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Gardening Terms (Glossary)
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Indoor, Foliage and Shade Plants
Leaves, Roots and Flowers
Light Requirements
Planting and Transplanting
Pots and Potted Plants
Pruning and Pinching


Growing from Seeds

Sowing of seeds is perhaps the easiest way. Often there is the question of how deep to sow. It is generally recommended to sow the seed three times as deep as the thickness of the seed. (For soil and other details refer Soils and Sowing). Seedlings of shrubs and trees take a fairly long time to attain maturity, so to obtain flowers and fruits, you have to wait for a long time. The other drawback of growing trees from seeds is that the resulting plant is not always true to type, that is, not exactly similar to the mother plant. It may produce fruits that may not necessarily match the quality of trees from which the seed is taken. The reason is the varying genes of the pollens that fertilize the ovule.

Growing from cuttings is popular with gardeners, to grow exact replicas of a good shrub, tree, cacti, succulents and other house plants. Cuttings can be of softwood (e.g. tomato, chrysanthemum, coleus, poinsettia), semi-hardwood (e.g. Hibiscus, Nerium, Acalypha) and hardwood (e.g. Bougainvillea, Croton, Largestroemia Indica).

Though just cutting off a twig and thrusting it into t he ground might attain some success, it generally requires more than that. Often the cuttings die due to adverse conditions, such as warm weather, inadequate soil moisture or air, excess water and soil fungus.

The best season for growing cuttings is one that is mildly cool like spring, or cool and humid like the monsoons. Generally the monsoon is preferred. Tropical plants root best in the temperature range of 23°-27°C 73°-80°F). Temperate ones prefer 15°-18°C (59°-640F).

For healthy rooting, select a stem with the thickness of a pencil. The lateral ones are better. A suitable stem Is one that would break rather than flex when bent sharply Very thick ones root with difficulty. Cut a 6-7 Inch portion of a stem with a sharp instrument just below a node (leaf bud). Remove two-thirds of the lower leaves.

The soil in which cuttings are to be grown (rooting soil) should be porous. Mix equal parts of sand and screened leaf mould (or manure). It is possible, however, to get successful rooting in simple garden soil, which contains some sand and humus, only the season chosen should be cool. Cacti and succulents rot easily if there is excess moisture in the soil and do better in pure sand. Or add some powdered charcoal to the rooting soil to absorb extra moisture

Dip the lower part of the stem in water and then into a rooting hormone. Different grades of hormones are available for hardwood, semi, hardwood or softwood plants, and you should use one according to the hardness of the stem. (Suggestion: Keep only the powder for hardwood and dilute it with two parts of talcum for softwood and one part for semi-hardwood.) Shake off the excess powder and insert the stem about three to five inches into the rooting soil in a small pot. Press soil in, water and keep lightly moist. Please note that it is possible to root cuttings even without rooting hormones.

Root formation is indicated (perhaps 15 to 45 days later) by the appearance of new leaves. After a reasonable number of new shoots and leaves have developed, the sapling may be transplanted. (See Transplanting).

Rooting in Water

Many shrubs and indoor plants like monstera, coleus, and syngonium, dieffenbachia, and hibiscus and money plant root readily in water. Put the stems in a vase or jar. (preferably non,transparent as light inhibits root formation) and place it in a cool spot. Change the water daily. This will replenish the water dissolved oxygen and prevent decomposition of roots. In about a week or two, little, white rootlets emerge. When a few new leaves have also developed, or if sufficient root development is visible, transplant into soil. Make a hole in the soil to accommodate the rooted stem; then push the soil gently around it. Take care not to damage the rootlets. Protect initially from sunlight.

Ground layering is an easy method to reproduce climbers and shrubs having low growing branches, which can be easily bent to the ground. About 10 inches from the tip, just below a node (leaf joint) make a small notch using a sharp knife halfway through the thickness of the stem. Dust a bit of appropriate hormone powder over the cut region for better results. Dig a small hole into the ground to bury the notched part of the branch.

Cover the cut part of the branch with soil and place a brick over it to keep it anchored. Keep the area moist and wait for a few months till some new growth on the branch announces the formation of roots. Transplantation time!

Air Layering is akin to ground layering, except that the rooting medium is. not soil, but moist moss which is wrapped around a notched, or a debarked portion of a branch in the shape of a ball. It is then covered with a polythene sheet tied at both ends to conserve moisture. The branch, of course, remains in the air. Once the roots become visible through the plastic, cut off and plant.

While planting, it is advisable to remove half of the leaves to reduce the burden on the new roots.

Division and Separation

This method of propagation is not only the simplest, it is also the most successful. All you need to do is to separate portions of the roots along with the stems. This is possible in plants which sprout multiple stems like canna, umbrella plant, bamboo, areca palm, diffenbachia, ferns and so ,many others.


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