If you’ve ever taken a cutting from a spider plant, you know how easy it can be to make one plant into two. There are several methods of asexual plant propagation.
Cutting: Rooting a severed piece of a plant, such as the stem of a pothos plant or a jade plant leaf.
Division: Separating the root system of a plant, such as rhubarb or day lilies.
Layering: Encouraging root formation when a plant touches the ground, forming a new, independent plant. Black raspberries, strawberries.
Layering is a great method of propagation because the new plant is still attached to the original plant until it is well established. It can be as simple as bending a long gooseberry cane to the ground and mounding dirt over it. Many plants do this naturally as a way to spread.
How does it work? The ‘nodes’ of a plant, where new stems, leaves, or buds emerge, contain the plant equivalent of stem cells. Under the right conditions they will grow whatever the plant needs. For example, you may have a sapling with dormant buds along the trunk. If the tree is damaged, this bud may spring to life and produce a new branch. If you cut the the sapling and stuck it in the ground, that same bud could produce roots. Plants’ ability to rapidly grow new tissue is simply amazing!
I have several perennial berries that I’d like to share with friends and scatter around the Timber Garden without paying $15 a plant. Honeyberries, seaberries, and gooseberries are all good candidates for propagation by layering. This spring I’m taking advantage of the honeyberry’s natural abilities and the sale on plastic Easter eggs in a technique called ‘air layering’.
Take a large hinged plastic Easter egg and cut a hole off the rim on opposite sides. This allows the stem to go in one side and out the other. Fill the egg with moist potting soil and moss. Find a node along the stem and remove any leaves. Snap the egg together around the stem…and wait.
I’m trying this technique on a Blue Belle Honeyberry I bought from Territorial Seed Company this spring. The egg seems to retain moisture pretty well, so I haven’t needed to re-wet the soil. My garden is still buried under the snow, but in May the garden might look like the Easter Bunny lives there and decorated with colorful eggs!