingers. And how could you argue with him, within that tiny seed casing was all the information that was required to create something absolutely amazing.
There are great seed raising soils at the nurseries these days. They are nice and fine in particle size and have ingredients that retain the optimum moisture levels. There are also specific germinating kits that contain peat plugs that allow you germinate seed individually within a mini-igloo environment. When germinating seed like this you can minimise transplantation shock as the roots have little disturbance.
There are two terms that you may come across when you read literature on seed germination. Scarification and stratification, these are pre-treating methods. Scarification involves breaking down the hard seed coating that some varieties have. This can be done physically by rubbing seed on sanding paper or shaking around in a container with small stones in it. Hot water is an effective method for some types as it aids in cracking and softening the seed coating. Stratification is a method where we are attempting to mimic a seed's natural environment. Storing some seed types in the refrigerator creates an artificial winter which helps the seed to break its dormancy.
A final tip when germinating seeds, particularly in containers, is to cover them. There are many critters that will feed on both the ungerminated seed and the newly emerging seedling. So, cover with wire or a clear container to give them the best possible chance.
When taking cuttings from plants to propagate with, always have clean, sharp, sterilised secateurs - this will minimise any chance of infection and enable a nice untorn cut. The use of a rooting hormone will greatly increase your success rate too. Rooting hormones contain natural and synthetic auxins which encourage roots to form. They come in either a powder or gel. Simply apply them to the southern end of the cutting prior to inserting it into the propagating mix. Again, your local nurseries have great propagating mixes which are well designed to give your cuttings the best chance. Once your cuttings have been inserted into the propagating mix it is best to store them away from direct sunlight in a moist, humid environment, ideally an igloo like situation. Keep the cuttings well misted with water during the first few days.
Plant cuttings are basically classed into 3 distinct categories: Tip (softwood), semi-hardwood and hard wood.
Tip (softwood) cuttings
A cutting made from the current season’s immature growth. Take cuttings about 5-10cm long, cutting just above a node. The cuttings are liable to wilt if not dealt with immediately, best done in the early morning. Great species to try are Coleus, Aster, Chrysanthemums and Fuchsia.