Propagation is the reproduction of plants, and is accomplished by two
different means. One is by
seeds or spores (the normal reproductive process of plants), the other
is by vegetative propagation,
which involves cuttings, layers, division, separation, or graftings. 


The seeds of many annuals will germinate (sprout) readily when sown
directly in the ground in
spring. Other plants have seeds with hard seedcoats or dormancies that
must be broken before they
will grow. Methods of doing so include: 

Nicking and Soaking: Large seeds often benefit from soaking in water
overnight or until swollen.
Some seeds, such as the mescal bean and large woodrose, will refuse to
swell unless the seed
coat is nicked or scratched first. With a knife, small file, or hacksaw
blade, scrape away a small
portion of the seedcoat on the side opposite the hilum or germ eye (the
small dent where the seed
sprouts). The hole should not be big, just large enough for water to
enter during soaking. 

When soaking any seed, be sure to plant it as soon as it is swollen, as
some seeds will drown if left for
long in the water. 

Stratification: Some seeds need to be stratified before they will
germinate. This process involves
placing the seed in damp peat moss or sand, and storing at a low
temperature until dormancy is

Chemicals: Chemicals are sometimes used for seeds with hard seedcoats
that are not affected by
stratification or soaking. In nature, these seeds have their coats
softened by the digestive juices of
birds and animals that eat them. Acids such as vinegar or sulfuric acid,
and alkalis like sodium
hypochlorite (Clorox) are used. The seeds must be thoroughly washed
after treatment. 

Scalding Seeds: Other hard-shelled seeds, particularly in the bean
family, are best treated with
boiling water. To do this, place the seeds in a teacup, and pour boiling
water over them. The water is
allowed to cool and the seeds are soaked until they swell. This may be
repeated with any seed that
does not swell after the first time. 

Peat Moss: This is a very good medium in which to sprout seeds. Put some
milled sphagnum moss
(peat moss) in a plastic bag. Add water and knead thoroughly until the
moss is uniformly damp. Fill a
shallow pan or aluminum pie tin about 1 inch deep with the damp moss.
Cover with plastic wrap, or a
sheet of glass. Seeds may be started on the surface of the moss or
buried in it; with or without bottom

Bottom Heat: This hastens germination of many seeds. To provide bottom
heat, take a strong
corrugated cardboard box and turn it upside down with a 40-watt light
inside. Cut slits or small holes
in the bottom to let the heat through to the flats or seed pans. Be sure
that the heat will not cook the
seedlings, as different seed pans or flats transmit different amounts of

When sowing seeds a general rule is to cover them with soil two or three
times their thickness. Very
small seeds, like coleus or tobacco, should be just slightly covered or
pressed into the surface.
Small seeds may also be mixed with sand to insure even distribution. 

The soil for all seeds should be light and porous. 

Seedlings should be transplanted after the second pair of true leaves
opens. Transplanting is
preferably done on a cool cloudy day. The transplant should be shaded
for several days. 


Hardwood Cuttings: These are cuttings of dormant twigs or stems of woody
plants. Such a cutting is
usually taken in fall or winter. There should be two to four nodes or
buds on the stem. This is inserted
at an angle in sand, peat moss, or a combination of the two, with only
the top bud projecting. It is
then left in a cool place where it will not freeze, for the duration of
winter. During this time the lower
end will heal over or callus. In the spring, it is planted in a sandy
soil where it will root readily,
especially if the lower buds are removed. 

Greenwood Cuttings: These are cuttings made of shoots of plants that are
mature enough to break
when bent sharply. These cuttings are rooted indoors in sand, gravel, or
sandy peat moss almost up
to the lower leaves. The lower leaves are often removed or cut to reduce
the area exposed to air and
so prevent wilting. The cuttings should have some leaves, though, as
this will help them to root faster.
They should be shaded and have gentle bottom heat. Many herbaceous
plants may be rooted in
water. When rooting this way, never place the cuttings in more than 2
inches of water, as deep water
does not absorb enough oxygen for good root development. If the cutting
wilts, clip the leaves in half
to reduce surface area, or placed a jar upside down over it. Rootone, a
rooting hormone, may be used
to hasten root growth. Plants from which cuttings are to be taken should
receive plenty of sunlight for
several days before the cutting is made. This builds up the sugar-energy
storage and improves the
success of the cutting. 

