(Additional information on asexual propagation can be found on the plant propagation pages).
Asexual propagation, multiplication without passage through the seed cycle, is the best way to maintain some species, particularly an individual that best represents that species. Clones are groups of plants that are identical to their one parent and that can only be propagated asexually. The Kieffer pear and the Peace Rose are two examples of clones that have been asexually propagated for many years.
The major methods of asexual propagation are cuttings, layering, budding and grafting. Cuttings involve rooting a severed piece of the parent plant; layering involves rooting a part of the parent and then severing it; and budding and grafting is joining two plant parts from different varieties.
Many types of plants, both woody and herbaceous, are frequently propagated by cuttings. A cutting is a vegetative plant part which is severed from the parent plant in order to regenerate itself, thereby forming a whole new plant.
Take cuttings with a sharp knife or razor blade to reduce injury to the parent plant. Dip the cutting tool in rubbing alcohol or a mixture of one part bleach and nine parts water to prevent transmitting diseases from infected plant parts to healthy ones. Remove flowers and flower buds from cuttings to allow the cutting to use its energy and stored carbohydrates for root and shoot formation rather than fruit and seed production. To hasten rooting, increase the number of roots, or to obtain uniform rooting except on soft fleshy stems, use a rooting hormone such as Rootone or Hormondin, preferably one containing a fungicide. Prevent possible contamination of the entire supply of rooting hormone by putting some in a separate container for dipping cuttings.
Insert cuttings into a rooting medium such as coarse sand, vermiculite, soil, water or a mixture of peat and perlite. It is important to choose the correct rooting medium to get optimum rooting in the shortest time. In general, the rooting medium should be sterile, low in fertility, drain well enough to provide oxygen, and retain enough moisture to prevent water stress. Moisten the medium before inserting cuttings, and keep it evenly moist while cuttings are rooting and forming new shoots. Place stem and leaf cuttings in bright but indirect light. Root cuttings can be kept dark until new shoots appear.
Stem Cuttings Numerous plant species are propagated by stem cuttings. Some can be taken at any time of the year, but stem cuttings of many woody plants must be taken in the fall or in the dormant season.
Tip cuttings: Detach a 2- to 6-inch piece of stem, including the terminal bud. Make the cut just below a node. Remove lower leaves that would touch or be below the medium. Dip the stem in rooting hormone if desired. Gently tap the end of the cutting to remove excess hormone. Insert the cutting deeply enough into the media to support itself. At least one node must be below the surface.
Medial cuttings: Make the first cut just above a node, and the second cut just above a node 2 to 6 inches down the stem. Prepare and insert the cutting as you would a tip cutting. Be sure to position right side up. Axial buds are always above leaves.
Cane cuttings: Cut cane-like stems into sections containing one or two eyes, or nodes. Dust ends with fungicide or activated charcoal. Allow to dry several hours. Lay horizontally with about half of the cutting below the media surface, eye facing upward. Cane cuttings are usually potted when roots and new shoots appear but new shoots from dracaena and croton are often cut off and re-rooted in sand.
Single Eye: The eye refers to the node. This is used for plants with alternate leaves when space or stock material are limited. Cut the stem about inch above and inch below a node. Place cutting horizontally or vertically in the medium.
Double Eye: This is used for plants with opposite leaves when space or stock material is limited. Cut the stem about inch above and inch below the same node. Insert the cutting vertically in the medium with the node just touching the surface.
Heel cutting: This method uses stock material with woody stems efficiently. Make a shield-shaped cut about halfway through the wood around a leaf and axial bud. Insert the shield horizontally into the medium.
Leaf Cuttings Leaf cuttings are used almost exclusively for a few indoor plants. Leaves of most plants will either produce a few roots but no plant, or just decay.
Whole leaf with petiole: Detach the leaf and -1 inches of petiole. Insert the lower end of the petiole into the medium. One or more new plants will form at the base of the petiole. The leaf may be severed from the new plants when they have their own roots, and the petiole reused.
Whole leaf without petiole: This is used for plants with sessile or petiole less leaves. Insert the cutting vertically into the medium. A new plant will form from the axillary bud. The leaf may be removed when the new plant has its own roots.
Split vein: Detach a leaf from the stock plant. Slit its veins on the lower leaf surface. Lay the cutting, lower side down, on the medium. New plants will form at each cut. If the leaf tends to curl up, hold it in place by covering the margins with the rooting medium.
Leaf sections: This method is frequently used with snake plant and fibrous rooted begonias. Cut begonia leaves into wedges with at least one vein. Lay leaves flat on the medium. A new plant will arise at the vein. Cut snake plant leaves into 2" sections. Consistently make the lower cut slanted and the upper cut straight so you can tell which is the top. Insert the cutting vertically. Roots will form fairly soon, and eventually a new plant will appear at the base of the cutting. These and other succulent cuttings will rot if kept too moist.
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