Propagating Plants

Most containers and plants are available from garden centres but raising your own plants from 
seed or cuttings is far easier than you may think and can be very rewarding. Buying young plants from mail order catalogues is an increasingly popular way of starting a collection.

Seed Sowing

One of the cheapest ways of getting a mass planting is by growing plants from seed. It is fun, can be easy (when growing marigolds, for instance), and you don’t need a high-tech greenhouse. Furthermore, if you 
get hooked on the plants, you can collect your own ripe seed in the autumn for a spring sowing the 
following year.

1: Fill the seed tray with seed compost (soil mix). Gently firm and level the surface by pressing down on the compost using a tray of the same size. When sowing large seeds, such as sunflowers or marigolds, use a dibber (dibble), cane or pencil to make holes for each seed. Plant the seeds and cover with compost.

Picture of Patio Planting

2: When sowing small seeds they should be thinly scattered on the surface of the compost (soil mix) and then covered with just enough sieved sand and compost to conceal them. Firm the surface, using another tray. Water from above, using a fine rose on a watering-can, or by standing the tray in water until the surface of the compost is moist.

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3: Enclose the seed tray in a plastic jar or bag 
to conserve moisture and cover with a black plastic bag, as most seeds 
germinate best in a warm dark place.

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4: Check daily and bring into the light when the seedlings are showing.


If you want to increase your stock of the plants you are already growing in the garden, you can get quick results by taking spring cuttings. When the cuttings have rooted – this will be 
immediately obvious because they suddenly perk up – wait for the roots to fill the pot, and then transfer to individual pots.

1: Remove the new soft-wood growth when it 
is about 10cm (4in) long, just above a leaf node.

Picture of Patio Planting

2: Using a sharp knife, trim the cutting just below a node and trim away the lower leaves.

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3: Dip the end of the stem in hormone rooting powder, and plant up in a small container, using 
cuttings compost (soil mix).

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4: Fill the pot with cuttings, water, and place in a warm, bright place, out of scorching sunlight.

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5: To create a moist microclimate for the cuttings, it’s a good idea to enclose the pot completely in a plastic bag. Secure it with an elastic band around the pot.

Mail Order

Send off each year for the latest seed and plant 
catalogues. You will invariably find a wider range than you can buy in a garden centre. Young plants are packed into special packages, which minimize damage during transit, but as they are restricted and in the dark they are initially weakened and some care is 
necessary to encourage vigorous growth.

1: Open the package with care. Leaves will probably unfold from the confined space. Each plant should be intact and clearly labelled.

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2: Lift the plants out of their travelling box. Labels tucked underneath the root-ball reduce the necessity for handling it directly and helps to keep the compost (soil mix) intact.

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3: Plant in a small pot. 
If the plants seem very wilted, remove some of the larger leaves.


After several weeks your young plants, whether grown from seed, mail order stock or cuttings, will need 
potting-on. This simply means giving the young plant its own larger, individual container.

1: Young plants are ready to move into larger pots when the roots start to emerge through the holes in the base of the pot. Gently remove the root-ball from the pot to check. If there is more than one seedling in the pot, 
carefully tease away each individual root-ball. (Some plants hate to have their roots disturbed. The information on the seed packet will tell you this. These seeds are best sown individually in peat pots or modular trays.)  Lower the root-ball of the plant into a pot marginally bigger than the existing one.

Picture of Patio Planting

2: Holding the plant 
carefully so as not to damage the stem, gently pour potting compost (soil mix) around the root-ball, firming lightly.

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3: Dibble the compost (soil mix) down the side of the pot to eliminate air spaces. It does not 
matter if the stem of the seedling is buried deeper than it was previously, as long as the leaves are well clear of the soil. Water, using a can with a fine rose.