Plants propagate in a variety of ways, and each method requires a different set of tools and knowledge. Propagating seeds is by far the most common method used at home, because seeds are inexpensive, readily available and easy to manage, although it is not without problems such as disease and low germination rates. Some people like to use cuttings to start new plants, a method that is easy to start but sometimes hard to make work, depending on the original plant. Grafting has become a popular form of plant propagation, especially with fruit trees and roses, although it takes patience and some skill to make work.
For plant propagation using seeds, one of the most important aspects is the type of medium in which they are initially planted. It should not be straight garden soil or even potting soil, because these can contain harmful bacteria or detrimental nematodes that could kill the seeds as they start to grow. Instead, a special germinating mix should be used because such mixes are light, allow good water drainage and are sterilized before being bagged to reduce or eliminate the chance of disease.
Except for seeds that grow fast, it also is a good idea to start propagation indoors. Although it is not necessary, using a germinating tray can be very helpful for plant propagation. This is a basic tray with a clear lid that can help the seeds to germinate and provide a place for them to grow until they are ready to be planted.
When attempting plant propagation through cuttings, the first thing to look for is a good stem to cut. It should be below a node on the plant, and the stem to be cut should have at least two branches on it. The cutting should be about 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) in length and stripped of any leaves on the bottom few inches. The stem also should be planted in a sterile growing medium to help reduce the risk of disease.
One inexpensive but very useful thing that can help a cutting to take root is to use a special growth gel. This gel, which usually comes in small cups, has growth enzymes in it that will help the cutting to take root faster. Cuttings tend to do well when allowed to take root indoors before being hardened off or transplanted later.
Whatever method of plant propagation is being attempted, water is one of the most important aspects that will contribute to success. The planting medium needs to be kept moist, but not overly so. A self-watering system can help here. Make sure the soil is loose and aerated so excess water can drain down through it and prevent the possibility of the plant or seeds rotting. Keeping the soil loose also can help oxygen reach the roots, which is vital.