Durban - I have spent a lot of time in Cape Town recently collecting plants for the new Botanic Garden in Singapore called Gardens by the Bay, and I am shocked by the devastation the drought has taken on the nursery business and on gardens in general.
Luckily the drought has broken in KwaZulu-Natal and many of our dams are either overflowing or filling up.
Buying plants is a very expensive business, especially if you are looking for a rare and unusual plant. Why not find that plant in the wild or in a private garden, and either collect the seed or take a cutting?
There are many ways to grow plants, but the two main ones are:
Sexual: collecting seed and sowing it in a seedling tray or directly into the ground.
Asexual: taking cuttings from different parts of the plant or by splitting and dividing the plant.
Sexual propagation: this is probably the easiest way to grow plants en masse. Take a plant like Agapanthus which flowers in December. Once it has finished flowering it would have been pollinated by bees or other insects.
These old flowers will produce a seed pod with thousands of seeds. When mature these pods will split, and the seeds will be dispersed by the wind or by insects.
Collect the seeds in a packet and take them home. Buy a plastic seedling tray and fill with seedling or potting soil. Then place the seed in the palm of your hand and slow tap your hand that disperses the seed evenly over the soil surface. Then take some seedling mix or potting soil and evenly spread this soil over the seeds in the tray.
Make sure you don’t spread it too thickly over the seed as this could prevent it from germinating.
Take a watering can with a fine nozzle and gently water the tray. Do not over-water as the seed will wash out of the tray. Place the tray in a bright area with some direct sunlight during the day.
Keep the soil moist but not over-watered until you see the seedling pushing through the soil. Wait until they are big enough before removing them and planting in the ground. It is as easy as that.
Asexual propagation: this is when playing with plants becomes fun as there are so many ways to produce new plants through this means. Soft or hard wood cuttings, divisions, air layering and trungeons are just a few of them.
It becomes more complicated when you have such plants as bulbs that produce bulblets, which are new growths that are produced after the bulb has flowered that need to be removed at a certain time of the year.
Let’s take a plant such as Coleus. The best way to grow this plant is from a soft tip cutting.
If you look at the plant you will have the leaves and the soft stem. Down the stem you will see divisions or knobs called nodes, and between these nodes you get internodes.
Make sure you have at least three nodes and remove with a sharp knife or sharp secateurs. Just below the node make a very clean cut, then remove half the leaves to reduce the surface area for transpiration. If you leave too many leaves on the plant it will start to lose water or wilt.
Fill a plastic seedling tray with river sand. Make a hole in the soil and place the cutting half way into it and cover with soil. Make sure the cuttings are not too close.
After about five weeks, tip the tray upside down and see if roots are coming out of the bottom. If yes, you can remove the cuttings and plant them in your garden.
With plants propagated through asexual means you are guaranteed to get the exact replica of the plant you are taking cuttings from, compared with sowing seed where each plant may be different.
* This article is sponsored by Chris Dalzell of Chris Dalzell Landscapes. E-mail [email protected]