03/29/2017 TimberGardener 0Comment

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!

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