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Seed Propagation Techniques for the Home Owner

Seed Propagation Techniques for the Home Owner

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Published by MoreMoseySpeed
H-1257 (Revised)

Home Propagation Techniques
Ronald C. Smith Horticulture Specialist NDSU Extension Service

North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota 58105

FEBRUARY 2004
1

Anyone with money can purchase plants, but part of the fun of horticulture is to start your own. The fun, fascination and fulfillment derived from starting your own plants are easily documented by attending a horticulture club meeting anywhere around the country. Here, new propagules and seedlings are freely exch
H-1257 (Revised)

Home Propagation Techniques
Ronald C. Smith Horticulture Specialist NDSU Extension Service

North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota 58105

FEBRUARY 2004
1

Anyone with money can purchase plants, but part of the fun of horticulture is to start your own. The fun, fascination and fulfillment derived from starting your own plants are easily documented by attending a horticulture club meeting anywhere around the country. Here, new propagules and seedlings are freely exch

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Published by: MoreMoseySpeed on Nov 09, 2012
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North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota 58105
FEBRUARY 2004
H-1257
(Revised)
Home
 
PropagationTechniques
Ronald C. Smith
Horticulture SpecialistNDSU Extension Service
 
2
Anyone with money can purchase plants, but part of the fun of horticulture is to start your own. The fun,fascination and fulfillment derived from starting yourown plants are easily documented by attending ahorticulture club meeting anywhere around thecountry. Here, new propagules and seedlings arefreely exchanged among members and discussionsare carried on concerning previous plant exchanges.This circular will outline some of the propagationtechniques which may be carried out by those interestedin perpetuating their favorite plants.
Seed Propagation
Seed or sexual propagation is the most frequently usedmeans of producing new plants. Seed propagation offersseveral advantages over other methods: It is economical,fewer diseases are transmitted, the seeds can be easilyand inexpensively stored for long periods and usuallyvery little personal effort is needed.Seeds are not always used for propagation because of some disadvantages. Many seeds require too long togerminate or require special pretreatment to overcomeinternal dormancy. Some seed require physical abrasion before germination can take place.Genetic variation is another problem which may arisefrom seed propagation. Commercial seed companiesgo to great effort to develop plant cultivars uniform inflower color. When hybridizing, they go to even greatercosts to be sure the crosses will breed true each time.When you purchase hybrid seed, you are planting thefirst generation of the parental cross. Should you savethe seed from the hybrid plants and sow them next year,the results will be a genetic scrambling, producing anarray of flower colors and sizes.While seeds range in size from the large coconut tothe very small petunia seed, they all have the same basic structure: seed coat, embryo and endosperm,which contains stored food. The embryo is the resultof fertilization, and is made up of a radicle (embryonicroot), hypocotyl (stem region below cotyledons),cotyledons (embryonic leaves) and epicotyl(stem region above cotyledons)
(see Sketch 1)
.Seed germination begins with water being absorbed.Enzymes convert starch to sugar and combine withoxygen to carry on the building of new cells andexpansion of others. Eventually, the radicle emergesfrom the seed coat and penetrates into the soil, formingthe primary root. Next, the hypocotyl emerges andpushes the cotyledons above the ground. This pointis witnessed as germination.
Sketch 1.Seed and seeding anatomy.
To Be Successfulwith Seed Propagation
Start with good, clean, fresh seed. Next, be particularabout the medium in which the seeds will be germinated:This should be something which will allow sufficient airand water to reach the seeds. Typical garden soil is apoor choice. Milled sphagnum moss, which may bedifficult for homeowners in some areas to obtain,is an excellent material for seed germination becauseit is highly acidic. Weed seeds, insects, or diseasemicroorganisms are essentially eliminated.Other materials to consider for starting seeds are perlite,vermiculite, peat moss and commercial mixes such as Jiffy-Mix.Containers for starting seeds should be clean,inexpensive and readily available. Homeowners use awide array of containers — old milk cartons cut in half,wooden flats, old butter tubs, or recycled salad traysfrom some fast food establishments. The choice is reallyyours. Just make sure it is clean and can be freelydrained.Fill the container to the top with the growing mediumof your choice. Firm to about one-half inch from the topand score off some shallow rows for planting seeds.At this point, a mistake is commonly made; the seeds areplanted too deeply. When in doubt, plant shallower thanyou think necessary. As a rule of thumb, try to space theseeds about one-fourth to one-half inch apart in the rowsand make the rows about 2 inches apart in the absenceof any packet instructions. All of this fussiness is to cut
 
