propagation is the process of producing new plants. There are a number of ways
in which new plants can be created. New plants can be produced by sexual
or asexual (vegetative) means.
through the entire page to view discussions and links on various sexual and
asexual plant propagation methods, or follow the bookmarks below to get directly
to each topic (use the "Back" button to return to the top of
Methods of Plant Propagation:
methods of propagation involve producing new plants from seeds or spores.
of Using Sexual
Methods of Propagation
propagation methods are often the cheapest way of producing a large number of plants.
using sexual methods of propagation, variation occurs and new
cultivars, (cultivated types of plants) may be created. The new plants may
have different and exciting colours, shapes and sizes.
of Using Sexual Methods of Propagation :
grown by sexual methods may take longer to reach maturity.
is not always good, desirable characteristics of the parent plants may be
most common way of propagating plants is by seed. Many plants produce large
numbers of seeds, (an orchid seed pod can contain 3 million!), each of which can
be grown to produce a new plant.
||Students of the Grantley Adams
Memorial School planting seeds at the Andromeda Botanic gardens.
are generally made up of three parts, the embryo (young plant), food storage
tissue, and the seed covering.
(seed leaves), are attached to the embryo. The number of cotyledons present may
be used as a means of classifying seeds.
(monocots) are seeds, which have one cotyledon, e.g. palms, grasses and corn.
(dicots) are seeds, which have two cotyledons, e.g. peas and beans.
have seeds, which may contain up to fifteen cotyledons, e.g. pine trees.
seed covering consist of the seed coat (testa), and parts of the fruit or
seedpod. These structures protect the embryo and food reserve inside the seed.
The seed covering also functions to prevent the seed from germinating until
conditions in its surroundings are favorable for germination and seedling
development to occur.
conditions for germination vary from seed to seed. Seeds germination may be
affected by temperature, light, water and air conditions.
||Germinated pussy vine (Clitoria
seeds may remain dormant (fail to germinate), unless exposed to some
types of stress, before germination will occur. Scarification and stratification
are techniques commonly used to encourage germination in some seeds.
involves breaking or scarring the hard seed coat. Scarification may be achieved
mechanically by using sandpaper, a knife, pliers or a hammer. Scarification may
also be achieved chemically by dipping seeds in Sulphuric acid. These types of
stresses may mimic nature where seed coats may be scarred by exposure to the
elements over time, or exposed to acid in the digestive tracts of birds and
involves exposing seeds to a moist chilling treatment to overcome dormancy.
Stratification may be necessary to germinate seeds from cold countries, where
exposure to a period of cold and then moist conditions may signal that spring is
coming, and it is safe for seeds to germinate.
depth to which seeds are sown (planted) differs from seed to seed. Those seeds
requiring light for germination need to be planted nearer the surface. Generally
seeds should not be planted deeper than two or three times their diameter.
Larger seeds like coconuts can be partly covered in the soil and kept moist.
learn more about propagating plants from seeds, follow the links below, or visit
us at Andromeda for practical demonstrations.
ferns grow form spores. Spores are formed in sporangia (dark spots on the
underside of of fern fronds/leaves). Spores are very small and seed-like. Spores
can be collected from mature brown sporangia by shaking the frond over a piece
of paper. If the sporangia are green, they are immature, and the frond can be
placed in an envelope for the sporangia to mature before collecting the spores.
need a moist environment for germination. A simple method for germinating spores
will be highlighted here.
a clay flowerpot, peat-pot or peat pellet in water and stand it upside down
in a saucer or dish with water at the bottom
fern spores on the sides and top of the pot or peat pellet
with clear plastic (to prevent mold or fungal spores from settling on the pot
in a bright area away from direct sunlight (keeping water in the dish or
saucer at all times)
about six weeks the pot should turn green with the germinating spores. Small
leaf-like prothalli should appear first, followed in a few weeks by tiny fern
fronds. At this point the young ferns can be carefully removed and planted
elsewhere. The young ferns will need a warm, moist and shady environment to
from spores will have similar advantages and disadvantages to propagating from
seeds (as mentioned above).
the links below to learn more about ferns, their life cycles and propagation.
(Vegetative) Methods of Plant Propagation:
or vegetative propagation refers to producing new plants without any
fertilization occurring. Vegetative methods of plant propagation include the use
of cuttings, budding, grafting, air layering, tissue
culture and propagation by division.
of Vegetative Propagation:
copies of parent plants can be produced in most cases (conserving desired
simple and relatively quick
plants can sometimes be produced in a short period of time
quality and uniformity among plants produced
of Vegetative Propagation:
All offspring share common susceptibility to disease
suitable if variation is desired
Propagation by Cuttings:
cutting is a cut piece of plant material, which can be made to
develop new stems and roots to form a new plant.