Root Cuttings: These may be taken from any plant that produces sprouts
from the roots. They are
made from roots the thickness of a pencil to 0.5 inch thick, and 3 to 5
inches long. They need not
show buds as buds will develop later. They are treated similarly to
hardwood cuttings except that in
the spring they are placed horizontally in the soil and entirely covered
to a depth, of 1 to 2 inches. 

Ground Layering: This is a method of rooting shoots while they are still
attached to the parent plant.
It is often used with plants whose cuttings refuse to root. Select a
low-growing branch that can be
bent to the ground. Make a slanting cut halfway through the branch at a
point about 12 inches from
the end, and just below a joint. Then wedge it open with a pebble. Bury
the cut in about 4 inches of
soil and anchor it with a stone. Stake up the end of the branch so that
it extends above the soil line.
Keep the soil moist, and carefully dig down to the cut every few months
to check if rooting has taken
place. Once rooted, the branch may be severed from the parent plant and
grown like an ordinary

Air Layering: This is similar to ground layering but may be done with
any branch. Select a branch
from pencil size up to 1 inch thick. Make a slanting cut halfway through
the branch. Wedge the cut
open with a matchstick and dust the cut lightly with rooting hormone.
With thick branches, a ring of
bark should be removed instead of cutting the branch. Surround it with a
handful of damp peat moss
and enclose it with plastic wrap. Tie the wrap at both ends with wire
tape. The peat moss should be
kept damp. Check it frequently during the summer. In a month or two
roots will form and the branch
may be severed and treated like an ordinary cutting. 

Division: This is the process of dividing plants that have root stocks
or tubers, or which produce
suckers (young plants rising from the base of the older plants). This
may be achieved by breaking up
large clumps of plants such as heliotrope, or cutting tubers or
rootstocks into sections containing
buds, as is done with potatoes or hops. Division is usually performed
during the dormant season. 

Separation: This is a form of division. It is the process of separating
bulblets from the main bulb in
the same way garlic is propagated, and setting them out to be new


When cultivating plants make sure that your soil has been well worked
and has been fertilized
properly. The addition of humus, sand, or compost assures a workable

Start seedlings in flats and transplant when a few leaves have formed.
Transplanting is best done on
an overcast, cool, cloudy or foggy day. Keep the roots intact as much as
possible and perform your
repotting swiftly and gently. Water thoroughly and shade the plant for a
few days. 

Do not overwater your plants. Water them thoroughly and deeply but
infrequently. The roots draw
upon water 1 foot or more below the surface; therefore the wetness of
the soil's surface is not
important. I have found that the most common cause of death among house
plants is overwatering. 

Volumes have been written on the basics of plant cultivation. Your local
library will have many good
books on the subject. 

Plants should be grown with joy in one's heart and with calmness in
one's actions. If you dislike your
plants or the responsibility they represent they will often refuse to

If you like your plants and treat them as your friends, they will
respond favorably and not mind as
much when you use them for your purposes. In controlled experiments
under laboratory conditions it
has been demonstrated that plants react to people's emotions. Plants
that were treated with affection
grew faster and larger than those that were not. 


The subject of pesticides is too involved to discuss here. A very good
pamphlet entitled "Pesticides
and Your Environment" has been put out by the National Wildlife
Federation (see Suppliers). It tells
sources of ladybugs, praying mantises, and lacewings (all beneficial
insects), gives information on
companion planting, and has lists of desirable and undesirable

This pamphlet suggests that nicotine sulfate not be used. This is due to
its highly poisonous nature,
rather than because of any damage to the environment. Otherwise this
insecticide has the advantage
that it evaporates completely, leaving no residue. 

Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol has been used as a spray, but it can "burn"
tender plants. If used it should
be tested on a few leaves first. If the leaves wither in a few days,
another pesticide must be used. 



