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Love that Fragrant Lilac? Clone More.

Cloning Plants Is Easy, Economical and Preserves Horticultural History

Our friend owns an historic home, a lovely place that’s over 100 years old. The landscape is well established and the spring garden boasts a huge lilac bush that produces soft purple blooms so fragrant that the entire street takes notice.

Talk about plant envy!  A single whiff of this amazing shrub’s flowers that first spring and I had to have one. One exactly like this scented celebrity.

All varietal information about the lilac had been lost over the many years since it had been planted. That was okay though.  Even without knowing the cultivar name it’s possible to create a genetic double.

How? With plant cloning. Not the stuff of science labs, no Dolly sheep here. Horticultural cloning is much less complicated. Basically, the process just encourages snipped pieces of the mother plant to grow roots and develop into mature plants that are genetically identical to the parent. Cuttings that will sprout roots include leaves, stems and even small branches.  The specific material to snip and the best time of year to do so varies with the type of plant being cloned.

For virtually all plant cloning, the percentage of cutting that “take” or develop roots improves with the use of cloning gel. This material coats the cut edge to avoid air drying and prevents air bubbles from forming in the stems, blocking critical moisture uptake. Cloning gel formula also incorporates plant hormones that encourage root development, providing a boost to the activities that might occur naturally under ideal circumstances.

To clone a plant, simply snip, dip the cut portion into cloning gel, slip the cutting into seed starting medium, cover with a loose tent of plastic to keep the humidity levels fairly high and wait. Rooting takes 3 to 15 weeks, depending on the type of plant you’re cloning. Soft stemmed plants are on the shorter end of that range while woody plants typically take longer. A gentle tug on the cutting helps determine if roots have developed.

Here’s a starter list of plants that clone easily: African violets, asters, basil, begonias, bellflowers, coleus, geraniums (pelargoniums), hoya, impatience, ivies, lemon verbena, mints, oregano, rosemary, salvias, succulents, thyme and tomatoes.  Readily cloned shrubs include lilacs, butterfly bushes (buddleia), crepe myrtles, forsythia, gardenias, mock orange, mophead hydrangeas and more. Search online for cultivar-specific cloning information to learn about the best seasonal timing for taking cuttings and any special varietial requirements.

And, in case you’re wondering, yes, there’s now a small lilac bush in my backyard, a genetic twin of my friend’s plant and a little preserved piece of horticultural history. It’ll be a few years before the bush is mature enough to flower. That’s okay. Anticipation serves to whet the appetite

Click here for natural and effective cloning gel.

10/23/2013    Flower Gardening & Design Tips, Gardening Know-How