Growing native plants from seeds and cuttings

Growing native plants from seeds and cuttings - growing seeds

Plants can be grown at home from either seeds or cuttings.

Whether you choose seeds or cuttings will depend on the particular species of plant you want to grow. We’ve listed some advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Seeds

Advantages:

  • Many species of plants are easily grown from seeds with no special treatment.
  • Plants grown from seed have greater genetic diversity– this is more ecologically valuable (i.e. better if you are planting a large number of the same species) as it means a more robust population of plants, able to withstand a wider range of conditions, diseases and pests.

Disadvantages:

  • Collecting and preparing seeds for propagation requires a bit of dedication as it can be very time-consuming.
  • A percentage of seeds from most plants may naturally be unviable, so germination rates may be lower.
  • Some seeds have natural dormancy which is broken by specific environmental conditions (e.g. fire) so you might need to treat the seeds before planting.

For further information on this method, visit collecting native seeds

Growing native plants from seeds and cuttings

Cuttings

Advantages:

  • Some seeds can be very difficult to grow as the mechanism that breaks their dormancy is unknown – the only way to grow these plants is from cuttings
  • Can produce offspring that are genetically identical to the parent (clones) – good if you have a favourite plant that grows well.

Disadvantages:

  • Genetically identical plants aren’t so good for revegetation of large areas since genetic diversity is what keeps plant populations resilient and able to bounce back from disaster and disease
  • Many plants are unable to self-pollinate – this means that if you have only genetically identical plants of a species, they may not be able to produce seed.

Choice of soil

The seed raising medium you use is an important factor in your propagation success. It should be fine, but not so fine that it gets waterlogged and doesn’t drain properly. Seed raising mix combined with coarse river sand is generally a good blend. You can also mix in some perlite which aerates the soil and helps it to stay moist. For small seeds, use a plastic tray with plenty of drainage holes. Larger seeds and cuttings may be planted straight into their own small pots.

Collecting seeds

The method used to collect seeds from a particular plant depends on the type of seeds and seed casings the plant has.

Further details are available on the collecting native seeds page.

Growing native plants from seeds and cuttings - germinating seeds

Germinating seeds

Plant your seeds into the mix, not too deep – smaller seeds like eucalypts don’t even need to be covered. Water well, and keep the seed raising medium moist (but not wet) at all times. It’s also best to keep the seeds in a warm place and secured from hungry scavengers if possible.

The time taken for the seed to sprout depends on the species. Most will sprout within a few weeks, but some particularly difficult species can take up to 12 months to poke their heads above the soil.

The first leaves that appear are usually the ‘seed leaves’ or cotyledons. The next leaves are the true leaves, and these can look quite different from both the seed leaves and the adult leaves of the plant.

When your seedlings have sprouted two full pairs of leaves, they are ready to be planted into their own pots. The best pots to use are deep and square, with ribs running down the insides. The ribs are important as they encourage the roots to grow straight down. Ordinary round pots will lead the roots to curve around the sides of the pot and in on themselves, strangling the plant in a process known as root girdling.

For further information on this method, visit collecting native seeds

How to gather cuttings

Depending on the plant species, a stem or green branch can make a good cutting. The cutting should contain at least three nodes (the buds that produce leaves) and be cut just below a node. Remove between one and two thirds of the leaves on the cutting and cut remaining leaves in half to reduce water loss. Take care not to let cuttings dry out before they are planted – put them upright in water as soon as possible.

The older the cutting is, the more likely it will be to need some help to grow roots. Consider applying a rooting hormone product to the base. Then simply plant each cutting into its own small pot in a good quality potting mix.

Growing native plants from seeds and cuttings

Planting on

Plants are ready to go into the ground or into larger pots once a few roots have emerged from the bottom of the pots. The timing of this stage again depends on the species. If you leave seedlings in the small pots for too long they can become root-bound, which stunts their growth and also stops the roots from branching and spreading when the plant is planted on.

If your plants have led a relatively sheltered existence to this point, for example in a greenhouse, it might help to harden them up a bit before planting them in the big wide world. Place them in their pots in the sunlight for a few hours each day leading up to when you plant them, but do not let them dry out. Keep the soil moist but not wet throughout the process.

More information

For more information, contact IndigiScapes on (07) 3824 8611.