Atropa belladonna L.;
Nightshade family (Solanaceae) 

A perennial branching herb growing to 5 feet tall, with 8 inch long
ovate leaves. The leaves in
first-year plants are larger than those of older plants. The flowers are
bell-shaped, blue-purple or
dull red, followed by a shiny, black or purple 0.5 inch berry. Native of
Europe and Asia. 

Cultivation and Propagation: Belladonna is hardy throughout the U.S.,
dying back in winter and rising
from the root in spring. It prefers a well-drained, well-limed soil in
full sun or part shade. The soil
should be kept moist at all times. Plants exposed to too much sun will
be stunted. In hot sunny areas it
may be grown between rows of beans to shade it. 

Belladonna is most frequently propagated by seed, sown in flats in early
March. Because the seeds
take 4-6 weeks to germinate, they should be started early. When the
seedlings are an inch or so high
they may be set out 18 inches apart. The seedlings should be well
watered just after transplanting,
and shaded for several days. First-year plants will grow only 1.5 feet
high and will flower in
September. At this time the leaves and tops may be collected, but the
plants should not be entirely
stripped. The plants should be thinned to 2.5 to 3 feet apart at the
approach of winter, or
overcrowding will occur the second year. In June of the second year the
plants may be cut to 1 inch
above the ground when they are in flower. In good years a second crop
will be ready for harvesting
in September. The roots may be harvested in the autumn of the fourth
year, and new plants set in
their places. Belladonna may also be propagated by cuttings of the green
branch tips. 

I have found that snails, aphids, and white flies are among this plant's
worst enemies. Small children
are much more susceptible to belladonna poisoning than adults, and
should be kept away from it. 

Harvesting: The parts harvested as described above should be dried
quickly in the sun. Wilted or
discolored leaves may be discarded, as they contain only small amounts
of alkaloids. 

  Additional information about Atropa belladonna may be found here 


  Areca catechu L.;
  Palm family (Palmaceae) 

  A very slender, graceful palm growing up to 100 feet tall but with a
  trunk only 6 inches in diameter.
  This is topped by a crown of three 6-foot-long leaves that are divided
  into many leaflets. The fruits
  are the size and shape of a hen's egg and are yellowish to scarlet
  with a fibrous covering. Native to

  Cultivation and Propagation: May be grown out of doors in California
  and Florida; must be grown in
  the greenhouse elsewhere. Young plants do well in a mixture of equal
  parts leaf-mold or peat and
  loam. Water at least every other day. If grown in the greenhouse, the
  temperature should be around
  80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and about 60 degrees Fahrenheit
  at night. 

  Harvesting: Betel nuts should be harvested when the fruits are ripe.
  The acorn-sized nut is removed
  and washed free of pulp. An adult tree may produce 250 nuts per year.

    Additional information about Areca catechu may be found here 


    Bean family (Leguminosae) 

    There is some confusion as to which is the most potent of the three
    species of brooms used for their
    psychotropic effects. According to the paper first reporting the
    discovery of the effects of these
    plants, the blossoms of Canary Island broom were the "most pleasant
    and effective" of the three.
    This is also the species used by Yaqui shamans. Some herbals claim
    that Spanish broom tops are five
    times as strong as Scotch broom, while other sources claim that the
    alkaloid content of the Scotch
    broom is higher than that of the other two. To clarify (or confuse)
    the issue, it has been found that
    alkaloid content varies with environment. 

    Canary Island Broom (Cytisus canariensis L., formerly Genista
    canariensis). A much-branched
    shrub to 6 feet tall with hairy branches, covered with bright green
    leaves divided into three leaflets.
    This is the only broom of the three that keeps its leaves through
    the year. It flowers from May to July,
    and is covered with many bright yellow blossoms in short racemes. It
    is damaged at 15 degrees
    Fahrenheit but it recovers quickly. Native to the Canary Islands. 

    Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius L.). A shrub to 10 feet with many
    erect, slender, almost leafless
    branches. The flowers are yellow, 0.75 inch long, and bloom from
    March to June. Native to central
    and southern Europe; naturalized in California and found sparingly
    in the East. 

    Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum L.). A shrub to 10 feet high with
    slender green branches and
    bearing a few small leaves. The flowers are yellow, 1 inch long, and
    fragrant, followed by 4 inch long
    pods. Blooms from June to September in most of the US. In California
    it flowers most of the year.
    Native to the Mediterranean region. 

    Cultivation and Propagation: The brooms need a well-drained soil and
    full sun. They often naturalize
    on dry, rocky slopes in the west. Scotch and Spanish broom are hardy
    everywhere except in the
    most northern states, while Canary Island broom is hardy only in the
    west and south. All are very

    Brooms are easily propagated by seeds, cuttings, and layers. Seeds
    may be started as early as
    January. They should be nicked and soaked until swollen before
    sowing. Seedlings should be
    transplanted carefully when young; they transplant well when older.
    Plants grown from seed will
    flower 1 year from sowing. Cuttings should be young growth taken
    with a heel in early spring or
    August and September. They should be rooted in sandy soil. When
    grown as a pot or tub plant, they
    should be pruned after flowering. They should be left outdoors from
    early spring until light frost in the
    fall. Brooms are subject to attack by the genista worm in southern
    California. These are difficult to
    control except with DDT. 

    Harvesting: Broom plants grown in full sun have a higher alkaloid
    content than those grown in the
    shade. The flowers should be gathered, aged in a sealed jar for 10
    days, and dried at a low heat. The
    aging greatly reduces the harshness of the smoke. The active
    flowering tops may be gathered in
    May and dried without aging. Any material from pruning may also be

      Additional information about the brooms may be found under the
      Cytisus and Spartium plant
      sections at the SDIZ. 


      Calliandra anomala (Kunth) Macbride;
      Bean family (Leguminosae) 

      Cultivation and Propagation: It may be grown out of doors in
      California and the South, and in the
      greenhouse in the North. It needs plenty of water and sunshine and
      will do well in a good garden soil.
      If grown indoors it should be pruned after blooming and set out of
      doors for the summer. 

      Propagation is by seeds, which may require nicking and soaking
      before germination will take
      place. When seeds are not available it may be propagated by
      cuttings taken with a heel and planted
      in sand over bottom heat. 

      Harvesting: Incisions are made in the bark in the early morning
      and the exuding resin is collected
      after several days, dried and pulverized. The incisions should be
      shallow and narrow so that they will
      heal quickly. Take care not to cut too deep as this may
      permanently damage the plant. 

	Additional information about Calliandra anomala may be found


	Acorus calamus L.;
	Arum family (Araceae) 

	A vigorous perennial herb growing up to 6 feet tall, composed of
	many long, slender, grasslike leaves
	up to 0.75 inch wide rising from a horizontal rootstock. The
	flowers are minute and greenish-yellow
	in color, occurring on a 4 inch long spike resembling a finger.
	The fruit is berrylike. Native to eastern
	North America, Europe and Asia. 

	Cultivation and Propagation: Calamus is hardy throughout the
	U.S. and much of Canada. It thrives
	best in a rich soil, but can be grown in shallow water on dry
	land. It is propagated by division of the
	rootstock in spring or fall. Pieces of the rhizome should be
	planted horizontally, an inch or two deep, a
	foot apart in each direction, with the leaf-shoots upward. They
	can be planted in marshes and at the
	edges of ponds and streams. They will do well in the garden if
	the soil is rich and is kept moist by
	frequent waterings. Formerly it was maintained that calamus
	would not flower unless its roots were
	submerged in water. This author, however, has seen many
	exceptions to this belief. 

	Harvesting: The rhizomes should be collected when two to three
	years old, in early spring before
	new growth, or in the late autumn. The leaves and rootlets
	should be removed and the rhizomes
	washed thoroughly. They should be dried without the application
	of heat. Upon drying, the rhizomes
	lose 70 to 75 percent of their weight, but improve in flavor and
	aroma. They should be stored in a cool
	dry place, as calamus deteriorates with age, heat and moisture.
	Also dried roots are often eaten by
	worms or small boring beetles. After a year or so of storage the
	roots have lost much of their active

	  Additional information about Acorus calamus may be found here.