Jul 17

A Gardener's How-To

Q: What is propagation? That sounds complicated!

A. Not to worry, gardeners! Simply put, propagation is the method of creating new plants from parts of other plants.

This process has been practiced for thousands of years because it is often faster than growing plants from seeds. Here at Busch Gardens, we use propagation to grow unusual plants that may be difficult to find at a local nursery or difficult to start from seeds.

Propagation is also commonly used when growing fruit trees because its saves time. At Busch Gardens, we started producing propagating plants about a year ago and have already transplanted hundreds of new plants into the park’s gardens.

To make propagation cuttings of your own you will need a few items to get started:

  • Small pots or trays
  • Sterile Soil
  • Scissors or hand pruners
  • Rooting hormone (you can purchase this at your local hardware store)
  • A mist bottle, a plastic bag and chop sticks or a hanger (to keep plastic from touching plant leaves or stems) The plastic bag will raise the humidity around your cutting while it puts out new roots.

How to Do it:

  • Before you start cutting and sticking your plants you want to fill your pots with soil
  • Next use new growth from a plant to make your cutting. You want to cut the stem about 2 inches long or 4 nodes down and at a slight angle. Then dip the cut end in rooting hormone. If your cutting has fairly large leaves, over 3”, you can cut them in half to reduce water loss.
  • Now stick the cutting in the pot and water thoroughly. Throughout the day soil will need to stay wet for the first few weeks you do not want to let your plant dry out this could kill it. Place the bag in bright light but not direct sunlight which could raise the temperature inside the plastic bag and cook the cutting.
  • After a few weeks gently tug on the cutting and see if it stays in the pot. If it does then you have successfully rooted a plant. If not give a couple more weeks and it should put on new roots. Not all the cuttings will survive and that’s ok. Once your plants have roots reduce watering to just enough to keep the soil damp but not soaking wet.
  • When your plants are big enough you can repot them into a bigger pot or into your landscape.

Green Thumb Secret: It is easier to take cuttings when the plant is actively growing in spring or summer than when plants are growing slowly or dormant such as in winter.

Insider Tip: The Busch Gardens landscape team gives tours of the horticulture nursery, compost site and walking tours of the gardens by request for groups of 10 or more.