Plant propagation has benefits for home gardeners

Published on Wednesday, 14 June 2017 17:00 - Written by DEBBY WATKINS, Smith County Master Gardeners

Plant propagation simply refers to the reproduction of plants. The reproduction or propagation of plants occurs either from seeds or vegetative means such as cuttings (leaf, stem or root), division, layering, grafting, budding and tissue cultures. As a home gardener, you can use any of these methods to obtain additional plants from your existing plants, whether they are houseplants, vegetables or landscaping plants. There are two benefits of propagation for home gardeners. First, you can get plants cheaply and in large numbers, and secondly, you have the self-satisfaction of starting and nurturing plants from their beginnings.

However, there is a legal disclaimer that needs to be mentioned. Plants that are patented or have a patent pending cannot be started from vegetative means because of patent laws. This applies even to you as a home gardener who only intends to use the vegetatively propagated plants in your yard. However, patented and patent pending plants can be started from the seeds that you collect from them. When you purchase a plant, you can look at the tag and see whether it is patented or has a patent pending.

Seeds can be collected from your plants and stored until the appropriate planting time. However, seeds that you collect may not have a high percentage of germination for numerous reasons. Most seed companies take great care in their seed collection, so you usually will get a higher rate of growth for a minimal cost for a packet of seeds. Plants started from seeds may not be exactly like the parent plants. That is because the pollen from the male unites with the egg of the female to produce a seed. Just like in humans and animals, plants’ offspring get their traits from both the male and the female parents.

Vegetative propagation of plants is cloning. The new plant is exactly like the parent plant. In vegetative propagation, you take a piece of a plant, whether it is a cutting (leaf, stem or root), layering, a division, grafting, budding or tissue, and the resulting plant is an exact clone of the parent plant. Cuttings involve rooting a severed piece of the parent plant. The severed piece can be a leaf, stem, or root. Layering involves rooting a part of the parent plant and then severing it. Division is separating a parent plant into sections. Budding and grafting involve joining two plant parts from different varieties. It’s trickier but lots of fun. Lastly, tissue cultivation is difficult for the home gardener to do.

If the thought of growing your own plants from seeds or vegetative parts tickles your fancy, look for more articles on propagation. Next, we’ll talk about plants that are easy to propagate, and then discuss how to do it.

If you would like more information, go to http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and search for articles on propagation.