Propagating Plants – Save some $$!

If you want to make a garden but don’t have much money, propagation is your friend. What the hell is propagation, you ask? It’s the replication of plants through leaf or stem cuttings. It’s (sort of) as simple as a little snip here, and a little snip there and voila, a garden! It’s also a bit addictive. We love a bit of cheap asexual reproduction, so here’s a guide to propagating plants, Planthunter style.

Firstly, a confession. I own a book called ‘Let’s Propagate!’

My mother bought a copy when I was a teenager and every time I would look at its spine in the bookshelf I would giggle. Propagate! It’s such an un-sexy word. Years later, after I fell for plants, I discovered the book in a second hand bookshop and bought it. The purchase was initially driven by nostalgia but after spending a little time with it, I came to understand its brilliance. You can buy it here.

If you are new to propagation I reckon you should start with succulents. They are the least likely to take offence to having limbs removed and stuck into dirt. Not only are they easy to propagate, they are seriously great plants. There are so many varied forms, shapes, colours and textures…I reckon they are the perfect plant for newbie Planthunters. They’re sculptural, beautiful, and very hard to kill!

This is how you do it:

• Break a leaf or branch off a succulent. This can be done with most succulent types such as Crassula, Echeveria, Kalanchoe, Rhipsalis, Aloe, Agave, and many more. If you are not sure, just give it a go and see what happens. Try to get a clean break – use sharp secateurs if snipping branches, usually leaves will snap off cleanly.

Crassula ovata - super easy to propagate!

• Let the leaf/branch sit in the sun for a few days to a week. This will make a little callus form on the base of the leaf from which the roots will grow.

Agave americana - another easy one. Cut a leaf off with secateurs or scissors. Beware of spikes...

• Fill some small pots or egg cartons with good quality potting mix. Egg cartons are great as once the plant has grown roots you can just break off the carton and stick it directly into the garden without disturbing the plant’s roots

• Place the pots in a sunny spot in your garden.

• Water every week or when you remember and in a few months you will have a new plant. Wait for the potting mix to dry out thoroughly before watering again. Succulents don’t like wet feet!

• It will take a while before it gets to any kind of decent size but just cool it and be patient. Good things take time.

Not all cuttings will grow. If they die, don’t fret, just try again and perhaps change some of the variables such as water and light. Gardening is about experimentation and plants are not entirely predictable. Like humans, they die.

Be nice to yourself, and the plant, and try again. That’s that.

Aeonium arborescens - another easy propagation subject. Break off whole branches, let dry, and stick into a pot. Voila!