Beginners Guide to Propagating Plants
Updated: Jul 10
Throughout most of Canada, the warmer months are a luxury. It’s our time to comfortably step outside and enjoy some of the activities that the cold weather makes impossible. One of those activities is gardening, and with summer fully in swing, there’s no better time to make your way outdoors and test how green that thumb really is.
One specific gardening activity is propagating. It sounds fancy, but it’s actually an effective way of growing your own plants and adding some greenery to your living space. Let’s get into how it works.
What is plant propagation?
Kiki D, a regular gardening host at Boomerang, explains that plant propagation is the practice of multiplying an existing plant through various methods, usually vegetatitve.
It’s essentially the process of creating a new plant from an existing one through different methods. Propagating plants is a great way to expand your collection of favourite plants and flowers without spending money on buying new ones.
How does plant propagation work?
Think of propagation as reproduction, but for plants. Plant propagation can either be sexual or asexual, with sexual being the union of pollen and the egg from the genes of two plants which together makes a new plant. Asexual propagation involves cutting or removing of a vegatitative part of one plant—such as aleaf, root, or stem—and using that piece to generate a new plant.
Kiki says that just as a towering sequoia can grow from a tiny seed, so can a whole plant from just a bit of the vine or like African violets, a single leaf. It’s a beautiful, lifegiving process that you can do in your front and backyard.
What are the easiest plants to propagate?
While propagating plants can be a simple process, there are a number of plants that are far more difficult to propagate. You’ll need a bit of experience and some know-how to properly propagate plants like orchids or cauliflower. But there are also a number of plants that are far simpler. If this is your first time propagating plants, here are some you should try this summer:
Chinese money plant
All of these plants make propagation simple, and with the Chinese money plant, it propagates itself. All you need to do is replant it. Starting with any of the ones listed above is a great way to build the experience you need to move on to the more complicated ones.
Methods of Propagation
While the Chinese money plant is an anomaly, for most other plants, you’ll have to put in some work to grow new ones. And according to Kiki, stem cutting is one of the most popular methods of propagation. Here’s how it works:
Select a healthy vine with active growth (new leaves emerging) and three to five leaves
Using a sharp knife or pair of secateurs, cut a few millimeters (no more than one centimeter) directly under the node
Stick the cut end in a jar of clean water
Leave the cutting somewhere warm and bright so you can watch it grow roots
Once the roots are one to two centimeters long, pot the cutting in potting soil, keep it consistently damp, and there you have a whole new plant!
Root cuttings are also popular. It’s similar to stem cutting except it becomes more important to keep the cut in a spot with high humidity. Without roots, they cannot take up water, so they need to save what they have in their leaves says Kiki. The humidity helps with that and some experts suggest placing a plastic bag over the new cut to increase humidity.
Other methods include rhizome division where you cut the plant in half vertically and replant each side, or water propagation, which involves placing a cutting in a glass of water until new roots form. Some herbs like mint and basil grow well through this technique, along with plants like the Christmas cactus.
More propagating tips
We’ve got a few more tips for you to get started propagating your plants, courtesy of Kiki:
Use clean tools and containers
Keeping roots warm and plants in filtered light will produce quick and healthy results
It’s a great practice to look up the individual plant (by their Latin name, if possible) to discover the favoured and most successful method of propagation.
Get to know Boomerang Host Kiki D.
Kiki is a gardener, florist, sometimes beekeeper, and a constant explorer with an affinity for tropical plants and a keen eye for moss. Her curiosity for the earth and its interconnected place within all of our lives is what fuels her fascination for gardening; and she has found herself an active member of the Master Gardeners of Ontario and multiple horticultural societies. Seeking ways to make gardening accessible and to engage people in her love of "soul-to-soil; she began instructing workshops - teaching practical, science-based techniques in plant care, propagation, and building terrariums as a way to bring the endless forest indoors.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.