Propagate plants to fill out your andscape

Plant propagation is the multiplication of plants. Knowledge of the proper time, place and manner in which the best results can occur is required for successful plant propagation. It is based upon certain scientific principles and methods of manipulation.

There are two basic methods of propagating plants: sexual and asexual. Nature's most common way of propagating plants is through seeds, a form of sexual propagation.

Seeds offer the easiest and least expensive means for reproducing species, but cannot necessarily be expected to furnish exact reproductions of their parents. For seeds to be produced, a plant must bloom and have pollen, which is male, reach the ovule, female portion of the flower. Seeds are fertilized eggs, surrounded by nutrients, and protected by seed coats. A seed is essentially a young plant in the resting stage.

Asexual reproduction is the development of new individual plants without the function of seeds. Buds can be taken from the parent plant to start new plants. For instance, in some plants underground stems are capable of reproducing from every joint. When saltgrass is pulled as a weed, pieces of underground stem are often left behind and grow many new plants. Many people have taken cuttings of house plants, stuck them in water, and grown new plants. The new roots develop where the buds were.

For example, the geranium, which is normally a warm-climate plant, easily killed in cold climates by frost, may be propagated by cuttings, which not only increases its numbers indefinitely, but extends the life of the original plant through asexual generation.

Some plants reproduce asexually without their parts being detached before rooting. New plants of red raspberry are produced from root tips as they move through the soil. Strawberries reproduce by runners with new plants at their ends. Other plants reproduce by parts that usually detach before rooting. Examples include bulbs such as hyacinth and Easter lily and corms such as crocus and gladiolus. Dividing iris to move them to new locations also falls under asexual reproduction. Potatoes are actually tubers that are asexual reproductive organs.

Stem cuttings can be used to reproduce many plants such as pyracantha, privet, roses and many trees. Leaf cuttings are used to grow begonias. Grafting can be done on roots, on the tops of plants, or with buds. That is often how one tree can produce many varieties of apples.

The plant world is infinitely fascinating. Look into plant propagation for practical applications, such as increasing the number of plants in your landscape and garden.

For gardening information, see or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. You can also "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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