Gardening and landscaping can be incredibly satisfying, but if you aren’t careful, it can also be incredibly expensive. If you learn how to propagate your own plants, however, it can not only be fulfilling but also save you buckets of money. You can further save money by growing your own plants from seeds, but that will be covered in another post. One of the best times to propagate is in the spring since plants grow incredibly fast and you will feel accomplished in a very short period of time.
This is the first year I have been really focused on growing perennials but growing them can be quite expensive. When I found out I could have loads of plants basically for free by propagating plants I already have growing in the yard, I enthusiastically started propagating. Many of the fast growing perennials will be large and very showy once spring is in full force so I have propagated, propagated, propagated like crazy. It is s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o fun to look at all the new plants you have growing just propagating the plants in your yard. It is even more fun to start adding up all the money you did NOT spend on all those plants.
The trumpet plants (brugmansia) below are an example of plants I began propagating in the fall before the first frost. Just a few months later, they really took off.
How Propagating from Cuttings Increases Your Plant Population
Propagating from cuttings is probably one of the easiest ways to propagate and most perennials can be easily propagated this way. Once you start propagating from your yard, the good thing is that you can start to share – and grow your plant population even more (pun intended). For example, just this morning, I took two yellow trumpet plants I had propagated to my chiropractor. In return, he is giving me a plant he ordered from a trip to South America. The plant he is giving me is not only pretty but I can make a delicious and very healthy green drink from its leaves. Win, win, WIN. Another friend is going to order a tri-color trumpet plant and I am going to order a double leaf lavender and a pink one. Guess what we are going to do – that’s right. Propagate and trade!!!
So how difficult is this propagating, you ask. Well, not difficult at all. I will admit that I used to believe three incorrect things about propagating. First, I thought I couldn’t do it. Me, a brown thumb – no sir – not me. They will just die!!! Second, I thought it would take FOREVER for the plants to get big enough to even see. OK – I am exaggerating a little there – but you get the idea – too long to get big, so I would be better off just spending the money to buy a big plant in a pot. And third, I thought I had to spend a bunch of money on specialized equipment to propagate. ALL my beliefs – ARE WRONG.
The photo above shows the plants I propagated this fall from cuttings off of the “mama” plants (and a few tomatoes grown from store-bought tomatoes). Part of the trick is not being afraid to try. Another part is to propagate many, many cuttings and realize, that even if a bunch die, you will (almost) always have some that live. Keep in mind, also, if a bunch of cuttings do die, you haven’t spent/wasted a lot of money. You can always re-use the soil or mix it into your compost pile. The cuttings that did not take (died) can also be a contributor to your compost pile. And you can try again. The good thing is, that the more you do it, the better you get and the higher success rate you have.
Yes, it is sad when some plants die. But that is okay, because some or many will live, too. Remember, focus on the ones that live.
I also suggest starting with plants that are easy to propagate. You can find which plants are easier to propagate by visiting university agricultural websites. Two great sites are the Texas A & M Agriculture Extension site and the University of Georgia Extension site, both of which contain vast information on all things green. I also highly suggest Dave’s Garden for information on almost any plant in the universe. They have articles and videos on many, many other garden topics as well.
You can also find “easy to propagate” plants by talking to your friends who now propagate. This is where being a member of your local Master Gardeners organization can be beneficial. Also, you can talk to others in your area of the country (and believe me, it matters where you live as far as propagating goes) and find out what is easy to grow there. You might even be able to use cuttings from the Master Gardener demo gardens (ask first!), your friends’ gardens, or even a plant you see on a country road to further expand your plant supply. Having said this, start off your adventure propagating “easy” plants and once you have a few successes under your belt, try some of the more challenging plants to propagate.
Second, many perennials do grow fast – some very fast. So in a matter of months, you can have a nice sized bush or vine that will continue to grow bigger each year from a tiny cutting that began in a 3” pot. For example, here are the trumpet plants that I propagated in the fall. It is still in the early spring and they have grown! You can imagine how large these will be by the end of the summer.
So, to encourage your propagating endeavors, be sure to research information on which perennials grow quickly and which take longer to grow.
Third, no expensive and special equipment is required. Generally, propagating a perennial requires scissors or pruners, rooting hormone, pots and potting soil, a small plastic cup or paper plate, plastic bags or plastic wrap. Most of these materials are readily available to anyone already gardening. The tooting hormone can be purchased online or at a garden center for very little money.
So, is it really worth the trouble, you ask? Well, on the left below, a little brugmansia plant was given to me. I planted it in the yard and it grew all summer. Then, in the fall before the first frost, I made cuttings. And all those beautiful plants on the left were propagated – from what started as one little plant. They will be one of my contributions to the local Master Gardener plant sale. Yes, it is worth it!
For more details on how to propagate, go to this post or view this step-by-step picture tutorial on how to propagate. While propagating can sound very scary at first, I encourage you to jump in there and try. If you try, you will succeed! It is that easy! Propagating can be very cost efficient for those who want more in their garden/landscaping and don’t want to spend a lot of money. And it is incredibly rewarding (and addictive). Like the old Nike commercial said, “Just do it!” And let me hear about your successes.