What Is Plant Propagation – Types Of Plant Propagation

Plant propagation is an important step in producing additional plants in the garden or home. Let’s look at what are some forms of plant propagation.

What is Plant Propagation?

You may be wondering, what is plant propagation? Plant propagation is the process of multiplying plants.

While there are many types of plant propagation techniques, there are two categories into which they generally fall: sexual and asexual. Sexual propagation involves the use of floral parts to create a new plant from two parents. Asexual propagation involves the vegetative parts to create a new plant using one parent.

What are Some Forms of Plant Propagation?

Plants can be propagated in numerous ways. Some of these include seeds, cuttings, layering, and division. Of these types of plant propagation, there exists various forms. These might include different types of cuttings in addition to several methods of layering or dividing plants.

Common Sexual Plant Propagation Techniques

One of the most common methods of propagating plants sexually is through seeds. There are four factors influencing successful seed plant propagation: heat, light, water, and oxygen.

However, some seeds (like that from various shrubs and trees) require a chilling period underground throughout winter before their germination can take place. For these seeds, an artificial “ripening” must occur through stratification. Seed stratification involves breaking, scratching, or softening the seed coat in order for the germination process to begin.

Asexual Types of Plant Propagation

Many plant propagation techniques are asexual. The most common methods of asexual propagation include cuttings, layering, and division.

Cuttings plant propagation techniques

Cuttings involve rooting a piece of the parent plant, such as a leaf, tip, stem or root. Both herbaceous and woody plants can be propagated through cuttings. Generally, cuttings from herbaceous plants can be taken anytime.

Softwood cuttings are best taken in late spring to early summer, while hardwood cuttings should be taken when plants are dormant during fall and winter. Most cuttings should be around 3 to 6 inches long with diagonal cuts. Any lower leaves should be removed, and the cuttings should be placed in a growing medium (sand, soil, water, or peat and perlite) after being dipped in rooting hormone, which is optional but recommended. These should then be given bright, indirect light. Root cuttings can be kept in the dark. Rooting can take anywhere from a few days to several months.

Layering plant propagation techniques

Layering involves rooting part of the parent plant prior to severing it. Simple layering is accomplished by bending a branch to the ground, adding some soil over the middle portion, and then anchoring it in place with a stone. Wounding the branch can oftentimes help encourage the rooting process. Once roots appear, the branch can be severed from the mother plant.

Air layering involves slitting the stem and prying it open with a toothpick or similar device. This is then surrounded with wet (or moistened) sphagnum moss and wrapped in plastic or foil. It is cut from the mother plant once roots are seen permeating from the moss. Layering is usually performed in early spring or late summer.

Division plant propagation techniques

Division involves breaking up clumps of plants to form new ones. These are usually dug up from the ground or done during repotting container plants. Generally, spring and summer-flowering plants are divided in fall while the opposite is true of fall-flowering varieties, which takes place in spring.

When dividing plants, each section should contain roots, bulbs or tubers in order for the plant to thrive. These can be replanted in the ground or in containers.

With crops that produce seed freely and come true closely enough for the purposes in view, growing from seed usually is the cheapest and most satisfactory method of plant propagation. Many types of seeds may be sown in open ground and, barring extreme wetness or extreme aridity, germinate well enough for practical purposes. Other kinds, however, are so exacting in their requirements that these are best met in a propagating house where humidity and temperature can be more rigidly controlled. Because of their high oxygen requirement, the medium in which the seeds are sown generally should contain more sand (or other filler or mulch material) than ordinary garden soil does. Greater porosity makes these media more subject to rapid drying, however, and moisture must be carefully monitored. Because many soils harbour fungi destructive to sprouting seed and young seedlings, soil that is used for germinating seed commonly is sterilized by heat or chemicals. Many diseases of plants are caused by fungi and bacteria carried in or on the seed itself, and treatment of the seed with disinfectants is beneficial.

