Plant Division and Layering

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Plant Cuttings
Care of Cuttings
Plant Division and Layering
Grafting and Budding
Plants to Propagate

Here are more ways to propagate plants.

Runners Runners and Offsets

fig6.jpg (200x206 -- 6545 bytes)Runners

Runners are prostrate creeping shoots or stems, such as strawberry geraniums, can be used to propagate house plants. Place the leafy cluster of the runners in contact with a sandy loam soil in a second pot and hold them down with a paperclip or similar item (Figure 6). When roots have developed from the cluster, the new plant can be cut free from the runner. A simpler method would be to cut off the leafy clusters along with a small section of stem and root them as tip cuttings.  Better success rates occur for runners that are left attached to the mother plant.  Many groundcover plants can also be propagated this way by assisting the young runners to root in the garden soil nearby.  


Many plants produce small plants at the base of the parent.  These offsets (often called suckers when they appear around deciduous shrubs like lilacs and dogwoods) can usually be easily pulled or cut off the main plant and potted up individually. The main plant often benefits from removal of offsets which can divert energy from the main stem, and removal of offsets may be essential to the production of a large solitary specimen.

Other species produce miniature plants on the edges of leaves, flower stems or flower heads, and these can also be removed and potted up.  Succulents, lilies and Egyptian Onions are examples of plants that produce small bulbs or mini-plants on above-ground growth.

Plant Division

Root Division

 Many species of plants form mats or clumps or thick tuberous roots and may be propagated by division.  The plant is removed from its pot or the ground and as much of the soil as possible removed.  The method of division depends on the growth habit of the plant.  Most garden perennials can be divided this way, although you may need a pair of pitchforks to pry them apart, or a sharp knife (or even an axe) to cut through thick roots.

stultitia.jpg (200x108 -- 5089 bytes)Some plants (e.g. mat-forming succulents like sedums, as well as daylilies, various groundcover type plants, etc.) will disintegrate to a handful of cuttings or small plants as soon as removed from the soil, and good pieces with roots can be selected and planted individually, like this succulent that is ready to be divided (shown). 

In other cases a thick tuberous branching root will be revealed and this can be divided with a clean knife into two or more pieces.  Each piece should have growing points and vigorous roots.  This sort of division is best carried out while the plant is dormant and dry, or it may be weakened by excessive bleeding of sap.  Cut surfaces can be dusted with a fungicide and allowed to dry for a few days for the tissues to seal and callus over.  Each piece can then be potted up separately in a suitable potting mix and watered very sparingly (enough to keep moist but not wet) until some new growth indicates production of new roots.  Hostas, Peonies, Zantedeschias, and yes, potatoes are examples of plants that can be propagated this way.

Bulb Division

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Bulb division can occur in several ways.  You can plant up the tiny bulbs or cormlets that grow off your existing bulbs and corms (e.g. gladiolas).  Or you can work with the whole bulb.  Note the 3 major parts of the bulb - the outer tunica, the inner scale leaves, and the basal plate at the bottom of the bulb.

bulbscaling.jpg (175x135 -- 1967 bytes)Bulb Scaling:  You can divide bulbs by peeling off the scales (e.g. lilies)  This is called "bulb scaling".  Remove the outer tunica, and carefully peel off the layers of the bulb, ensuring that you get a piece of the central basal plate of the bulb on each piece.  The central section can be left intact and planted as a bulb after dusting with a bit of fungicide.

Set these with the basal plate down, on moistened soil and cover with plastic to retain humidity while they root.  When little plants start appearing from the base, they are ready to pot up individually.

bulbchipping.jpg (175x118 -- 3148 bytes)Bulb chipping:   This works well for other more solid bulbs, like gladiolas or tulips that are not 'peelable'.  It involves cutting the bulb into segments from top to bottom, ensuring that each one has a portion of the central basal plate.  

Treat them the same way as for bulb scaling, but let the pieces dry a few hours, dust with fungicide, and lie them on their sides on top of the moistened soil.


Layering involves growing roots on an existing stem.  There are two main types of layering - "air layering" and "ground layering".

Air Layering

Cuttin5.jpg (200x127 -- 5082 bytes)For plants whose stems remain green (rubber plants, dieffenbachia, many succulents and cacti, etc.) air layering is best.  This can help you rejuvenate a leggy plant that has lost it lower leaves.  Cut a slit at an angle 1/3 of the way through the stem just below good, healthy leaf growth.  Hold this slit open with a toothpick, (figure 7) and dust or spray the cut with a rooting hormone.  Take a length of plastic wrap and secure with a twist tie or string around the stem below the cut you have just made.  You want to make a pocket around the cut when you do this.  Fill this pocket with a big handful of moistened spagnum peat moss and wrap the rest of the plastic around it making sure to over lap, and seal it to the stem above the cut with another tie.  (Figure 8)  use waterproof tape to seal the over-lapped edges of the plastic.  Make sure the peat moss is in good tight contact with the cut you have made.  Keep the peat moss moist during the rooting process by opening the pocket at the top and adding water when required.  When roots are visible in the the peat moss, cut the stem off below the root mass and pot up.

When roots form, you can cut off the stem between the new roots and the original plant, and replant where you want it to grow.

Ground Layering  

groundlayering.jpg (246x131 -- 3205 bytes) This works well for outdoor shrubs and many houseplants that get leggy growth which is easily bent.  Effectively, strawberries and many ground covers "ground layer" themselves in order to spread!  Take a healthy shoot near the base of your shrub or other plant and bend it over to touch the ground, (or a pot of soil that you provide for this purpose).  Scrape the outer layer or bark off the shoot at the point at which it will touch the soil.  Gently bend, but don't break the shoot, at the point where you scraped off the outer layer, and bury it 1-2" into the soil.  You can dust with rooting hormone first if you like, this will help but not make-or-break the rooting.  Hold the shoot down with a length of bent wire or even a rock.  Keep it moist but not wet while rooting takes place.

When roots form, you can cut off the stem between the new roots and the original plant, and replant where you want it to grow.

See Cuttings and Grafts and Grafting and Budding for more plant propagations methods.

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