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down on the incidence of disease, especially the funguscausing damping-off. This disease will girdle and killseedlings. If everything is clean the disease will not bepresent, so spacing is less important. If the disease ispresent, spacing as suggested may only slow the spread.To avoid the spread of this disease, be careful watering.Subirrigation is the best approach for the homeowner,allowing the water to enter in through the drainageholes. When the media surface glistens (appearance mayvary with mix used) with moisture, remove the containerand allow it to drain freely. Then cover with either a clearplastic bag or a piece of glass
(see Sketch 2)
.After most of the seeds have germinated, promptlyremove the cover to allow air circulation. The firstleaves to appear are the seed leaves or the cotyledons.When the next leaves or first true leaves have opened,most seedlings are large enough for transplanting.
Light and TemperatureConsiderations
Light quality and intensity are important for properseedling development. The indirect light from a windowmay often be sufficient for seedling development.If the indirect light is too low, the seedlings may becomeleggy. In that case, the seedlings would benefit fromexposure to direct sunlight. Drafts from windows inthe cold winter months and the unilateral directionof the window light often create problems, first withgermination and then with the straightness of seedlinggrowth. In this situation, the homeowner is not incomplete control: It may not be sunny, or it may bevery cold. The result is lowered success.Fluorescent lighting and heating cables put more controlof seedling development into the hands of the grower.Generally, bottom heat from thermostatically controlledcables set to about 72 F and standard fluorescent lightpositioned directly overhead about 6 to 9 inches fromthe surface will result in swift germination and strong,healthy development of most garden plants.
Transplanting and Post,Transplanting Care
To transplant, gently lift beneath the seedling with yourfinger or a wooden label and lightly pull by holding ontoone of the leaves. Grasping the stem and pulling upprovide a greater chance of injuring the seedling. If thedelicate seedling stem is crushed, the plant dies. If one of the leaves is damaged from rough handling, then usuallyonly that leaf is lost and the plant has a chance to recover.Make a hole in the new pot deep enough to contain theroots. Gently but firmly pack soil around them and waterin to eliminate air spaces (drying out) of roots.Once transplanting is complete (either into individualpots or flats) light is very important. Direct sunlight is best, but if this is not possible, then use the fluorescentlamps suggested for germination.Houseplants can be maintained at relatively low lightintensities once they become established. Garden plantswhich are intended for flower or vegetable productionwill need an excess of 1,000 footcandles to grow satisfac-torily without stretching or discoloring. This intensitycan be maintained by keeping the fluorescent light source6 to 9 inches from the surface of the growing plants.Most flowering plants will benefit from a pinching,which is the removal of the tip of the stem above a leaf axis after at least three sets of leaves have developed.This will cause the plants to branch and become compactin their growth habit. If you desire to have the plants talland single-stemmed, then do not pinch.Plants intended for the outdoors should generally bestarted four to six weeks before moving outside. Thetransition should not be sudden. Going from an interiorwhere the temperature and light conditions are consis-tent to the shifting conditions in the garden could destroythe plants.Begin the move by gradually acclimatizing the plants:An initial 30 minutes in the sun, building up to a full dayin a protected area; a night in an unheated porch, water-ing less frequently. All or any of these steps should begin10 to 14 days before the actual move-out date. Be awarethat some plants are considered “tender;” a mere brushwith near-freezing temperatures could set them back orkill them. Others, being more hardy, can tolerate occa-sional brief exposures to cold with no visible harm.Keep a wary eye on the weather. If it appears that we arein a cycle of frosts when the set-out date is near, delay fora few more days when the weather appears to be moreamenable to plant establishment.
Sketch 2.Seed propagation: cover container withplastic bag.

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