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Q: What does ‘propagation by division’ mean? Is that the best way to propagate plants?

A: Propagation runs the gamut from planting seeds, all the way through to grafting. Some plants are easier than others to propagate and different methods work better with different plants. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it. The simplest method is planting seeds division & stem cuttings are fast and with layering, there are almost no failures.


Propagation is the process of creating new plants. If you have ever planted a seed or stuck a stem in water until it forms roots that you stuck it in a pot or planted it in the garden, you have experienced propagation. Some plants are easier than others to propagate and different methods work better with different plants. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.


– Stem cuttings The most common propagation method for ornamentals and woody shrubs. Starts with about 3 “ stem dipped in rooting hormone, placed in a container filled with dampened growing medium for a few weeks. Learn more here.

– Leaf cuttings – houseplants, herbaceous plants (perennials, annuals and biennials) & woody plants – a leaf or part of it is placed in the soil with the side closest to the stem pointing down – “great for propagating many plants from one” Learn more here.

– Root cuttings are usually taken from woody plants or perennials, while they are dormant, during November through February, when there is not as much going onin the garden. Usually done outdoors Learn more here.

– With all cuttings, place them in a container with wet paper towels to keep them moist until you get to where you’re going to plant them. Be sure to take more than you think you’ll need, as probably many will not root.

III. LAYERING – effectively clones the plant. Layering is done naturally by many plants through runners, offshoots, or when a stem drops to the ground and gets covered by soil.

Here are a number of layering techniques:

– Simple layering – stem is wounded, stapled, and covered

– Serpentine layering – the same process as simple layering, but with multiple rooting points

– Tip layering – the tip of a shoot is buried

– Mound (Stool) layering – for shrubs and some tree fruits. Prune plants in fall the about 1 inch above soil surface. In spring, create a mound of soil over the 6-8 inch new shoots. The following fall, remove the soil, prune off and plant the new shoots and their roots.

– Air layering – for trees and plants whose branches cannot be bent to ground level. Leaves are removed, bark wounded, and moist sphagnum moss wrapped and sealed around the area once roots are developed, the branch is cut and planted.

IV. GRAFTING – the most complex method of propagation aimed at combining the qualities of both plants, for instance, disease resistance, hardiness, better fruit, and/or more attractive blooms. Most often done with fruit trees, but possible with shrubs and even fruits and vegetables. In grafting, a twig from one plant is attached to the stem of another and becomes a permanent part of the other. Before you begin, sanitize your tools to reduce the risk of infection. Since you’ll be making an open cut into the plant, you should keep your hands and tools as clean as possible to reduce the chance of an infection entering the plant. Scrub your hands with anti-microbial soap and put on latex gloves.

– Propagation soil, or a mix of potting soil, vermiculite (helps keep the soil moist), and perlite (prevents compaction).
– Propagation chamber – clear container & lid, deep enough for tall seedlings
– Sharp clippers or knife
– Rooting hormone – speeds up the rooting process and protects from disease
– Small pots for rooted cuttings

– Sterilize pruning tools in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to prevent transmitting diseases from infected plants to healthy ones.
– Soak the steel parts (shovel blades, rake tongs, and pruning shear blades) for 10 to 30 minutes rinse in clear water.
Warning: Bleach solutions are poisonous, so safely dispose of any unused portions. Do not use bleach on plants as it can cause damage to foliage.


Transplanting is the process of moving plants and runs the gamut of the propagation methods above. Spring and fall are best for transplanting garden plants. Summer sun and heat are too intense. Choose an overcast day or wait for evening coolness. Avoid moving blooming plants new plants need to use their energy in producing sturdy roots.

– Dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball but no deeper the crown needs not to be buried. You can mix in one or two inches of compost or other amendments, but no fertilizers at this time. If you will be using the removed soil to fill the hole, add about a 1:4 ratio of compost or another amendment (amendment link) to the soil.

