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What Is a Plant Propagator?

New plants grow from cuttings of older plants.
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  • Written By: Greer Hed
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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A plant propagator is a person who directs the reproduction of plants, who may be a home gardener or a professional working at a plant nursery or greenhouse. The simplest way to propagate plants is through sexual reproduction, by sowing their seeds or spores. However, most plant propagators tend to concentrate more on asexual reproductive methods for multiplying plant populations. Asexual plant reproduction can be achieved through a number of different methods, and it is up to the plant propagator to decide which method is most appropriate for which type of plant. Some of the most commonly used methods of asexual plant reproduction include taking stem, root, or leaf cuttings, using plant storage organs like bulbs or tubers, and air or ground layering.

Cutting, also referred to as cloning or striking, involves removing a small piece of a parent plant and then allowing the cutting to take root and grow as a new, separate plant. Stem cuttings are usually taken from woody shrubs and trees. A softwood stem cutting is taken from a branch that is still green and not yet fully hardened, while a hardwood stem cutting is taken from a fully developed branch. The plant propagator will usually take leaf cuttings from herbaceous plants, such as leafy houseplants, by removing a leaf with its stem intact and allowing the leaf to sprout a new plant. Cuttings taken from the roots are usually obtained from plants in a dormant phase.

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A plant propagator may make use of plant storage organs that store water or energy for the plant, such as bulbs, rhizomes, corms or tubers. This method of propagation only works with plants that have these storage organs. In the case of bulbs, small pieces called bulblets are taken from a parent bulb. These bulblets are then planted in soil and allowed to grow over a period of two or three years.

Another method a plant propagator might use to multiply plant populations is known as layering. Ground layering is usually used on woody plants or vines and involves bending a branch, vine or protruding root so that it touches the ground. The branch is planted in the ground, where it takes root and begins a new life as a separate plant. Air layering works well with ornamental woody plants like holly, roses, or gardenias. It involves making a cut on an upper branch to promote root growth, separating the wounded plant part from the parent plant using materials like moss and plastic film, and then cutting the new plant with its root system free of the parent plant.

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