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 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