– Deeply water the plants the day before you plan to dig them. Never leave the roots exposed to sun, heat or wind.

– Water again immediately before lifting them.

– Place the plant in the hole fill halfway with amended soil and water again. Allow the water to settle the soil, fill the hole and lightly tamp the soil with your hands to close any air pockets.

– Provide some shade to shield the plant from direct sunlight for three to five days, a board or flattened cardboard box will do.

– Check plants daily for two weeks they will likely need water daily for the first week. Often you can slow the watering in week two. Check the soil a few inches below the surface for dryness – stick your finger about two inches into the soil it should feel moist or stick to your finger. Water immediately if the plant is wilting.

Join us next month for a discussion on common pests in our landscapes and what to do about them.

How to Air Layer a Plant

Although the method seems a bit complex, it’s not too hard to do! All it takes is attention to detail and a lot of patience. But as gardeners, patience is one of our virtues, isn’t it?


You can find most of these materials around the house, except for the rooting hormone, which I’ve marked as optional. It will probably speed up propagation time, but it’s not mandatory and plants will propagate fine without it.

    • Sharp, sterilized cutting instrument
    • Sphagnum peat moss/peat moss or a quality sterile compost
    • Rooting hormone (optional)
    • cutting globe
    • water in a bowl
    • water gel (optional found in kids diapers)
    • perlite for your peat moss or compost

    Who doesn’t like free plants? Air layering plants is a method of propagation which doesn’t require a horticultural degree . Even the novice gardener can gather a few tips on the process and have a successful outcome. Read on for more info and some easy plants on which to try the process. Plant propagation may be accomplished in numerous ways. Seeds and cuttings are the simplest method but often maturity will take months or even years. Additionally, plants started from seed are not always identical to the parent plant. In order to ensure an identical copy, you need the genetic material. In other words, you literally use the plant itself. Layering propagation will produce a genetic copy ,a clone of the new plants which will carry all the characteristics of the parent and one of the most popular forms of layering is air layering.

    95mm 3 inch cutting globe for trees, shrubs roses etc.
    69mm 2 inch cutting globe for smaller branches of trees ,and shrubs both in and outdoors.
    29mm 1 inch cutting globe for shrubs, climbers, house plants , etc.

    Why use The Cutting Globe?

    Sowing under cover

    Where winters are long and spring comes late, sowing seeds under cover is a great way to get a jump start on your spring gardening.

    By germinating seeds and growing garden plants indoors, you will have small and healthy starts to plant into the garden when the danger of frost abates.

    This method of placing a relatively mature plant into the garden at a relatively early date will produce earlier harvests. Careful timing may allow a successive crop where sowing seeds directly in the garden bed may only allow one crop.

    With planning this method can also be used to replace plants as they are harvested, so that you might have two crops in the same amount of time as one crop traditionally planted.

    For example, if you have a new lettuce start ready to plant, you can replace it in the space where you just harvested a mature head of lettuce.

    Sowing under cover includes planting seeds into a seed tray, in pots, under a hoophouse, in a greenhouse, in a coldframe, or on a windowsill indoors.

    • Seeds,
    • An appropriate growing medium
    • A pot or container,
    • Optimal conditions of light, water, and temperature.


    This is quite a specialist form of propagation and only works on plants that have lots of stems. Take a look at the plants in your garden some, such as lavender and box, will have just one stem going into the ground and can't be divided. Others, geraniums for example, will have quite a few stems and can be split up.

    Separate out these stems, keeping some roots attached to each one. With a small plant like an alpine, use a trowel to dig it up and a penknife to cut through the roots. For big plants you may need a spade to dig it up and a saw to cut through the roots as they're bunched and tough.

    Since you’re attacking the plants, this method of propagation works best in the spring when they’re growing strongly and can recover well. Put the stems back into the soil separately and they should each form a new plant.

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  • Watch the video: The Secrets of Stem Cuttings Propagation

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