Why propagate plants at home from cuttings?

– Saves money, especially for seasonal perennials or tender accent plants (e.g. over winter one parent plant and propagate many more from it next growing season) Examples are Impatiens, Coleus, Begonias, Acalypha, any tropical or tender herbaceous plants.

– Personal challenge and satisfaction of starting a new plant from scratch.

– Self insurance policy – to have a backup plant for a rare selection or plant that would be difficult to replace.

– Save space for over wintering – keep only a small rooted cutting rather than a large plant for next year.

– Have extra plants of unusual varieties for trading with others, e.g. at plant swaps. 

– Plant sales – a good way to make some extra money to support the purchase of new plants to try.

– It’s the only way to get a desired plant when not available from local commercial sources.

– Plant cultivars can only be reproduced identically by this method.  It’s cloning!

BUT…..the main reason to me is that it is just plain fun and so easy to do!!
Each growing season, I feel compelled to do a batch of cuttings from plants that I love to share with others. I even went back to the simplest, cheapest, and easiest method and had better results than ever. It’s simple. I bought a large opaque/clear storage box at Walmart for $10, drilled half inch holes in the top for air ventilation and bottom for drainage, placed 6 inches of paver/course sand, moistened the sand, put the lid on and created the ideal environment for rooting cuttings – moist but well drained and vent ilated! The “propagation box” was kept in a shaded but bright area to eliminate heat and light stress.
Cuttings should be  4 – 6 inches, cut below a node, stripped of half to 2/3rd of foliage, dipped in rooting hormone according to strength needed.  Herbaceous or soft cuttings generally require no rooting hormone assistance.  Semi-hardwood cuttings (that snap cleanly when broken) generally use a #1 (.1% active ingredient) or #2 (.3%) rooting hormone.  Hardwood and difficult to root cuttings are generally allowed to callous overwinter when dormant and use a #3 (.8%) strength hormone. Cuttings should be dipped in the hormone, shake off excess,  stuck in the sand and checked every week after two weeks have passed. They need to be placed firmly in the medium to ensure good contact with it. Cuttings require relatively warm conditions for root development.  Do not pot cuttings until a thick cluster of roots have formed and offer the new plant protection from stress until roots develop further.  The length of time required to root any plant varies depending on the specific plant.  Some are unbelievably easy rooting in a weeks time, while others take up to 6 months or longer. 

Other simple propagation methods that are easy and any gardener can do include division and ground layering. Division is simply dividing a clumped plant into several sections, each having the necessary roots attached and able to sustain the divided plant..  Bulbs can be divided by sectioning – another form of division.  Ground layering involves the wounding of a branch still attached to a parent plant and bending it into the ground, only separating it from the parent when roots have developed.  It is important to have the wounded area not exposed to light so the wounded meristem cells differentiate into roots and not branches.

This just is the tip of the iceberg in regard to the many and varied methods for propagating new plants.   You can learn more about propagating your own plants at http://www.centraltexasgardening.info/propag.htm   Another good reference site for how to propagate specific plants is the University of Florida’s “Landscape Plant Propagation Information” at http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/lppi/  

So, having had the fun of propagating new plants creates another dilemma, what to do with them! That’s how you make new plant friends – share with others. Who knows – a valued shared plant may come back to you for re-propagation if you lose it in your garden..