Go Forth And Multiply

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Plants on a side table
The ability to propagate is a key tool in the gardener’s arsenal. Follow these step-by-step guides from plant cultivator and stylist Jason Chongue to reinvigorate your garden

Gardening can get expensive if you only purchase plants from nurseries. I’ve adopted many of mine by trading cuttings with other gardeners or propagating my own. I’ve also inherited numerous cuttings from family, friends and neighbours. In fact, I rarely come home from a visit to a friend or family member without a handful of cuttings. We’ll spend hours tending to their gardens while catching up on each other’s lives and having a laugh. I’ll help revive sick plants in their gardens and often receive cuttings as a reward for perking up their plants.

As a budding gardener, I taught myself how to propagate from books and gardening programs. I would plant every seed or fruit pip I could find and be in awe when they grew into trees and plants from the smallest thing. Whether rooting stem cuttings in water or dividing plants in soil, I still find so much joy in creating a new plant from another. There is nothing more satisfying than having your cutting strike roots and unfurl its first leaf. It still amazes me to this day. The only thing that brings me more joy is to pass on easy propagation methods to other gardeners.

Seeds and bulbs

PLANT TYPES
Oxalis, Alocasia

WHAT YOU NEED
Seedling pots, or trays, full of propagating mix 
Seeds or bulbs
Clear plastic bag or glass cloche

STEPS
1. Plant a seed or bulb in your soil. How deep to plant the seed will depend on the type of plant you are propagating. Refer to the seed or bulb packaging for the depth required.
2. Water the soil mix thoroughly, ensuring it is drenched, but make sure the water can drain freely to avoid the pot sitting in water.
3. Enclose the pot or tray in a clear plastic bag or glass cloche.
4. Place the pot or tray on a bright windowsill that receives dappled or indirect light until the seed or bulb germinates.
5. Check on your seeds or bulbs every two days and make sure the soil stays moist. But don’t overwater – the soil should be moist without the pot sitting in water.
6. Once your seeds and bulbs have established into
seedlings you can pot them into their own pots.

Stem cutting

PLANT TYPES
Philodendron, Monstera, Ficus, Hoya

WHAT YOU NEED
Secateurs
Rooting aid/hormone (optional)
Propagating pots or tray filled with soil 

STEPS
1. Using your secateurs, cut a branch from a plant you want to prune – make sure it’s a straight cut just below the node or leaf joint. Your cutting should have at least three nodes.
2. Using your secateurs again, remove two to three leaves from the bottom of the cutting.
3. Dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone (if using) and place it into soil. Water the soil thoroughly, ensuring it is drenched, but allow the soil to drain to avoid the pot sitting in water.
4. You can also put the cutting directly into water and allow it to strike roots. It will be ready to plant into soil when it has developed a root system about 5 cm (2 in) or more in length. The longer you let your cutting’s root system develop, the less likely it is to go into shock when transplanted.
5. Place your stem cutting on a bright windowsill that receives dappled light.

Division

PLANT TYPES
Spathiphyllum, Aspidistra

WHAT YOU NEED
Sharp knife
Trowel
New pot filled with soil

STEPS
1. Remove the plant you’re dividing from its pot.
2. Separate the crown of the plant (the area where the stem joins the roots) into several groupings of plants. With a sharp knife or trowel, cut through the root and base of the plant leaving more than one plant in each divided group.
3. Plant the divided plants into pots as per the repotting tips on page 57. Water them so the soil is completely drenched. Allow the pot to drain freely and ensure the soil mixture is kept moist without the pot sitting in water.
4. Place the plants in an area that receives dappled light and protect them from hard winds and direct sunlight. Once the root system has developed and filled out the pot they can be potted up.

Leaf cutting

PLANT TYPES
Begonia, Peperomia, Saintpaulia

WHAT YOU NEED
Secateurs or scissors
Rooting aid/hormone (optional)
Propagating pots, or trays, filled with soil

STEPS
1. Using secateurs or scissors, trim off a healthy leaf close to the stem. Remove the petiole so only the leaf remains.
2. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone (if using).
3. Place the cut end partially into soil. Make sure the tip of the leaf cutting is above the soil’s surface. Water the soil thoroughly, ensuring it is drenched, but allow the soil to drain to avoid the pot sittingin water.
4. Put your cutting on a bright windowsill that receives dappled light. It often helps to place the cutting in a mini greenhouse to speed up propagation.

Extracted from Plant Society by Jason Chongue (Hardie Grant, £15) 

Published in: June 2018

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