21-day lockdown – Day 11 – New beginnings
Traditionally, Easter is a celebration of rebirth, so let’s look at what we as gardeners can do to create new life in the garden. By that I mean, how can we assist in “creating” new plants using the resources present in our gardens. Propagating plants gives me great pleasure as it not only alllows me to witness one of the miracles of nature, but also appreciation for the wonderful work our great nursery people do for us in providing magnificent “instant” plants in our garden centres.
There are two basic methods of plant propagation that can easily be carried out at home: seed and cuttings.
Basic seed propagation has varying degrees of success, and is very much dependent on the species and growing conditions. Propagation by cuttings is the method of growing a plant from a piece of stem – or root – that has been cut from another plant. Whilst we may not necessarily have the space, it’s a good lockdown activity for some time outdoors. And while it is not an ‘instant-gratification’ activity, it is just incredible to feel you have played a role in making something big from a tiny beginning.
Preparation of growing container
A seedling tray, with Duvernoia adhatodoides, Metarungaria longistrobus, and Acacia sieberiana
Whether planting seeds or cuttings, you’ll need a container to grow your young plants. Ideally this should be about 10-15cm deep. If a tray or planter pot is not available, you could use any old food container such as a yoghurt container. Ensure it is clean and has drainage holes at the bottom. As this is a general activity for hobbyists, I’m not going to get technical about the ideal soil mix, as this can vary. Instead, I’d recommend using some soil from your garden, and as much organic material as possible, specifically compost or rotting leaf matter. A 50/50 mix should be sufficient for most plants. Mix this all together, and fill the container to just below 1cm from the top.
Firstly, you’ll need to go on a seed hunt to find which plants are currently producing seeds. At this time of year, you may be fortunate to harvest seed from many summer-flowering plants. Some examples in our garden are: Eucomis autumnlis (Pineapple flower), Duvernoia aconitifolia (Lemon pistol bush) and Cassinopsis ilicifolia (Lemon thorn).
Preparing the seeds
These cassinopsis seeds have already been eaten and deposited by birds in our garden!
As a general rule, fleshy seeds such as the Cassinopsis ilicifolia will need the flesh removed. Thankfully, the birds might have done this already, so I’ve just collected a few of these. Hard seeds (such as from Acacia trees) may need to be soaked in hot water over-night before planting.
Plant your seeds about 1cm deep in your container that has drainage holes at the bottom.
Water deeply and place in a safe and sunny position.
Apply water daily to keep the soil moist and watch for signs of growth. This can take anything from 10 days to a few months, depending on the species.
Propagation by cuttings
Plectranthus species can easily be propogated from cuttings
For a beginner, this is best done with a succulent plant, as the success rate is greater and gives a sense of achievement. Suitable plants include Crassula multicava (Fairy crassula), Aptenia cordifolia (Aptenia), Plectranthus sp. (Spurflower)
- Cut a 5-10cm piece off the end of a stem of your succulent plant.
- Remove the lower leaves, ensuring your cutting has at least 3 leaves remaining.
- Put your cutting into the prepared container, inserting at least 2cm below the soil.
- Water deeply and place in a safe and sunny position.
- Keep the soil moist and watch for signs of growth. You may not notice any signs of growth for a few weeks as the cutting will develope roots first before it begins to grow new leaves. Once it’s reached a suitable size it can be transplanted to the garden or gifted to someone special.
It would be incredible to look back in a few months and have your very own “lockdown” plant to give away or plant in a special place.
A Cassinopsis seedling growing in our garden