Multiplying Your Plants – A Low Cost Equation

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I normally hate math. There are far too many numbers (and sometimes letters) but no easy answers. Multiplying your plants is a simpler equation. Sometimes they even self-propagate, leaving gardeners to enjoy the rewards of nature. Most people still have to plant seeds so that their gardens continue to multiply and be fruitful. However, there are cases where the seeds are difficult to find, hard to grow, or both. Or, maybe they were originally ordered from a company with outlandish shipping fees? The price might not be worth the trouble. But there is hope. So read on, grasshopper – we’ll cover how multiplying your plants might be the gardening hack you were looking for.

Multiplying Your Plants by Division

Mint to take over the world.

Some plants multiply by scattering seeds everywhere. This is often a good thing. But it can also lead to some confusion. You might find yourself wondering why there is lemon basil and anise hyssop in every conceivable container in your yard, for instance. Quite a few plants even make it easy on gardeners by branching off into new plants. Examples include pineapples, aloes, and the occasional tree. Others form huge clumps such as chives, horseradish, and mints. You can even do this with banana trees and with sugar cane!

Having these species in your yard make garden multiplication a breeze since they’re fairly easy to divide into new plants. All you have to do is carefully cut the clump into different pieces or separate the offshoot in question from its progenitor. Then replant everything where you want it. Make sure to cover up any exposed roots and water the plant thoroughly. That’s all there is to it, multiplying your plants by division is easy!

Using Air-layering

Parent ice plant.

I’m an extremely big fan of this method. It’s the easiest way to intentionally create new plants. So far, I’ve successfully used it on mint, thyme, creeping jenny, and ice plants. This method works best for floppy/draping plants because they are able to stretch a bit without breaking off in pieces. You take a very long piece of the plant in question and strip off all but the last few sets of leaves. Cover the strand with damp soil. But leave the remaining foliage uncovered.

Air-layering in process.

Finally, put something heavy (broken piece of terracotta or large rock) on top of the dirt where the connecting piece is buried. This helps hold it in place.  Make sure to water both plants if doesn’t rain. A couple weeks later, gently tug on the offshoot plant to see if it holds fast to the soil or if it comes up. If it clings to its new home, it’s probably grown roots. Set it free of its parent plant with some sharp scissors and put it where you want it. Keep in mind that air laying works best in the spring when the temperatures are mild and the weather is rainy. It doesn’t usually work as well in the summer.

Offshoot ice plant.

Multiplying Your Plants by Pieces

Wait until the shoot has grown roots before transplanting.

This is probably the most difficult method to use. I personally haven’t had a lot of luck with it, because it’s like calculus for plants. But it’s worth a shot if you have large specimens that you want to replicate. Do keep in mind that the species in question must have sturdy stems in order for this method to work.

First, cut or break off pieces from the parent plant that are several inches long. (It’s fine to use pieces that you accidentally pruned or broke off.) Peel off all but the top leaves. Then use sharp scissors to cut the bottom portion so that it forms a diagonal line. Place the steams in a clear glass or other container filled with enough water to cover the entire stem. Try not to get the remaining leaves wet so they don’t rot.

Sit this in a sunny window until the plants form good-sized roots. Then put them in a soil filled container and keep them moist. I read somewhere that covering these with a plastic cover (like Saran wrap or sandwich bags) is the best way to do this. But in places with high humidity this might just cause the plants to rot instead, (that was certainly my experience).

New jasmine plant.

If you’re using rooting hormone, you can skip the first part of the process. You’re supposed to take the steam, dunk it in the rooting hormone powder, and shake off the excess. Then put it in a pot filled with damp soil or vermiculite. Again, making sure that it stays moist is crucial to success. Just be sure your rooting powder hasn’t expired. From personal experience, I can tell you tell you it’s very aggravating to find out that my hard work was for naught because the powder I was using had expired in 2001. Which, now that I think on it, could be why my luck has been so lousy…

Multiplying your plants with pieces is also very easy to do with many succulents. Assuming proper soil conditions, you can often cut succulent pieces and place the stem directly into the soil, where it will root without any extra effort.

In any case, good luck this spring. And may the best gardener win this plant multiplication test!

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About Lauren

Lauren Purcell is a freelance writer from Savannah, Georgia. She is the proud owner of two spoiled little dogs. Her hobbies include gardening (in case you hadn't noticed), cooking, traveling when she has money, and waiting on her key lime tree to produce fruit.

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