Stems, leaves or roots may be used as a source of cutting material.
should only be selected from healthy plants, which have desirable
characteristics and are free of pest and diseases.
must be provided with the right temperature, nutrition and moisture levels
for rooting and shoot development to occur.
(plant growth regulators) are often used to encourage rooting in cuttings.
Auxins encourage cell division and elongation, which are important for
also promote root formation.
are commonly rooted in sand, perlite, vermiculite, peat moss or various
mixtures of the preceding. Some cuttings may also be rooted in plain water.
cuttings may be made from the stem tip or from sections of stems of many plants.
||Students from the St. Lucy
Secondary School preparing cuttings at the Andromeda Botanic Gardens.
Stem tip cuttings
may be taken from the top 7 to 10 centimetres of the stem. The cut should be
made just below a node. Any leaves at the base that would be covered with the
rooting medium should be removed. Cuttings should then be placed upright in a
rooting tray or pot in a warm bright area. It may be necessary to cover some
cuttings with plastic for a few days to maintain conditions of high humidity (to
prevent the cuttings from drying out and dying). Cuttings should be watered
regularly until roots develop.
Plants suitable for propagation by tip cuttings include yellow sage, blue
plumbago and coleus (Joseph’s coats).
useful for propagating many ornamental plants. Often sections of stem between 10
to 20 centimetres are used. If leaves are present, all but a few of them should
be removed to reduce water loss by the stem from the leaf surfaces. Clean
slanted cuts should be made at the base, and each section should contain at
least two nodes (from which new roots and shoots may arise). The base the
cuttings should be inserted about 2.5 centimetres into the rooting medium. The
cuttings should be placed in a warm bright area and kept moist until rooting
Crotons and bougainvilleas are often propagated in this manner.
are a special type of stem cutting used in plants, which produce cane-like or
leafless stems. Leafless stem sections (7 to 10centimetres long), and having at
least two buds, are cut from older stems. These cutting are placed horizontally
(on their sides), slightly below the surface of the rooting medium. Roots and
new shoots subsequently develop.
Plants suitable for propagation by cane cuttings include dumb cane
(dieffenbachia sp.) and dracaenas.
For more information on stem cuttings, follow the link below.
plants can be propagated from a whole leaves or part of a leaf. Leaf cuttings
are not suitable for propagating most plants because leaf cuttings generally
lack auxiliary buds from which adequate roots and shoots may develop. The leaves
of most plants only produce a few roots before dying, or just decay
cuttings are suitable for propagating plants, which are capable of producing
are a number of types of leaf cuttings including whole leaf, leaf-petiole, leaf
section, split-vein and leaf bud cuttings.
cuttings may or
may not include the petiole (leaf stalk). The leaf base may be partially
submerged in the rooting media. Roots and leaves may then arise from the leaf
and some begonias may be propagated in this way.
propagation involves planting a leaf with up to 4cm of petiole. The petiole is
inserted into the medium, and new roots and leaves arise from its base. Some
African violets and peperomias may be grown in this way.
propagation involves planting cut sections of leaves. This method is used for
plants with thick fleshy leaves. Cut sections up to 10 centimetres long are
inserted vertically (upright) in the rooting medium. This method is used for
propagating Sansevieria (Snake plant or Mother in laws tongue).
||A rooted leaf section cutting of
the snake plant (Sansevieria sp.).
plants are suitable for propagation from root cuttings.
from plants with large roots should be 5 to 15 centimetres long. These cuttings
should be planted 5 to 7 centimetres apart with the proximal end (end from
nearest the crown of the plant) buried 5 to 7 centimetres below the rooting
from plants with small roots should be 3 to 5 centimetres long. These cuttings
can be placed horizontally (on their sides) about 2 centimetres below the
trees are commonly propagated from root cuttings.
more on propagation from leaves and roots, follow the link below.
and grafting are two asexual (vegetative) propagation techniques involving
joining parts from two or more plants, so that they grow as one.
techniques are especially useful for propagating plants that are difficult to
root from cuttings, or that tend to develop poor root systems.
more new cultivars may be added to an existing fruit tree by budding or
part that is to be propagated is referred to as the scion. The scion
consists of a piece of shoot with a dormant bud, or buds, which may develop into
new stems and branches.
that is to provide the scion with a root system is referred to as the rootstock
or stock plant.
for budding and grafting techniques to be successful the following conditions
must be met:
The scion and rootstock must be compatible. Budding and grafting
generally only work with closely related plants. All citrus cultivars (oranges,
lemons, grapefruit e.t.c.) may be grafted onto each other, and all mangoe
cultivars may be grafted onto each other, but a citrus graft will not “take”
(develop successfully) on a mango rootstock.
