Plant propagation is the process by which new plants grow from various sources, including seeds, cuttings, and other plant parts. Plant propagation can refer to both man-made or natural dispersal of seeds.

Gentian seedlings in a plant nursery

Propagation typically occurs as a step in the overall cycle of plant growth. For seeds, it happens after ripening and dispersal; for vegetative parts, it happens after detachment or pruning; for asexually-reproducing plants, such as strawberry, it happens as the new plant develops from existing parts.[1] Plant propagation can be divided into four basic types: sexual, asexual (vegetative), layering, and grafting.

Countless plants are propagated each day in horticulture and agriculture.

The use of plant propagation has become increasingly popular for medical plant breeding in traditional and herbal medicine[2] and is vital to food production.[3]

Sexual propagation

One way to germinate an avocado seed

Seeds and spores can be used for reproduction (e.g. sowing). Seeds are typically produced from sexual reproduction within a species because genetic recombination has occurred. A plant grown from seeds may have different characteristics from its parents. Some species produce seeds that require special conditions to germinate, such as cold treatment. The seeds of many Australian plants and plants from southern Africa and the American west require smoke or fire to germinate. Some plant species, including many trees, do not produce seeds until they reach maturity, which may take many years. Seeds can be difficult to acquire, and some plants do not produce seed at all. Some plants (like certain[4] plants modified using genetic use restriction technology) may produce seed, but not a fertile seed.[5] In certain cases, this is done to prevent the accidental spreading of these plants, for example by birds and other animals.

Asexual propagation

Rose cuttings under plastic bottle greenhouse

Plant roots, stems, and leaves have a number of mechanisms for asexual or vegetative reproduction, which horticulturists employ to multiply or clone plants rapidly, such as in tissue culture and grafting.[6] Plants are produced using material from a single parent and as such, there is no exchange of genetic material, therefore vegetative propagation methods almost always produce plants that are identical to the parent.

In some plants, seeds can be produced without fertilization and the seeds contain only the genetic material of the parent plant. Therefore, propagation via asexual seeds or apomixis is asexual reproduction but not vegetative propagation.

Softwood stem cuttings rooting in a controlled environment

Techniques for vegetative propagation include:

Heated propagator

Electric propagator, filled with pepper plant seedlings, in front of a house window.

A heated propagator is a horticultural device to maintain a warm and damp environment for seeds and cuttings to grow in. They generally provide bottom heat (maintained at a particular temperature) and high humidity, which is essential in successful seed germination and in helping cuttings to take root. In colder climates they are sometimes used for plants like peppers and sweet peas which need warmer environments (about 15°C, for the plants listed) in order to germinate. If excessive condensation forms on the inside of the lid, the gardener can open the ventilating holes to regulate the temperature a little.

Non-electric propagators (mainly a seed tray and a clear plastic lid) are a lot cheaper to purchase than a heated propagator, but without the constant regulated warmth and bottom heat provided by a heated propagator, growth of seedlings tends to be slower and less consistent (with increased risk of seeds failing to germinate).[7][8]

Seed propagation mat


An electric seed-propagation mat is a heated rubber mat covered by a metal cage that is used in gardening. The mats are made so that planters containing seedlings can be placed on top of the metal cage without the risk of starting a fire. Another example is a seedling heat mat, multiple layers of durable, water resistant plastic material with insulated heating coils embedded inside (similar to underfloor heating systems, but with rubber mat instead of flooring).[9] In extreme cold, gardeners place a loose plastic cover over the planters/mats which creates a sort of miniature greenhouse. The constant and predictable heat allows people to raise seedlings in the winter months when the weather is generally too cold for seedlings to survive naturally outside. When combined with a lighting system, many plants can be grown indoors using these mats.[10] This can increase the variety of plants that a gardener can use.

See also



  1. ^ "Vegetative plant propagation". Science Learning Hub. Retrieved 2021-06-15.
  2. ^ Wang, Wenle; Xu, Jinfan; Fang, Huiyong; Li, Zhijun; Li, Minhui (2020-09-01). "Advances and challenges in medicinal plant breeding". Plant Science. 298: 110573. doi:10.1016/j.plantsci.2020.110573. ISSN 0168-9452.
  3. ^ Bradshaw, John E. (2017). "Plant breeding: past, present and future". Euphytica. 213 (3). doi:10.1007/s10681-016-1815-y. ISSN 0014-2336.
  4. ^ Hybrids of plant species being sterile, hybrids of same species are not
  5. ^ GMO plant made to produce infertile seeds
  6. ^ "Asexual Propagation". horti culture. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  7. ^ "13 heated propagators for nurturing your plants in 2023". BBC Gardeners World Magazine. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  8. ^ "Heated propagators: tried and tested". The English Garden. 17 January 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  9. ^ Sheehan, Lindsay (6 January 2021). "5 Best Seedling Heat Mats For Faster Germination". Rural Sprout. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  10. ^ Dyer, Mary H. (5 October 2022). "What Does A Heat Mat Do – Using A Heat Mat For Seedlings". Gardening Know How. Retrieved 17 October 2023.