VEGETATIVE PROPAGATION

If seed from a Delicious apple is planted, the trees which would develop from this seed would bear apples quite unlike those of the parent. They would vary greatly in size, shape, color, quality, season of maturity, keeping ability, chemical composition, etc.

On the other hand, if a vegetative bud from a Delicious apple tree is grafted on the stem of a young apple tree, the tree that would grow from this bud would eventually bear apples exactly like those of the tree from which the bud was taken. This way valuable varieties or individuals are perpetuated, which, in turn, makes possible the production of a standardized high-quality product.

Other reasons for vegetative propagation are as follows: (1) certain valuable plants produce little or no seed, flowering cherry, gardenia; (2) other plants produce seed which germinate with difficulty, holly, Viburnum, rose: (3) some plants are more resistant to diseases, nematodes, or are more vigorous when grown on certain rootstocks, grape, peach; (4) some plants are propagated more economically by vegetative means, strawberry, potato.

But probably a very good reason is that you’ve seen that plant at Aunt Martha’s house and you want one just like it but you don’t know what it is. Well, here’s your chance to make lots of babies.

CUTTINGS

Cuttage consists of producing new individuals after the piece of stem, whole leaf, or piece of leaf has been severed from the parent plant. This piece is placed in a medium which facilitates the growing of roots at the base of the cutting. This medium may be soil, sand, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and even water although that has a great disadvantage of lack of aeration.

For success with cuttings, the essential environmental requirements are temperatures of 65° to 75° F, an atmosphere conducive to low water loss from the leaves, ample but not excessive light, and a clean, moist, well aerated, and well drained rooting medium.

An easy way to provide this at home is to purchase a plastic flat with a clear dome lid. Most nurseries will also have perlite available for the rooting medium. Fill the flat to the top with the perlite, insert the cuttings, sprinkle until water runs out the bottom and put the lid on. Set it in a bright light, but not in the sun. Bottom heat is helpful but not necessary. Keep an eye on the cuttings; if they begin to droop the flat needs watering. There is no need to fertilize them.

The easiest cuttings to take and propagate are tip cuttings of new spring growth about three inches long. Remove all leaves on the bottom part of the cutting. Remove all flowers and flower buds. Don’t allow them to dry out at any time.

Some shrubs are easy to propagate using stem cuttings. (Grapes, hydrangeas, forsythia, etc.) When they are dormant, cut stem pieces the size of a pencil, trying to have at least three buds. Make a slanted cut on the top so you will remember which side is up. Place a wide sheet of plastic on the table, fill the top half with a layer of damp sphagnum moss. Place the cuttings in the moss with the tops just peeking out, fold the bottom of the plastic up (making an open envelope) and roll them up. The roll should then be set upright in a cool, humid location for rooting.

Water when necessary, provide bright light, keep the humidity as high as possible, provide adequate drainage, and maintain sanitary conditions.

An easy way to tell if the cuttings are rooting is to occasionally tug on one. If it has developed roots, it will resist and not pull out of the medium. After rooting has started, the humidity should be lowered and ventilation should be increased. Cuttings should be potted up as soon as a substantial root system has formed.

Take plenty of cuttings. Sometimes you may have 100% success, but other times they all may fail to take. Choose a different time of year for another try.