An endless stream of daughter plants
One of the fondest memories a lot of people have about learning to care for plants involves cups of water, a broken stem and a windowsill. Many of the plants we keep in our houses and gardens will produce an endless stream of brand-new plants for you, if you know how. Most of my prized houseplants were from snips of a friend’s plants.
Propagation from softwood or stem cuttings is the old leaf-in-a-cup-of-water trick. This involves taking a portion of stem, preferably with some leaves attached, and keeping it in a sheltered, moist environment until the plant can grow itself some roots. The most important part of the process is to keep the humidity high. The plant can’t effectively bring any new water into its system without roots, so you must careful guard against the loss of water. Even something as simple as a plastic baggie over the leaves will help protect the plant from losing too much water when it breathes.
Many gardeners prefer to use a good, soil-less planting medium for these cuttings. When you transition your cutting from a cup of water to a soil environment, it can be very stressful. If the plant developed the roots in a similar environment, transplanting is much less of a shock to the system. If you decide to start cuttings, make sure there is no fertilizer or heavy soil. You don’t want to rob the new slips of the water they’re working so hard to keep!
One of the most important things about propagating plants from cuttings is to keep your equipment clean. New starts, like seeds, are very susceptible to fungal infection. Because it is so critical to keep them moist, you need to make sure there aren’t a lot of spores that will take advantage of the situation.
You can also grow roots on a woody plant. One of my favorite tricks for this involves wounding a branch of a tree or shrub, dotting the wound with a bit of rooting hormone and covering the entire area with plastic wrap. Because the branch still gets water and nutrients from the mother tree, there’s less worry about transpiration. Once the roots grow, you simply prune the new daughter sapling from the mother branch.
Many perennials can be dug up and divided. This is often done in the early autumn, after the weather begins to cool. Make sure, when dividing, that there is enough growing time after you plant the divided parts to get established before the first frost. After a hard summer, it is always rewarding to see the new divisions thriving in the cool autumn weather.
Master Gardener School to be offered in 2013
If you would like to become a Delaware County Master Gardener, we will offer a school in February and March 2013. Space is limited, so please call the Extension Office at 740–833-2030 to request an application or for more information.
Upcoming community garden program
Join the Delaware County Master Gardeners for our gardening educational series from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Delaware Community Center YMCA on Houk Road. The topic is fall planting — come discover ways to extend your garden into fall and early winter and a selection of what to plant.
Wendy Wolpert is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.