How to Clone a Plant

If you have a shrub or a vine or a ground cover that your neighbors admire and want, you can offer them an exact copy of this plant and so end their painful coveting. You can do this without much fuss or bother. So what are you waiting for?
Totipotency is a quality that separates the plant from the animal world; it is the capacity for complete regeneration from a single part – or even from a single cell – of the original. Totipotency is the principle behind cloning.
Every plant on Earth, given the proper conditions, could be reproduced
from any of its parts – from a root, a leaf or a bud. When you dig up a bulb, you become a witness to this process; each year, new bulbs are produced clonally, underground, as offsets of the mother bulb. Newly formed bulbs – King Alfred daffodil bulbs, for example – produce flowers identical to those of every other King Alfred bulb.
Clonal propagation of shrubs, vines and ground covers requires human intervention. If you have one blue hibiscus (Alyogyne Huegelii), for example, and want several, you will have to become a propagator.
All this means is that you will need to cut 3- to 6-inch terminal (end) pieces of shoots and root them in the soil. This is known as propagation from shoot tip cuttings.
Spring is the best time of year to propagate many kinds of plants from shoot tip cuttings. Shoots should be from the current season’s growth and stems should be soft to semi-stiff; shoot tip cuttings with hard, woody stems will be much more difficult to root.
Take cuttings in the early morning, since there is less danger of leaf desiccation at this time. Select shoots with healthy leaves and no flowers, or
cut off any flowers that are present. In any cutting, flower growth steals energy needed for root development.
With pruning shears, cut at a 45-degree angle about -1/4 inch below a node (where leaf meets stem). You cut at an angle to create more surface area for root development than a straight cut affords. Remove the bottom two or three leaves and insert the cutting the minimum depth required for the shoot to stand on its own. No leaves should touch the soil after the shoot is standing.
Root hormones mixed with fungicide, in the consistency of talcum powder, are available at most nurseries. Many propagators dip the bottom inch of shoot stems into this preparation before insertion into the soil. The root hormone stimulates quicker-than-normal root development and the fungicide prevents stem rot.
Root hormone is not a requirement for propagation of many shoot tip cuttings. In the case of most succulents (ice plants), ground covers (ivy, gazania, trailing African daisy) and perennial herbs (rosemary, lavender, thyme, scented geranium), roots will form from cuttings, taken this time of year, within three to six weeks, even if root hormone is not used. With shoot tip propagation, timing is the most important consideration, followed by the choice of soil or soil mix.
In cool weather, during early spring or fall, cuttings may be rooted directly in the garden, as long as the soil drains well. There is still some danger that leaves will dry out before roots can form. If the weather suddenly turns hot, put a 4-inch pot or 1-gallon container over the cutting to protect it from the sun.
To root ground covers, vines and herbs from shoot tip cuttings, commercial nurseries use a soil mix that is equal parts perlite and peat moss. A similar mix may be used to root cuttings from shrubs, except that more perlite will be added as the stems become stiffer. Firm shoots of the popular Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha), for example, are easily rooted in a mix that is three parts perlite and one part peat moss; hardwood juniper cuttings prefer a mix that is nine parts perlite and one part peat moss.
It is critical to protect young cuttings from desiccation with the use of shade cloth or plastic (use small sticks to prop up a plastic bag that encloses your container), especially in hot weather. Cuttings rooted in pots and flats may be held there until cooler, more favorable planting weather returns. However, plants should not be kept under plastic any longer than it takes to initiate root growth, since the risk of fungus disease under such conditions is considerable.

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