The cambial layers of both scion and rootstock must come
into contact with each other. The cambium is the layer of cells
between the wood and the bark of a stem from which new bark and wood cells arise.
The scion and rootstock must be at the proper physiological stage.
The scion is most often selected from physiologically mature parts of the parent
plant, so that the developing stems would be physiologically mature as well.
The bud or graft union must be kept moist until the wound
involves using a scion with a number of dormant buds that will produce new stems
is useful for:
Changing the cultivars or variety of an existing orchard (for example
going from lemon production to lime production without having to replant trees).
This technique is commonly referred to as topworking.
Repairing trees from which limbs have broken off (limbs replaced by
Conserving desired characteristics (the scion will grow exactly like the
plant from which it originated)
Adding a branch of a new cultivar for observation and testing (before
going into large scale production of the new cultivar)
a number of different grafting techniques including cleft grafting, bark
grafting and whip or tongue grafting.
the links below for more information and diagrams illustrating various grafting
a special form of grafting in which only a single bud is used as the scion.
is especially useful when scion material is limited
forms stronger unions than grafting
is often faster than other grafting techniques
are a number of different budding techniques including patch budding, chip
budding and T budding.
is commonly used in Barbados for propagation of citrus plants (oranges, lemons,
limes, grapefruit e.t.c.).
the links below for more information and diagrams illustrating various budding
Layering is a vegetative
propagation method where plants are encouraged to develop roots on stems, which
are still attached to a parent plant. The “layer” (rooted stem) can then be
removed from the parent plant and planted elsewhere.
is useful for:
hard to root plants
relatively large plants in a short time (depending on the plant being
Layering is limited by:
of stems on which to develop layers
Layering usually involves
wounding the stem or branch at the point where roots are to be encouraged to
Types of Layering:
There are a number of layering
techniques including simple layering, tip layering, compound
(serpentine) layering, mound (stool) layering and air layering.
Simple layering involves
bending a low-lying flexible branch to the ground.
The branch is then wounded
(part of the bark removed) on its lower side, about 15 to 30 centimetres below
The wounded area is the
covered with soil and staked in position.
The tip is bent into a
vertical (upright) position.
Roots are expected to
develop in the soil-covered area.
After satisfactory rooting
has occurred, the layers can be cut out and transplanted.
Climbing roses can be
propagated from simple layers.
Tip layering is similar to
simple layering, but the shoot tip is covered in the soil instead of part of the
The tip grows downwards
then bends up sharply.
Roots form at the bend.
Compound layering is
similar to simple layering, but several layers can be produced on a single stem.
A flexible stem is bent to
the ground as in simple layering, but sections of the stem are alternately
covered with soil (with their lower sides wounded) or exposed.
Each section should have
at least one bud exposed (for new shoot development), and one bud covered with
soil (for new root development).
Vine-line plants like
philodendrons and pothos are suitable for propagation by this method.
Mound layering is used
with heavy-stemmed, closely branched rootstocks of some fruit trees.
The stock is cut back to
about 2.5 centimetres above the soil surface.
Dormant buds would then be
allowed to shoot.
Soil is mounded over the
new shoots as they grow.
Roots will develop at the
base of the young shoots.
The shoots (the layers in
this case) can then be removed once adequate root development has occurred.
Air layering is useful for
improving the appearance of plants which have become “leggy” through the
loss of their lower foliage (by removing some of he bare sections of stem).
Air layering is also
useful for propagating some woody and hard to root species.
A section, or entire ring
of bark from an area of stem (from 3 to 6 centimetres) is removed.
Some rooting hormone may
be applied to the upper base of the cut to encourage root formation.
The exposed area is
covered with damp peat moss, or some other damp rooting medium.
The rooting medium is then
wrapped in plastic or foil so that it would remain moist.
The ends of the wrapping
are securely fastened so that it remains in place.
Once roots have grown
through the rooting media, the layer can be removed and transplanted.
This technique is often used to propagate ficus plants and dracaenas.
||A student of the Lodge School
air layering a ficus plant at the Andromeda Botanic Gardens.
Some plants produce layers
These layers may be
referred to as runners or offsets.
Spider plant is an example
of a plant propagated in this way.
