With all the plants you grow hydroponically, you've probably gotten used to the ease of cloning by clipping and using root stimulants. But what if you want to expand your garden outside of the plants you're growing indoors? Say, for example, you want to start growing citrus trees. Cloning a citrus tree isn't as easy as taking a clipping and using a rooting solution. Or say you want to grow raspberries: bushes are hard to clone using this technique- if not nearly impossible. Sometimes cloning the old fashion way with root stimulators may not be the best option for you, and in that case, you'll want to clone those plants using different techniques. Here, we'll be going over cloning techniques: the traditional cut-and-root, grafting plants, layering, and even micropropagation so you get the identical plants you want in your garden efficiently.
Layer (or Layering) Clone Method
Layering is the process of plant propagation when a plant's stem is buried, forms roots, and grows a new plant. Sort of sounds like basic cloning, right? Especially since you layer within the vegging stage of growth. The difference here is that instead of clipping the plant's stem and dipping it in solution, the stem is still attached to the plant when it goes into the ground to grow roots.
There are five different ways of layering plants: Simple, Tip layering, Compound (or Serpentine) layering, Mound layering, and Air layering. Simple, Tip, and Compound layering are all pretty simple to do. You choose a plant you want to clone and make sure it has branches near the bottom of the plant. Dig a hole near the branches, bury those branches into the earth, and eventually, roots will begin to grow from the stem buried underground. Once those roots grow you clip the stem from the mother plant and you have a new plant ready to rock. Air layering and Mound layering, on the other hand, are trickier to do. Mound layering requires you to clip the plant back to 1 inch, bury the shoots that are still there, and let the plant grow as many clones as possible. Air layering requires you to slice right below the node of a branch and wrap it. It will eventually try to fix its wound by creating roots, and just like a clipping, you'll start to see roots coming out of that branch. You can then clip that rooted branch and plant it where you need to. Keep in mind that layering is more for bushes like berry bushes and vine-type plants. On plants with thick enough stems you can Air layer plants to clone them, but the amount of roots you'll get from the stem depends on the type of plant you're going to grow.
Plant Graft: the Graft Method of Cloning
Plant grafting is something mainly used by tree growers, but most any plant growing outdoors can utilize this method of cloning. It should be noted, though, that grafting is the fusing of one part of one plant to the main part of another plant. By doing this you create a plant with the desired traits you want out of your plant. The great thing about this is not only can you graft to create an identical plant, but you can fuse plants to a compatible plant and get a mixed plant. As we mentioned, this is mainly done on trees, because the first thing you need is a plant with a decent-sized trunk and good roots (this is called the rootstock). You then find another plant with healthy stems (or scions) and clip them from their parent plant. Then you make a wound in the trunk of the plant with good roots, insert the clipped stems, and wrap them to the trunk. Grafting takes the healthy branches of a given plant and gives them a stronger, healthier root network. Sort of like transplanting organs into a human, these new scions will fuse to the rootstock and begin to grow. This is useful for growers who want to preserve the genetics of a plant. But it's also useful for helping keep plants alive you don't want to die. Say you have a few varieties of apple trees, but only one of the trees still have viable roots. If you take scions from the other trees and graft them into a strong rootstock, you'll be able to get all the apple varieties to grow from the same trunk
Traditional Cloning: Taking Cuttings
Now, we all know the idea behind cutting clones: you take a clipping from a plant, use a root stimulator to get roots starting, and once its root system begins you transplant that clone into a larger medium so it can grow bigger. Easy enough. So instead of explaining something you already probably know, we'll focus on a question we get a lot: can all plants be cloned this way?
Nearly anything can be cloned by taking a cutting, from vegetables to flowers to trees. The question, though, is whether using a clipping is the best thing for propagation. For flowers and vegetables, taking a clipping from a plant and creating rooted clones may be the best way to clone. If you've got a rose bush, however, or you're growing berry bushes, you might want to consider using a layering method to get lots of roots growing out of an already strong, thriving plant. But if you've got trees that need to survive or large plants that you want to keep alive indefinitely, chances are you'll want to graft them. There's no one way to clone a plant- it all depends on what you have available to clone. If your plant and medium can layer, layer that plant! If you need to fuse one plant with another, get to grafting; and if your plants have lots of branches clip one of them and get it into some root solution! Just make sure that whichever method of cloning you choose, have the patience and understanding to see it through its entire growth.
Who's heard of micropropagation? If you haven't don't worry: it's fairly new and very expensive to do, so it's not very common. But it's a cloning technique worth mentioning, seeing as it's useful for developing countries and areas that need certain plants but cannot get them naturally.
Micropropagation still uses a mother plant for cloning, only instead of growing new roots out of a stem, roots are grown out of a scraping- and here's where it gets a little complicated. In a lab, you create a culture for the scrapings to thrive in. Instead of a stem growing roots, the solution helps the scrapings come together and create roots. Eventually, within its sterile environment, a plant will begin to grow, with roots and a leaf to start in. To achieve this, you need a sterile lab environment and some microbiology experience. This type of cloning goes far beyond a simple clipping: you're essentially creating a plant at the cellular level. However, if you do end up in a situation where this is possible, it's great for starting plants off and getting them into areas those plants are not available naturally. Say, for example, you cannot find seeds or a clone for a certain plant, and all you have is a couple of plants you want to preserve. Using micropropagation you can take a few scrapings from your plant, put them in a culture, and have plants you can eventually clone and/or breed.