5 Ways of Propagating Plants

Propagating plants means creating new plants from existing specimens, and is an important part of permaculture. It means that you can have a self-sustaining site; you can preserve local, indigenous and heirloom species, and cut the cost of buying seeds, seedlings or new plants. There are several methods that gardeners use to propagate plants.

Seeds are the natural way flowering plants reproduce. The plants produce flowers, which either contain both male and female parts (stamens and pistils, respectively) in one bloom or have separate flowers for the male and female organs. The flowers get pollinated when pollen is transported from one plant’s stamen (male organ) to another’s pistil (the female equivalent). This can occur via the wind or, more commonly, by insects visiting the plants and inadvertently carrying pollen off to another plant. (It is to attract these pollinating insects that flowers are coloured, shaped and perfumed in different ways, as well as providing nectar.) Once this happens a seed develops in the female parts of the plant.

Growing plants from seeds is one of the easiest methods of propagating species. You can buy seeds cheaply, but also harvest them from an established garden or source them from a seed bank. Seed can also be stored in the refrigerator, sometimes for years, until you are ready to plant it. However, some plants can take a long time to mature from seed to adult.

To grow plants from seeds, the most common method is to plant them in containers with a growing medium free of harmful insects and pathogens. A small amount of compost can help, but most importantly the containers and soil must drain well as waterlogging is harmful to seed development.

As a general rule, plant the seeds at a depth four times that of the size of the seed (although, some plants require surface sowing) and keep moist but not damp. The majority of perennials, annuals and vegetable will germinate best when kept at a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. When seedlings sprout give them a good amount of light until they grow strong enough for planting in the garden.

Another method available to permaculturists to propagate plants from their garden is tasking a cutting. This means cutting off a stem from a living plant and allowing it to develop its own root system. Take cuttings from healthy stems with no flower buds on them, and cut at a 45-degree angle so that the potential rooting surface is maximized.

Most plant cuttings need to be planted in a soil-less posting mix, one that drains well, and placed in a warm place. Most like direct sunshine for at least part of the day. While you want to avoid the soil getting waterlogged, cuttings often benefit from increased humidity. You can achieve this by placing the cutting in a plastic bag or cover with a glass container. All being well, new roots should begin to form after four weeks or so, and can be transplanted to larger containers or a sheltered nursery spot in the garden.

Grafting is a more advanced method of propagation, and involves the splicing of a stem from one plant onto the root system of another. The tissues of the two plants will then fuse, allowing the stem to benefit from the nutrients and water being absorbed by the rootstock.

While different plants may require variations, the general method of grafting is to select a healthy stem that contains at least one bud, and cut it on the diagonal. Make an equivalent diagonal cut in the rootstock (these diagonal cuts increases the surface areas in contact with one another and so help to create a stringer joint) and insert the stem. Bind with tape or twine so that the stem and rootstock remain in contact (avoid grafting in areas prone to high winds). Graft at the start of spring and the new stem should begin growing within around a month.

ways of propagating plantsBudding is a form of grafting. Rather than using a stem, a single bud is taken from one plant and grafted into the rootstock of another. A similar technique is required to grafting, with the bud inserted into a cut in the rootstock. Typically, a ‘T’ shaped cut is made in the rootstock and the bud, attached to a small rectangle of stem is slipped inside. The bud then needs to be taped up.

For budding, choose mature buds for the best chance of success, and for most plants, perform the procedure as fall turns to winter. That way, your bud should grow when spring comes around. Budding is often used to propagate fruit species.

Propagation by division involves separating a whole plant into several smaller pieces, each of which can then become new, independent plants. It works best with mature specimens and, indeed, can help more mature plants to have a longer active life. It also provides more plants to utilize in different areas of the garden or in different guilds. Division is commonly used for species whose roots grow in clumps or crowns, and so offer obvious dividing points. These include many ferns and bamboos.

A few days before dividing a plant, water it thoroughly. This reduces the stress on the plant. Dig around the perimeter of the plant and extract it from the ground. Use a sharp blade to separate the root into pieces (there will usually be obvious ridges or grooves that lend themselves to division) and place each in a bucket of water. Plant each new specimen in a hole as deep as the one from which you took the original plant. Add some compost to help them get established, and water well. Divide either early in spring or early in fall, to give the new plants time to establish themselves before the heat of summer or cold of winter. Add mulch to feed and protect the new plants, but if planting in spring, allow some space around the new stems so the soil is able to get warmed.


Will do .

Sorta like actually putting brains into monkeys?

Karen Martinez

I want to root & transplant some red blooming LANTANA.

The best way to propagate plants is through careful natural breeding and collecting and storing seeds. This ensures more natural resistance to pests, diseases, droughts, and other strong characteristics while creating as much genetic variance as possible so as to stabilize and strengthen the species of plant. Replanting the same plant over and over again will only work for a short period of time, it should not be a permanent fix nor is it the more optimal solution.

good shit so you dont have to start from seed

not true I have attended online permaculture classes with this site just need to ask for help maybe

Toni I checked into it for you if you have signed on to the site page with your email and a password you set then under the heading Magazine at the top of page will take you to the Article this one on 5 ways of Propagation is way down on the second set of page I hope this helps you out Some one helped me Once and I am Thankful

propagating bliss & JOy

Everything except for grafting. I need to try it sometime. I have always wanted to and intended to but just haven’t. I was doing all of the above at 7 yrs old!

Wheres the weed ?

I grafted a rubber tree years ago and it worked good.

Yes did it in College in pharmacognosy(study of drugs from plants)

I will proagate this

It has been many years, but I used to use rooting hormone for propagation. When the yard had sunshine I was a seed saver. (those lines have since been lost ‘cept for the tomato seeds I sent to a friend in Canada) This evening used some home garlic that must be 25 generations at least. Is that what you’re asking about?

I do this all the time!

Melissa Gouker

Yes I have a lot. Love when it comes together too!

I start my seeds every year and have great hopes for my gardens…

Just getting into it. Reading Jill Nokes’ book.

Thank you. now I know. .

i do this all the time!!!

Romano Morson

We are not capable of creating plants…but don’t worry, God did that for us already! We just need to propagate them! 🙂

thanks for sharing- great info, and propagation for spring planting starts now…

Rather strange to say that propagating cuts the cost of buying seeds, and then give Seeds as the first of five methods of propagating, but… OK.

I love this site. Go after cuttings whenever you can!! In my mother’s memory!!

sounds like a home version of GMO to me yet you see a difference when done by Monsanto?

cries shame upon bigots, who graft fruit trees that being homemade GMO; shame upon hypocrites that only allow chosen seeds to grow and attack mega-corporations for doing it.

You obviously don’t understand what GMO means, or the difference between hybridization and genetic modification.

Yes Bonnie I do know what GMO is what I’m saying here is that regardless of how it is done the results are the same plants that cannot survive without mans care. I an NOT speaking of techniques I am describing results. Can you see the difference “obviously not” as you say.


If you cut parts off one plant with your jack knife in your orchard then put the part onto another plant and Monsanto does it in a lab YOUI BOTH get the same results. A perverted plant. When you deny some seeds a place in you garden in favor of others (of the same kind) you are doing what Monsanto is doing. I AM NOT DEFENDING MONSANTO just pointing to your bigotry.

MMMM best way to avoid poisoned strawberries…grow ’em at home!

^Digger David you are clearly ignorant of the process of making GMOs – go learn before you call names.

Digger David…. grafting is simply one plant to another plant. No genes from mammals enter into it at all. Or insects or whatever non-plant they add to it. And it doesn’t corrupt the seeds. That said, I’m a lover of native plants and have my yard full of them. But I also have a section of my late father’s iris’ that are hybrids. Along with another section of yellow flag wild iris, native blueberries and huckleberries, etc…. No microscope needed or wanted. And certainly no RoundUp or other chemicals.

Also, a hybrid can easily revert back to it’s original state. GMOs cannot.

right on Meem nice to hear about your life and I can only express admiration at what you are up to. And yes as to the fine points of our discussion I must acknowledge you are correct if I had some dirt I’d be doing what you are doing.

I cannot believe how IGNORANT you are while claiming to know what you are talking about. Let me see if I can put it in more simple terms for you to understand. Hybridization is the mixing of plants with other plants. GMO, on the other hand, is mixing plants and animals. See the difference? Check your facts before you hit send and then you don’t look so foolish.

Buy fewer seeds, clone the plants, pollinate and harvest a multitude of seeds. Propagating is defined as
1. to cause (an organism) to multiply by any process of natural reproduction from the parent stock.
2. to reproduce (itself, its kind, etc.), as an organism does.
3. to transmit (hereditary features or elements) to, or through, offspring.
4. to spread (a report, doctrine, practice, etc.) from person to person; disseminate.
5. to cause to increase in number or amount.
6. to create (an effect) at a distance, as by electromagnetic waves, compression waves, etc., traveling through space or a physical medium; transmit:

Saving seed from harvests reduces the cost of subsequent harvests.

Remember when you point the finger of ignorance at others, three other fingers are pointing back at you.
GMO & GE refer to many techniques in modifying plants, bacteria and even animals. It typically involves turning on or off certain segments of DNA coding. It often involves insertion of DNA segments from other species, typically by means of bacterial & viral DNA strands as “patch” material.
I wish more people would study a subject prior to expressing opinions as fact, and perpetuating misconceptions or disseminating misinformation.

Thanks for sharing this.

Shelley Frampton Townley

Will try some of theses methods…

Zachary Taylor Czternastek

Talitha Holvenstot

My relative in WA just started showing me how to do this last summer. Would love to learn how to to do it! Thank you, Matthew .

et c’est joli

Rachel Elizabeth I should be able to propogate my bonsai if worst comes to worst

Been prop in’ and sharing my Ivy for 20+ yrs now

Did you call the trees Trojan?

There’s layering too. Take a branch or stem, sometimes nicking it and rooting hormone if you have it and lay it in the ground and bury. Or cover and or wrap with sphagnum moss.

I’ve tried several methods with excellent success!

Yes, but with inconsistent success.

When doing tomatoes, is there a limit on timing ?

as far as bonsai goes , you will propogate whatever type o tree your bonsai’d plant is , it will grow like a regular whatever type o tree it is .

Make mine a row of golden locust trees.

Do it all the time…which is why I have a jungle in my house!!!! Literally!!!!! 🙂

Let me first say in a very loud voice, “I am not opposed to propagation of plants by cloning.” It is a quick and inexpensive way to start new plants. My only concern is that a clone is exactly like the parent plant. A disease that kills one plant will kill all the clones. There is a much greater chance that at least some plants regenerated by seeds (from other than clones) will be genetically different enough to survive.

Love and do it – it’s great. Haven’t found the way yet to propagate rosemary?!?

I just moved into this place in lushmeadows… so just started this & can’t wait to go back to my Mom’s & get some succulents I remember as a child. Wonderful Alexandra, when I lived in Federal Way, WA I propagated 2 weeping willows stems that fell off due to heavy snow. Took 1 to my mom’s & it grew too big so it’s no longer there. We have a new pine & oak trees sprouting that need to be replanted as it is under the wire lines…. but today I”m transplanting this rosebush sucker… it looks like needs to be in a container so the deer don’t get the roses… that’s if it flowers. 😉

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