Propagate plants from seeds, plugs and divisions

An Introduction to Garden Propagation

Plant propagation is the process of growing new plants from various sources, such as seeds, cuttings, plugs, and divisions. Knowledge of different propagation techniques is essential for both amateur gardeners and professional growers. This article will explore various propagation methods, including growing plants from seeds, plugs, and divisions, to provide practical tips for successful plant propagation.

Propagation from Seeds

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Seeds are the most common way to propagate many plant species, including vegetables, annual flowers, and some perennials. Growing plants from seed is economical and beneficial, and offers the opportunity to grow unique or rare species. The following are some basic tips for successful seed propagation:

  • Seed Selection:Choose high-quality, disease-free seeds from a reputable source. You will also need to consider factors such as climate, soil type, and available sunlight as a way to choose the best seeds for your growing conditions.
  • Seed Storage:Store seeds in a cool, dry, dark place. Keep them in airtight containers or sealed plastic bags to maintain viability. Properly stored seeds can last for several years, depending on the species.
  • Seed Germination: Different plant species have different germination requirements. Some seeds require light, while others require darkness. Some seeds require scarification (scraping or scratching the seed coat) or stratification (a period of cold treatment) to germinate. Research the specific germination requirements of the seeds you intend to sow.
  • Sow Seeds: Sow seeds in a sterile seed starting mix or soilless medium to minimize the risk of damping-off disease, a fungal disease that kills seedlings. Keep the growing medium constantly moist, but not soggy. Maintain optimal temperatures for germination, usually between 60-75°F (15-24°C). Track soil temperature changes with a RainPoint Smart+ soil thermometer and use a heating pad to maintain a stable soil temperature if necessary.
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  • Seedling Care: Once seeds have germinated, provide adequate light. You can use a sunny windowsill or plant grow lights to ensure that seeds have access to a steady source of light. Rotate seedlings regularly to encourage even growth. When seedlings develop their first true leaves, transplant them into larger containers or thin them out to prevent overcrowding.
  • Hardening:Gradually expose seedlings to outdoor conditions for a week or two before transplanting them into the garden. This process helps reduce transplant shock and increases their chances of survival.

Propagation from Plugs

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Plugs are small seedlings grown in cell trays. They provide a convenient way to propagate a variety of plant species, especially perennials, annuals, and some vegetables. Plugs can be purchased from nurseries or grown from seeds or cuttings. The following tips will help you grow healthy plants from plugs:

  • Get the Timing Right:Transplant plugs into your garden or large containers at the right time for a particular plant species. For delicate plants, make sure the risk of frost has passed.
  • Root Inspection:Healthy roots are white or light brown. Inspect the roots carefully before planting and gently poke away any lusterless roots.
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  • Planting:Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the plug, making sure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Firmly press down on the soil around the plug to eliminate air pockets.
  • Watering:Water the plug thoroughly after planting and keep the soil continuously moist until the plant is established. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot and other problems.
  • Fertilize:Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer at planting to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Follow the specific fertilizer recommendations for the plant species you are growing.

Propagation by Dividing Plants

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Dividing a plant means dividing a mature plant into smaller parts, each with roots and shoots, to create new plants. This method is mostly used for perennial herbs, as well as some grasses and bulbs. It is an effective way to rejuvenate overgrown or crowded plants and propagate new plants quickly. The following are some of the steps for successful plant division:

  • Timing:Dividing plants during their dormancy or before new growth begins can help them recover quickly. For most perennials, this is usually best in early spring or fall.
  • Preparation:Watering plants thoroughly a day or two before dividing them can make the process easier.
  • Dig up the plant: Carefully dig around the plant to loosen the soil. Gently lift the plant from the ground, keeping as much of the root system as possible.
  • Divide:Use your hands, knife, or spade to divide the plant into smaller sections, depending on the root structure of the plant. Each section should have a healthy root system and at least 1 to 2 buds. Discard any dead or diseased sections.
  • Repotting: Transplant divisions promptly, minimizing root exposure to air and sunlight. Plant divisions at their original depth and space them according to the mature size of the plant species.
  • Aftercare:Water thoroughly after planting and keep the soil continuously moist until they become established. Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer to support healthy growth.


Various propagation techniques have unique benefits and challenges, but with the right knowledge and care, plant propagation can be successful. By experimenting with different propagation methods, you can expand your plant collection and experience the satisfaction of growing plants from the seedling stage to thriving, mature plants.

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