What Is Propagation?

The proper definition of propagation is ‘to spread or multiply’. To anyone who grows plants, indeed to the plants themselves, this is the means by which new plants are born. In Nature, plants propagate themselves to continue the species. To our cultivated minds this is where weeds come from in the yard or outdoor garden, literally springing up anywhere and always where we don’t want them. But those infiltrators wouldn’t be growing there if the perfect conditions for them to thrive wasn’t present.

Growing food outdoors means propagating your garden with seed sown in rows and plant starts purchased in cell paks at the local greenhouse or garden center. The greenhouse you frequent for spring planting supplies has to start those ready to make food liner plants somehow. There are a variety of ways they do this and the very same ways that you’ll get the starter plants for your indoor garden.

The most common method of propagating is growing plants from seed. Open pollinated and heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs can all be grown from seed you collect and save for starting a new crop. Hybrids however will not faithfully reproduce from seed unless you know some tricks, and even then you risk not having the new plants be true to the variety you collected seed from 100% of the time. Rather than relying on the practice of pollination that is used to reproduce seed for hybrid plants, as a novice you have some more reliable options.

You can grow new plants using cloning methods. There is the simple method of rooting cuttings and the more complex and clinical method known as tissue culture. Tissue culture is very cool, but also very delicate and not something that most gardeners will want to try. So, if you want to propagate more new plants from hybrid varieties, you would resort to the cuttings method.

No matter how you go about propagating new plants for your garden, you have to provide the best conditions for the crop. Just like those weeds that drive you nuts, desirable plants only perform at an ultimate level when you give them what they want. Too hot or too cold, too dark or too sunny, too wet or too dry… and you’ve got problems or crop failure before you really get started. So its really important to research what your chosen plant types need at the first stage of their life.

Generally, all seeds sprout outdoors – whether wild or cultivated – in the cooler, moist days of spring. Start your seed too late and your plants will fail to thrive. Why? Because summer is hotter, dryer and the sun is up longer as well as more intense. Infantile seedlings have fragile roots and leaves, not too mention have not developed a sufficient canopy to protect roots from frying in the sun when temperatures soar in the middle of the day.

The same is true in your indoor garden. While growing new plants from cuttings does give you a more mature top part, there are no roots at first and you’ll want to give them a more gentle environment as you would new seedlings. If you know what each plant needs and make sure they get it, you’ll have no problem propagating new plants over and over again. Only weeds grow beautifully anywhere they land – at least the ones you notice.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.