"Learn how to take and grow plants from cuttings".
Most plants we grow are propagated best by cuttings. Some are easy to grow from cuttings but others are quite difficult unless you use the right technique, at an appropriate time of year; and grow on the cuttings in the most appropriate way.
Knowing how to grow cuttings well is a prized skill in the world of horticulture; which can guarantee employment for employees in large nurseries; and ensure higher profitability for anyone operating their own plant nursery.
ACS Student Comment: [The course} is teaching me a lot about propagation that I did not know. Your courses are very good, easy to understand, full of lots of valuable information. My tutor is very good, fair and always there if needed. Pauline Ross, Australia - Cutting Propagation course.
The course is divided into eight lessons as follows:
1. Introduction. The principles of propagating plants by cuttings.:Importance of cuttings, Phenotype vs genotype, why choose cutting propagation, where to get cuttings from, basic cutting technique.
2. Stem cuttings. Ease with which tissue forms roots, types of stem cuttings (softwood, hardwood, semi hardwood, herbaceous, tip, heel, nodal, cane etc), treatments (eg. basal heat, mist, tent, etc), testing rooting, etc.
3. Non-stem cuttings. Leaf cuttings, root cuttings (natural suckering with or without division, Induced suckering, In situ whole root cuttings; ex situ detached root cuttings), bulb cuttings, scaling and twin scaling, sectioning, basal cuttage.
4. Materials and equipment. Selection and maintenance of stock plants; disinfecting cutting material;
5. Growing media. Propagation media; biological, chemical and physical characteristics of propagation and potting media, Testing for toxins, air filled porosity, potting up cuttings, soil-less mixes, rockwool, etc.
6. Factors affecting rooting. Juvenility, Cutting Treatments (hormones & their application, anti transparents, acid/base treatments, disinfectants etc), Callusing, Mycorrhizae, Carbon Dioxide enrichment, etc.
7. Setting up a propagation area. Creating and managing an appropriate cutting environment in terms of: Water; Disease; Temperature; Light and Air Quality. Greenhouses and other structures, watering methods (mist, fog, capillary etc), heating, etc.
8. Management of cutting crops. Estimating cost of production; Keeping records, etc.
Duration: 100 hours
- Become familiar with principles of propagating plants by cuttings
- Understand how to propagate plants from stem cuttings
- Understand how to propagate plants from non-stem cuttings
- Know the materials and equipment used for propagating plants from stems
- Understand the principles of growing media in relation to cutting propagation
- Determine how and why cuttings form roots.
- Manipulate the formation of roots on cuttings.
- Know the principles for establishing successful plant propagation areas
- Understand the principles of nursery crop scheduling
WHAT YOU MAY DO IN THIS COURSE
- Establish an area near where you live that can be used for the raising of cuttings. It doesn’t need to be a greenhouse, just a sheltered place where you can raise the cuttings you will be asked to grow for this course.
- Select ten different plants that can be grown by stem cuttings. Practice preparing different types of cuttings until you feel you can do this well.
- Place samples of your cuttings in a propagating mix and place in the propagation area. Keep the mix moist and observe the behaviour of the cuttings. (eg. does it put on new leaves? Do changes in temperature effect growth? Do any cuttings die? etc. ) Make notes of your observations. You will be asked questions about your results later in the course.
- Prepare leaf cuttings for five different plant species. Practice doing this until you feel you can do this well.
- Prepare root cuttings for five different plant species. Practice doing this until you feel you can do this well.
- Prepare bulb cuttings for five different plant species. Practice doing this until you feel you can do this well.
- Place samples of cuttings in a propagating mix.
- Visit three plant propagation nurseries and see if you can find out where they obtain their propagation material.
- Test soil samples and name them.
- Go to your local nursery and/or garden supply and find out what rooting hormones they sell. See if you can discover what chemicals the products contain.
- Visit different commercial greenhouses.
- Prepare a pot of cuttings and estimate the cost of production for each cutting produced.
Where Should Cuttings Be Put after they are Prepared?
If you want optimum success from cutting propagation; you need to place cuttings in an ideal environment; and the ideal for one type of cutting is not always the ideal for another.
