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Nine of us attended the Plant Propagation from A-Z clinic in Athens on January 27. Dr Paul Thomas and Bodie Pennisi were keynote leaders of the hands-on workshop, and the Georgia Flower Association provided speakers who gave useful information for both home and commercial gardeners. Here are a few tips we wanted to share:

Tips for Seed Propagation

  • Seeds lose 1⁄2 their storage life for every 1 % increase in seed moisture. Keep seeds dry.
  • The life expectancy of seeds varies. Sugar maple seeds live two weeks. Sensitive Plant seeds live 200 years.
  • When sowing very tiny seeds, such as begonia, orchid, or poppy seeds, put an inch of seeds in a vial and fill the rest with dry sand to aid in sowing.
  • When planting perennial seeds, we must research their requirements for germination to occur. Questions to ask are: Do I smash, roll, pulverize, soak, scarify, or stratify before planting? How deeply do I plant and when?
  • Provenance, a term used to describe the origination site of seeds, in terms of climate and geographic location, has a profound effect upon seed germination and plant survival.
  • Water, that makes its way into the seed, causes a chain of chemical reactions. Embryonic development, emergence from the seed coat, production of hormones, and stimulation of the synthesis of various enzymes are only the start of this chemical process.

Tips for Vegetative Propagation

  • The easiest way to propagate plants is through plant division. Get some roots, and you’re good to go. Also, you will get a true replica of the plant that way.
  • When taking cuttings make a slanting cut below the leaf node. Wound by scraping the lower half inch of the stem to expose the cambial layer. Remove bottom leaves before planting.
  • Always dibble a hole when planting the cutting, as opposed to just poking it in a hole, gently moving soil around the plant.
  • Adventitious roots are encouraged by using rooting hormones. Always shake off excess hormone from the cutting. Too much root hormone is worse than none at all!
  • Winter is a good time to root most evergreens, and this is convenient since garden chores are at a minimum.
  • There is an optimal time for propagation of most plants. For example, complete cuttings of phlox by July and native azalea cuttings by the end of May.
  • Each plant has a best way of propagation. Books to use include: The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture: A Practical working Guide to the Propagation of over 1100 Species, Va by Michael A. Dirr and Charles W. Heuser and American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques by the American Horticulture Society (Peter Anderson and Alan Toogood).
  • Cleanliness of tools and soil, water, and even the time of day of cuttings and plantings are a few of the environmental concerns for successful plant propagation.

Steve Brady, Nancy Cash, Susan Dawsey, Alice DeSantis, Midge Domer, Phyllis Goff, Sharon Parry, Diana Silvestri, Mardy Wooden and I came home just loaded with seeds and rooted cuttings in several trays. Yes, we enjoyed the great gifts from the workshop and a great Italian restaurant (De Palma’s on Broad) while there, but most importantly, we enjoyed learning together with gardening friends.

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