How-To

Lesser-Known Methods of Propagation Beyond Stem Cuttings

Fine Gardening – Issue 204

While stem cuttings are the most popular method of propagation, plants can be propagated by other means. 

Root cuttings
Root cuttings. Photo: Jared Barnes
  • Root: Some woodies, such as sassafras (Sassafras albidum, Zones 4–9) and sumac (Rhus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8), and some perennials, such as garden phlox (Phlox paniculata and cvs., Zones 4–9), Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis, Zones 5–9), blackberries (Rubus spp. and cvs., Zones 6–9), and giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima, Zones 4–9), propagate well from root cuttings. For root cuttings, cut roots into 3- to 6-inch sections. Lay the roots into a tray and cover them thinly with approximately 1 inch of potting substrate. Keep the tray moist, and in about a month you should start seeing shoots emerge.
culm cuttings
Culm cuttings. Photo: Jared Barnes
  • Culm: Culms are the shoot growths that emerge off grass rhizomes such as giant reed (Arundo donax, Zones 6–10) and sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum, Zones 9–10). These culms can be cut and then laid horizontally in growing substrate so that they are half-buried. New shoots and roots will emerge from the node (the circular lines around the stem).
leaf cuttings
Leaf cuttings. Photo: Jared Barnes
  • Leaves: Leaf propagation is a fun way for gardeners to make more houseplants. It is particularly fun for children, who can quickly see the leaves take root. African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha, Zones 11–12), begonia (Begonia spp. and cvs., Zones 6–11), and echeveria (Echeveria spp. and cvs., Zones 9–11) are all great candidates. The end of the leaf closer to the root is simply stuck into the substrate. African violet and begonia leaves can also be sus­pended in water to help make new roots. The veins on the under­side of begonia leaves can be sliced with a knife to encourage wound tissue to form.

Jared Barnes, Ph.D., is an associate professor of horticulture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.

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