Six methods for plant propagation

Do you want to grow your plant collection to give to family and friends? Here are six methods to increase your plant stock for friends and family.

By BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine

Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 10:01 AM

Plant propagation means that you can make new plants free of charge. Gardeners can save money by growing their plants instead of buying them from the nursery.

Plants can be propagated by taking cuttings, collecting seeds and dividing rootballs. You can extend the life of some shrubs or herbaceous plants by propagating them.

To propagate plants, you don’t require a lot of equipment. It would help if you had some gritty compost and a container or two to store the seeds.

Learn more about propagating plants

  • How do you propagate houseplants that form clumps
  • How do you propagate oriental poppies
  • 10 plants to be propagated in September
  • How do you propagate sempervivums
  • How do you propagate pulmonaria

Propagating by saving and sowing seed

Sowing seeds in a seed tray

Planting plants from seeds is the most cost-effective and efficient way to propagate plants. To conserve energy, leave some seedheads on the plants after they have finished flowering. The seed can be saved in an envelope for the next spring or immediately.

  • Harvesting and storage of seeds
  • How do you collect seeds from your garden plants
  • How do you sow seeds inside

Propagating by layering

To encourage rooting, you can attach a strawberry runner to the ground.

When stems come in contact with soil, drooping trees and shrubs can grow roots. Plants like strawberries have runners that allow them to root quickly and produce new plants. These natural methods can be modified by ensuring the runners or stems come in contact with prepared soil. This is known as ‘layering.

  • Grow strawberries with runners
  • Layering rhododendrons
  • Plants can be propagated by layering

Propagation by division

Divide an established perennial plant using two large garden forks

Dividing perennials is an excellent way to propagate them. Dividing plants is a great way to rejuvenate them. Because there’s less root material competing for nutrients and water, it’s best to do this in spring or fall. You can make strong plants by dividing large amounts of already established plants and choosing vigorous growth.

  • How do you divide plants
  • How do you divide a houseplant
  • How do you divide spring-flowering perennials

Propagation by basal cuttings

Stem cutting with a knife

Basal cuttings are the new growth that sprouts in spring from a crown, tuber or stem. You can remove them with a sharp knife at the ground level and plant them in gritty compost to encourage root formation. Although it is not the most efficient propagation method for plants, taking basal cuttings can be very rewarding.

  • How to cut basal cuts from dahlias
  • How do you take basal cuts from perennials
  • How to take basal cuts

Propagation from root cuttings

Planting root cuttings into a modular tray

You’ve probably tried to move an oriental poppy, Acanthus rubrum or Acanthus spinosus and failed. However, any root left behind can be used to grow new roots. The same principle can be used by gardeners who dig up the roots and cut small pieces to make them into pots.

  • How to cut root cuttings
  • How do you propagate oriental poppies
  • How do you propagate Phlox

Propagation from stem cuttings

Growing plants from stem cuttings

Stem cuttings are taken by removing stem pieces and potting them up. This encourages them to grow roots. Some plants are more difficult to propagate using stem cuttings than others. Hardwood stem cuttings may be taken in the summer, while softwood can be taken in the winter.

  • How to cut softwood wood
  • How to cut hardwood
  • Use semi-ripe cuts from herbs


  • All year
  • Cutting patch
  • Dividing
  • Propagating
  • Seed sowing
  • Techniques
  • Large garden
  • Medium garden
  • Small garden


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