Saturday, October 29, 2011

Today I Learned (TIL)

Today I learned how to clone plants. (cue evil mad scientist laugh)

It's true -- plant propagation from cuttings is a bit like cloning a plant. By taking a part of a plant and rooting it, I can create a completely new plant, genetically identical to the "parent." Pretty cool, huh?

Virtually any plant can be propagated from cuttings. In class, we practiced our newly learned propagation skills using cuttings from coleus, mums, salvia, rosemary, shrimp plant and jade plant.

When propagating plants from cuttings, it's important to use sharp, sterilized pruners to make clean cuts below leaf nodes and prevent transferring pathogens from plant to plant. Bleach or rubbing alcohol can be used as a sterilizing agent. The right type of soil-free, fertilizer-free rooting media or "potting mix" is important, too; "Sunshine Mix" is one popular variety, but every gardener has a favorite blend. Another key to success is just the right amount of moisture: not so wet that the cuttings rot, but not so dry that the cutting can't generate roots. Indirect bright light is best for rooting cuttings. Woody plants benefit from a bit of scraping off of the brown outer covering on the stem. Some cuttings benefit from an application of rooting hormone at the cut tip, while others (like succulents) don't like that at all. Finally, all the flowers and half the leaf surface must be removed from the cutting to force its efforts into root formation.

We learned how to build little greenhouses from 2-liter soda bottles and quart-sized plastic pots to keep the cuttings moist until they root.
Soda bottle greenhouses

We also learned how to make self-watering rooting dishes from 9" bulb pots and a small 2" terracotta pot plugged up with non-toxic hot glue.
Self-watering rooting dish

For more information on cloning plants (bwah ha ha), visit the Texas Agrilife Extension Service webpage on asexual plant propagation. The Travis County Master Gardeners also offer a seminar on plant propagation at least once a year; find out more at the TCMGA Educational Seminars page.

(Today I Learned features a nugget of information I learned during training to become a Travis County Master Gardener.)

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Like those ideas for mini greenhouses and the terra cotta pot idea. They used to make special pots to stick in the ground to water plants. I saw them in England in the gardens of stately homes. rows of little pots int he ground. Maybe I will try.

  2. What a fun thing to learn! One day I'm going to give this a try!

  3. Very cool information I learn on your TIL posts...not that I will try cloning of plants, let alone anything else! But it is nice that looks fairly easy on some plants.

  4. Sorry that I don't take more time to comment. I've really loved your TIL posts! Augie and I will miss seeing you in class every week.

  5. Hmm, I see a Backyard Basics segment in your future,huh?!