20171126A AKuptsova, pixabay.jpg
Seedlings and cuttings don’t grow well under the short days of fall and winter. Source: AKuptsova, pixabay

To everything there is a season … and fall—especially late fall—is not the best season for plant propagation. Whether it’s seedlings or cuttings, they’ll get a very slow start when days are short. And that’s because they’re receiving mixed signals.

When you put seeds or cuttings in contact with moist soil, you’re sending the signal “get growing!” But between mid-October and the end of February, under the influence of short days, Mother Nature is sending them exactly the opposite signal. “Take a break,” she’s saying. “This isn’t the time to put on growth!”

The result is seedlings that either don’t germinate or do so only very weakly and that then grow only very slowly if at all. Or they etiolate (stretch for the light). Cuttings just sit there, hesitating to produce roots. In both cases, rot often sets in.

An Artificial Summer

20171126B.jpeg
Install seed and cutting trays under artificial lights and just watch them take off! Source: laidbackgardener.blog

If you want to defy Mother Nature and propagate plants off-season, use artificial lighting instead.

Place your seedling pots or cuttings 15 to 30 cm away from a fluorescent or LED lamp and set the timer to 12 to 16 hours. It’s also best to cultivate them “under glass” (that is, under a dome or inside a transparent plastic bag), because the air in our houses is very dry in winter and starting them under glass will create a beneficial “greenhouse effect.”

20172226C.jpeg
Start seeds and cuttings “under glass” (some sort of clear plastic covering) for best results. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

With long days and good humidity, you’ll easily be able to convince your seedlings and cuttings that spring has sprung and therefore that it’s time to grow. Furthermore, their growth will be fast and robust.

Once growth is well underway, gradually remove their covering, increasing the humidity with a humidifier or a humidity tray, but keep the plants under artificial light all winter if possible, at least until the beginning of March, so they keep on growing.

Yes, sometimes you can fool Mother Nature … and gain a substantial advance on spring at the same time!20171126A AKuptsova, pixabay

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

0 comments on “Autumn: Not the Best Season for Plant Propagation

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: