Plant-multiplying: three easy ways

You can multiply plants by seeds, cuttings, root division, and layering. To make cuttings from stems, select a stem that is 4 to 6 inches in length. Make a slanting cut completely through the stem and directly beneath a leaf joint. Remove the lower leaves and sprinkle the exposed cut surface of the stem section with root powder (any nursery has it).

Then fill a pot with soil and round out a small hole in the center about 1 1/ 2 inches wide and just as deep. Fill the hole with moist, coarse sand.

Place the stem cutting in the sand, making sure that the lower leaves do not touch the soil so as to prevent rot. Encase the plant and pot in a plastic tent. Use small sticks as supports to keep the plastic from touching the plant. Now place the pot in indirect light.

When new sprouts become established, it is time to remove the tent.

For leaf cuttings, choose a leaf of average size and cut the stem 1 1/2 to 2 inches below the bottom of the leaf. Prepare a pot in the same way as for stem cuttings. When the new sprouts are about one-third the size of the parent leaf, remove the tent.

Water the plant but do not soak it. After 30 to 45 minutes remove both the soil and the plant from the pot. Carefully separate a clump of shoots and remove the soil from the roots. Carefully repot the clumps of shoots in separate pots. Roots are extremely fragile, so handle them with care.

Another method is by root division. Plants that are conducive to root division must have multiple stems. First remove the plant and its soil ball from the pot. Separate carefully by hand the clusters of stems and roots.

Repot the clusters, water thoroughly, and place the new plants where they will receive indirect sunlight. Watering should be repeated whenever the soil is dry to the touch.

Layering may be the hardest of all four methods of propagation. It is done while the piece to be layered is still attached to the parent plant. Select a sizable stem near the top of the plant and make an upward cut about one-third to one-half of the way through the stem. Now insert a small piece of a flat toothpick into the slit to expose the cut surfaces.

Sprinkle with root powder and place a plastic bag over the cut stem, filling with sphagnum moss.

Soak the moss in hot water, not cold, to moisten it.

When the moss becomes filled with roots (two to three months), remove the bag and cut off the stem below the ball of moss and roots. Repot the section, with the moss intact, into a soil mixture recommended for the particular plant.

You can also multiply a plant by rooting the runners. Position a pot, filled with potting soil, next to the parent plant. Place a runner from the plant on top of the soil in the new pot. Secure the runner in place with a hairpin or similar device. Leave the pin in place until the offshoot runner becomes rooted.

After several weeks, when the new plant is bountiful with leaves, the roots will be established. Now simply cut the connecting runner between the two plants.

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