Last Saturday a group of dedicated plantspeople came in from the cold to learn and volunteer with Harlequin’s Gardens’ expert propagator Gary Meis. We’re passing a few of his native plant seeding and propagation tips along to you.
Inside the greenhouse, the 80-degree temperature made for a perfect January morning of planting and propagation. Gary’s advice and knowledge helped this group grow hundreds of plants that you can purchase later in the season. Try this yourself!
1. To create more plants from one of your perennials this time of year, when they are in their root growth stage and not making active top growth, take a 1 1/2 – 2 inch cutting, including the growing tips from plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae), including Harlequin’s Silver Germander (Teucrium ‘Harlequin’s Silver’), strip off 1/2 inch of the lower leaves, and dip that half inch into a rooting hormone. Follow directions on rooting product packages for length of soaking (Harlequin’s Gardens sells rooting hormone). Gary makes a rooting hormone using willow branches that have started to root in water, and he uses the water they were growing in with a drop of yucca extract or organic dishwashing soap added. He advises dipping cuttings in willow water for a few minutes. Plant only the portion of the cutting with the leaves stripped off in a potting mix amended with mycorrhizae (available at Harlequin’s Gardens). On our volunteer day, Gary used 128-cell ‘plug’ trays to plant into. You can plant into any appropriate container that drains. Water them, and grow in a brightly lit indoor location. Low light levels produce leggy growth. Transplant to a larger pot when fully rooted, and plant outside after the last frost.
For plants like Yellow Hardy Iceplant (Delosperma nubigenum), veronica and asters, take a well-rooted clump, gently remove the soil from around it, divide, and pot up. Hardy Iceplant and Veronicas do not require rooting hormone, but using it will speed up growth.
2. Seeds of many native plants may need to be scarified (scuffed up) and cold-stratified (kept refrigerated at a specified temperature and length of time) to break seed dormancy. To scarify, Gary suggests a 15-minute soak, just enough to cover, in household hydrogen peroxide, with a drop of yucca extract or organic dishwashing soap mixed in. This removes the germination inhibitors that keep seeds from germinating prematurely in nature. Seeds like penstemon have inhibitors that cause them to take many years to break dormancy. This process speeds that up. After 15 minutes, add boiling water, let them sit overnight, drain and plant immediately. Seeds like Thermopsis and Baptisia will swell up. Repeat the process for any seeds that do not swell.
For seeds that need cold stratification, place seeds in a plastic bag. Add approximately 4 times more small-grained, moistened perlite than seeds to the bag. Seal it and store in labeled and sealed plastic bags for a month or more in the fridge. Be sure to label each bag with the plant’s name, the date you’re bagging the seeds, and the amount of time they need to cool. That way you’ll know when they’re ready to plant. Check your seed package information for guidance on specifics. You might consider marking on your calendar when to check them!
3. Gary’s final advice, “Minister to the plants, and they will minister to you.” Working with plants IS healing.
Gary will be offering a class in Plant Propagation at Harlequin’s Gardens on Saturday March 4th. Save the date!