Propagation Methods For The Slacker Gardener

It was a surprise to find seed pods on young 'Moonlight' Grevillea the other day.  Usually young plants here fail to set seed their first few attempts.  Not so with 'Moonlight'.  

I got to thinking over the ways I try to propagate new plants with as little effort as possible.   Small covered containers filled with seed starter indoors, misting systems, constant monitoring--oh, so much effort!  So much focus!  Dedication!   Yecch!

The Aloe capitata seedlings I managed to get going this spring were a thrill, just not enough of a thrill to want to make careful, meticulous seed starting techniques a regular habit.  I still practice a lazy, sloppy, haphazard approach. 
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Yes, a seed in the pod.  It's not ripe yet, and since 'Moonlight' is a hybrid, any seedling would not be quite the same as 'Moonlight'.
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I frequently toss seeds into damp, shady places that stay damp enough to germinate seeds.    Out on the slope where 'Moonlight' is planted, ripe seeds opened and flew everywhere, but on that arid slope, how many have a chance to sprout and grow?  Might as well try tossing some in a damp spot.  If they fail--no loss. 
These will fail because they are not ripe.  There will be more, ripe seeds soon.    

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 Seeds can be difficult.  It's easier to look out for plant bits that have already rooted, and place them where they can grow further.
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If I bother with cuttings in a pot, I put a lot of different cuttings in the same pot, so I only have to water one pot. A jar over the bits that need to stay moist.     
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A raised nursery bed especially for rooting plants has also proven successful.  For the exceptionally lazy (me), choosing plants that are easy to propagate is advantageous.
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I also place cuttings in spots I walk by daily--location, location, location.   That way they have a better chance of getting attention and care.  Keeping items like a watering can and spray bottle of alcohol (for killing aphids and mealy bugs) right nearby is also helpful.  Otherwise I'll be too lazy to go and get what the plant needs.  The placement of  'Fred Ives' by a gate was a major success, because I can check for mealy bugs and black aphids several times daily.  Of course I did have to walk all the way to the gate to drop the cuttings into the bed, but somehow I managed.  
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Easiest of all is to grow a few reliable re-seeders so seedlings can be moved to empty spots.  My reliable reseeders are Cerinthe, Impatiens, Carex testacaea, Alyssum, and Lobelia.
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I stay alert for more rare seedlings.  There have been a couple of Aloes, a few roses of unexceptional performance, a Clematis or two worth saving, and one excellent cane-type Begonia with dark foliage and white flowers, which I would have paid money for--it's been that good.  

When the pond had a small leak back in July, the damp soil in the leak area produced two new begonia seedlings.  Most of the time of course random seedlings are weeds--Eucalyptus, Schinus.  The dreaded Alianthus is moving into the neighborhood as well.  Sigh.  
Oooh!  Leaky knife valve = free Begonia! 
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I've placed many a rose cutting under other roses, where it stays damp, but not wet.  All that baggie stuff, plastic cups, misters--too much work!  If the cuttings I casually jab into the soil grow, great.  If not, try another spot, or a cutting from a different rose, or a different time of year.  The success rate is not great--but neither is the effort involved. 

If I make the effort of putting a cutting in a cup of pumice inside a plastic bag--if roots do appear, when that moment arrives to take the cup out of the bag--several failures have led to the practice of placing the rootling in a damp spot, so the surrounding humidity supports the tiny plant.  (A need for dampness is a definite theme here.  There's not a lot of it in this garden.)
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If a cutting does strike, a slacker gardener must be careful not to leave eventually huge plants growing in the dappled shade of a small "mother" plant too long, so Junior doesn't overwhelm Step Mom. 
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For the potted plants I manage to water regularly, I toss seeds in the pot, to see what happens.  Echeveria from seed!  Now that's cool.  
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Actually, I'm more scatter-brained than anything else where gardening is concerned.  Slacking off I reserve for vacuuming and swashing the kitchen floor.  One of the great things about gardening is that it's the perfect activity for the unfocused--one can bounce from task to task and yet get results.  Propagation is one task where focus is helpful.  Must work on that.  Grevillea seeds are calling.  


  1. I'll be interested to see what happens with the 'Moonlight' seeds. I haven't been able to count on too many plants to self-seed here but perhaps that's yet another outcome of my stingy watering regime. The exceptions are Centranthus, Santa Barbara daisy and Geranium incanum, none of which I planted in the first place, but which spread with abandon - oh, and Oenothera speciosa and Stipa tenuissima, which I did plant but then they border on invasive. Thank goodness for succulents as they tolerate both laziness and stingy watering!

    1. I love that Stipa, but decided pulling it up from everywhere is not worth it.

      "Thank goodness for succulents": Amen! :^)

  2. Some good suggestions there for the 'lazy' gardener, which we are as well. Not always into propagating plants here, let alone starting from seeds, not enough time to even go in that direction but fully understand why so many gardeners are diligent in it. A graptopetalum leaf fell off a plant we keep indoors, on a table and only noticed it days later when I saw it was rooting into nothing. I left it there and now there's a full rosette with aerial roots spreading on the surface. Hows that for very lazy, effortless propagating :)

    1. Lazy gardeners? You two with that amazing Koi pond and tropical paradise built from scratch? Hah! Very funny.

      Now go give the Grapto a home.

  3. You almost had me convinced that you're a slacker in propagating plants, then I remembered your very own daylily hybrids, agave hybrids -- so I'm not buying it. I love that Carex testacea self-sows. And amazingly so did my Albuca maxima! I threw a bunch of its black onion-like seeds into a pot, forgot about it, then that rain last week germinated the whole pot, so I've got dozens of babies. It's magic, isn't it?

    1. Well, those were one-time events. I'm not going to make a habit of them. Albuca maxima--super cool! Those are wonderful bulbs.

      The Carex is good--a few seedlings a year, never an overwhelming number. I can replace an old plant or two for free, and have a couple to give away.

  4. You, lazy? That's a good one! Do we need to drag out the photos of your scratched up self during rose pruning time? You have some really nice surprises popping up in your garden!


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