Vegetative Propagation in Plants: Definition, Methods & Examples

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  • 0:00 You Don't Always Need Seeds
  • 0:50 Sexual and Asexual…
  • 2:05 Types of Vegetative…
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Catherine Konopka

Catherine has taught various college biology courses for 5 years at both 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology.

Have you ever wanted to start a garden, but didn't know how to start growing certain plants? In this lesson, you will learn about a few methods to start growing plants that all depend on vegetative propagation.

You Don't Always Need Seeds

A few years ago, I wanted to start growing rose bushes in my side yard. My neighbor was a master gardener and said he would give me some cuttings - basically some stems of a rose bush. I was so confused. Didn't I need seeds? Aren't all plants started from seeds?

If this scenario has happened to you, you're not alone. Many people have the misconception that the only way to start a new plant, in other words to propagate a plant, is to gather seeds from a female plant and then plant those seeds. This is an example of sexual reproduction. However, this is not the only way to propagate a plant. Other ways do not involve seeds and utilize asexual reproduction instead. When plants reproduce this way it is called vegetative propagation. Before we get into the types of vegetative propagation, let's first review the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction.

Sexual and Asexual Reproduction

It's likely that you are most familiar with sexual reproduction, so we'll start there. When humans reproduce, an egg cell and a sperm cell unite and a new organism is created. The egg and sperm are made by the females and males of the species, respectively. The new offspring is different from both its mother and its father due to the mixture of DNA.

Sexual reproduction in plants is very similar. A sperm cell (in the form of pollen) unites with an egg cell and a new organism is created. For many plants, the new organism is contained in a seed. A seed is similar to a baby human inside a womb. Given the right nutrients, it has everything it needs to grow into an adult plant. Just like all humans are the result of sexual reproduction, seeds are the result of sexual reproduction.

But unlike humans, plants can propagate using asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction happens whenever a new organism is made without going through the sperm-and-egg process of sexual reproduction. Because there is no mixture of two sets of DNA, the new organism is identical to the original organism. In other words, the child is identical to the parent. We say that the parent and child are clones because they have the same DNA.

Types of Vegetative Propagation

There are seven main ways of propagating a plant vegetatively:

1. Grafting is taking tissue from one plant and combining it with the tissue from another. This is done by cutting off a scion, or branch, from a species with desirable stems, leaves, and buds from one plant. Meanwhile, part of a branch is removed from a different species that has desirable roots. The scion is glued where the branch was removed. The scion gets nutrients from the roots of the second species. Commonly grafted plants are apple, peach, pear, and pecan trees and grapevines.

2. Layering is creating two plants getting roots to grow from a branch and cutting the connection from the parent plant. Branches, or stems of a plant, are bent downward while still attached to the parent plant and buried in the soil. Adventitious roots grow in the soil from the branch. Eventually, the branches cut off from the original plant and can grow on its own. This can be done with blackberry and bonsai plants.

3. Cutting is very similar to layering except that a branch with buds is completely removed (i.e. cut) from the parent plant. One end of the cutting is placed in soil. Adventitious roots grow from the buried end. It is one of the most popular forms of vegetative propagation and can be done with plum trees, pineapple plants, olives, roses, and fig trees.

4. Stolons, or runners, are above or below ground stem-like structures that connect one plant to another. Adventitious roots and a new plant can form from stolons. You can see this if you grow strawberry plants.

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