For commercial nurserymen who are propagating a variety of different types of plants, compromises may need to be made, and cuttings placed in an environment that is ideal for some and adequate for others. It is simply not economical to create dozens of different propagating environments; but it may be appropriate to create two or three (eg. an area with bottom heat, and mist, another area without bottom heat, etc.).
In the cutting environment, you need to manage:
- Air Quality
There are interactions that occur between these factors, and a balance must be struck, that is appropriate to the cultivar and type of cutting being propagated.
Examples of these interactions are:
- Increased water around the cutting will reduce dehydration, but can increase susceptibility to disease.
- Increased ventilation can reduce the risk of Carbon Dioxide depletion, but will reduce the ability to control temperature, and increase the risk of moving disease about.
- Optimum temperatures for root strike may also be optimum temperatures for disease to develop.
- Increased ventilation will reduce humidity. Excessive moisture can reduce cutting strike rate.
- Increasing temperature may require associated increases of watering and ventilation.
One of the hardest tasks facing the plant propagator is to ensure that plants get the right amount of water. Too little and cuttings will suffer dehydration, even death. Too much and cuttings are likely to rot, or suffer from other diseases. There are some simple methods to modify how much moisture a plant receives, including:
- Altering the characteristics of propagation media to either increase drainage, or to improve its water holding capacity. Drainage can be improved by the addition of more coarse material to the mix (eg. coarse sand, perlite), while water holding capacity can be improved by the addition of materials such as fine sand, peat, fine milled pine bark, and water storing granules.
- Decreasing or increasing how often you water the cuttings, or increasing or decreasing the duration of watering as required, for example instead of having a misting system operating in 15 second bursts every ten minutes you might increase or decrease the interval between mist bursts to 8 minutes if you want increased watering or twelve minutes if you want less.
- For plants that are prone to diseases when their foliage is wet you can avoid watering late in the afternoon so that foliage doesn’t remain wet over night, or you might water from below using capillary matting or shallow troughs.
- Fogging systems can be very effective in ensuring high humidity around foliage of cuttings, while the small drop size ensures that there is little if any free water sitting on the foliage, which may encourage diseases.
Protection from Dehydration (ie. Water stress)
One of the main reasons a cutting may fail to strike is dehydration (ie. it looses water, and becomes stressed). This loss of water from can be controlled by various things, including: maintaining high humidity, wetting the foliage or shading.
Until roots start forming, most plants take up very little water through the cut base of the cutting from the propagating media.
Light energy is used by leaves for photosynthesis (which needs to still occur in a leafy cutting in order for it to remain healthy and form roots). Light will also cause evaporation; even if air humidity is extremely high.
To minimise dehydration of a cutting involves striking a balance between maintaining humidity, wetting the leaf and controlling light. Some cuttings tolerate variations in one of these factors better than another.
Managing Pests & Diseases
It doesn’t matter if you are a back yard propagator, or working as a propagator in a full scale production nursery good hygiene and prevention are generally the best ways to reduce the occurrence of pests and diseases during propagation.
Pests & diseases can spread many different ways including:
- Dipping healthy cuttings in hormone or water in which diseased material has been dipped.
- Through irrigation (eg. from contaminated water sources) or rain water (dripping off structures or diseased plants, or by splashing up soil).
- Soil-borne diseases on the hose if it's dropped on the ground.
- Soil on the bottom of pots/trays.
- On tools, clothes, shoes and workers hands.
- Contaminated soil mixes or pots.
- Infected plant material.
Hygiene, which is aimed at minimising pest and disease problems, is therefore critical in modern nursery practice. Even amateur propagators need to maintain reasonable cleanliness if they are to avoid losses from disease.
Where This Course Could Lead You
This course provides students with all they need to know to successfully grow a wide range of plants from cutting material. Learn tips and tricks of the trade and apply them through practical experiments as you work through the course. The module may be studied by itself or along with other propagation or horticulture modules as part of a certificate or higher level course. Besides being of interest to home gardeners, the course will be of most benefit to those who are working in, or who would like to work in, the following areas:
Propagation & nursery
Parks & gardens
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