These plants will be
considered in greater detail under propagation by division.
the links below for more information on layering, and diagrams illustrating the
Plant Propagation by Division:
Plant propagation by division includes a number
of different techniques, in each of which the parent plant is split into two or
more pieces, each capable of developing into a new plant. These techniques are
all asexual (vegetative), so all new plants produced will have identical
characteristics to the parent plant.
Propagation by division is common in two types of
plants, those with a clumping growth habit, and bulbous plants
(plants with specialized storage organs, above or below the ground, including
bulbs, corms, rhizomes, stolons, tubers and pseudobulbs).
Propagating Plants with a Clumping Growth
Plants suitable for propagating in this manner
often have multiple stems or grow in clumps. Propagation of these plants if
often a simple process involving digging up the clump and dividing it into
pieces with adequate roots. The pieces can then be replanted to the same depth
below the soil from which they were dug. Common ornamental plants propagated
from division include orchids, bamboo, liriope, zamias and bromeliads.
Propagating Bulbous Plants:
Storage organs are a common feature of bulbous
plants. These storage organs aid plants in surviving long periods of stress in
their environment (such as heat or drought). The nutrients stored in these
organs also support regrowth of roots and shoots after the period of stress has
passed. Some of these storage tissues can be used for propagating new
- Bulbs are stem tubers. They are composed
of a short fleshy vertical stem, covered by thick fleshy modified leaves
(called scales or bud scales). Buds have
a basal plate from which new growth arises. The fleshy scale leaves protect
the bulb, and these leaves in turn may be covered by a thin outer membrane
called a tunic. Bulbs with a tunic (like onions) are better protected from
drying out and other damage than those without (like lily bulbs). Plants
commonly grown from bulbs include crinums and spider lilies.
- Corms are
modified stems. Corms are covered by dry scale-like leaves (a tunic), but
differ from true bulbs in having distinct nodes and internodes. Corms are propagated
by separating offsets (called cormels) from the primary corm. Corms produce
two types of roots, fibrous roots for water and nutrient uptake, and
enlarged roots for support and pulling the corm deeper into the soil for
more uniform temperatures. The carbohydrates stored in corms tend to become depleted
as new shoots grow and develop. New corms then tend to be created by the
plant just below the original corm. New cormels may also develop at the base
of the new corm. Gladiolus is grown from corms.
- Rhizomes and Stolons are both
horizontal modified stems. Rhizomes grow horizontally below the soil, while
stolons grow horizontally above the soil surface. Rhizomes and tubers are
commonly produced in monocots (like grasses), but some dicots and ferns
produce them as well. rhizomes and stolons may yield multiple plants, but
each division must include a vegetative bud for development to be
- Tubers refer to modified stems (stem
tubers) and roots (root tubers). Stem tubers grow underground and have nodes
and axillary buds (eyes). Buds near the shoot end (terminal buds) may be
dominant over buds further away from the shoot. Common examples of stem
tubers are the Irish potato and caladiums. Root tubers lack nodes and
axillary buds. The buds in root tubers are usually only found at the shoot
end of the roots on which they develop. Sweet potatoes can be propagated
from root tubers.
- Pseudobulbs or "false bulbs"
are very variable modified stems used by some plants for food storage.
Pseudobulbs develop in some orchid species. In Dendrobium orchids they arise
as offshoots (referred to as keikis) at the upper nodes of the plant. Roots
form at the base of the keikis, which may then be removed and planted. In Cattleya
orchids, propagation involves using rhizomes or stolons containing four or
five pseudobulbs, after the plants have flowered, or as roots start to
develop on the pseudobulbs.
Follow the links below for more information
and diagrams on plant propagation by division.
Tissue culture involves regenerating whole plants
from a single cell or very small pieces of plant tissue (like shoot tips, leaf
pieces, root pieces, lateral buds and stem sections). Regeneration of new plants
is encouraged by rearing cells on specific culture media under sterile
conditions. The culture medium generally consist of nutrients (organic and
inorganic salts), an energy source (often sucrose or other sugars) and growth
regulators (to encourage cell division and differentiation).
wide variety of techniques are used in tissue culture, depending on the plant
propagation from tissue culture generally requires very sterile conditions,
specific culture media and sophisticated laboratory facilities. Tissue culture
is therefore not widely practiced. Tissue culture is often limited to purpose
culture can however be achieved in the school lab or home. The first two links
below highlight some plant types that have been propagated successfully, and the
tissue culture methods used in the classroom situation.
Follow the links below for more information and diagrams on plant tissue
© 2003 Stephen Proverbs ( c/o University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus).
All rights reserved.
Revised: June 14, 2004