Learn how to propagate plants at home; for your own garden, as gifts for friends or as an extra income source that may perhaps develop into a profitable family business.

Course Code: AHT106
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Propagate Plants

  • A great hobby
  • Get a real buzz from doing it yourself
  • Save more money than you might realise when you don't have to buy your plants
  • Produce great gifts for friends and relatives
  • Sell your excess

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Methods of Propagation
    • Propagation methods - sexual and asexual
    • Plant classification
    • Decisions before starting
    • Propagating in pots or the ground
    • Growth stages
  2. Propagating Structures and Techniques
    • Growing in a greenhouse
    • What can you grow?
    • Types of greenhouses
    • Heated or unheated
    • Siting a greenhouse -orientation, benches
    • Cold frames
    • Heated propagators
    • Shade houses - gable, flat roofed, flat arched, tunnel
  3. Propagating Materials
    • Common propagation media mixes
    • Components - vermiculite, perlite, sand
    • Rockwool
    • Peat
    • Potting media
    • Potting soil mixes
    • Pine bark
    • Factors affecting fertiliser application - cation exchange capacity, pH
    • Propagation containers
    • Containers for potting up plants
    • Propagation tools - secateurs, knives
  4. Seed Propagation
    • Introduction to seed propagation
    • Collecting and handling seed
    • Cross pollination
    • Disease
    • Desiccation
    • Time to collect seed
    • Germination fundamentals
    • Germination treatments - soaking, chilling, burning
    • Stimulating germination
    • Hygiene
    • Where to sow seed - containers, open bed, protected bed
    • Storing seeds
    • Seed storage viability factors
    • Types of seed storage -open, dry, cold, cold moist
    • Handling seedlings - watering, disease control, thinning, environmental control, transplanting
    • Pricking out or tubing seedlings
    • Propagating ferns from spore
  5. Propagating by Cuttings
    • Introduction
    • Why cuttings
    • How to propagate a cutting
    • Types of cuttings - the area of plant tissue used, the tenderness or age of tissue
    • Softwood cuttings
    • Semi hardwood cuttings
    • Hardwood cuttings
    • Treatment of the cutting
    • Herbaceous cuttings
    • Tip cuttings
    • Heel cuttings
    • Nodal cuttings
    • Basal cuttings
    • Cane cuttings
    • Root cuttings
    • Leaf cuttings
    • Other cuttings
    • Stock plants
    • Hormone treatment alternatives - auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins
    • Improving strike rate
    • How to maintain plants in pots -Potting, Feeding, Watering
    • Ventilation, light temperature
    • Growing on areas
    • Hardening off rooted cuttings
    • Labels
  6. Miscellaneous Propagating Techniques
    • Layering
    • Types of layering - tip, mound, simple, compound, aerial
    • Natural layering - suckers, runners, offsets, crowns
    • Using parts of specialised stems and roots to propagate
    • Propagating bulbs from offsets
    • Bulblet formation on scales
    • Stem cuttings
    • Bulbils
    • Basal cuttage and scooping
    • Corm division
    • Tuber division
    • Culm cuttings
    • Pseudobulbs
    • Division of orchids
    • Dividing and separating perennials
    • Tissue culture
  7. Budding and Grafting
    • Reasons for budding and grafting
    • How a graft forms
    • Factors influencing graft healing - compatibility, temperature, moisture, polarity, etc
    • Carpentry of grafting
    • What can be grafted onto what
    • Types of grafts
    • Budding
    • Whip and Tongue graft
    • Top graft and side graft
    • Approach graft
    • Other graft types - nurse seed, irrigated, root
    • Lilac grafting
    • Soft tissue grafting
    • Grafting tapes
  8. Propagation of Specific Plants
    • Choosing species to propagate
    • Nursery Management
    • Specialist nurseries
    • Typical propagation methods for selected plants
  9. Layout and Organisation of a Propagating Area
    • Plants and water
    • Understanding water excess and deficiency
    • Greenhouse irrigation methods
    • Runoff and leachate
    • Irrigation practices
    • Irrigation systems for propagation
    • Pulse watering
    • Water cans
    • Pest and Disease management - cleanliness, U.C. system, IPM
    • Diseases
    • Pests
    • Nursery nutrition
    • Plant modification methods


  • Outline the principles of propagating plants by cuttings.
  • Describe methods of stem cutting propagation.
  • Describe how to propagate plants from non-stem cuttings.
  • Describe the materials and equipment used for propagating plants from stems.
  • Describe a range of growing media and their general characteristics.
  • Describe how and why cuttings form roots and outline ways to manipulate the formation of roots on cuttings.
  • Describe the principles for establishing successful plant propagation areas.
  • Outline the principles of nursery scheduling.


Different plants are propagated different ways. Sometimes your choice of propagation method is made because it is the only way to reproduce that plant species, but on other occasions there may be a different reason (eg. it may be the most reliable, fastest or cheapest method, or the method that produces a better quality plant).

Most plants are propagated most often by either seed or cuttings. Other methods such as division may result in fewer losses, but may be more labour intensive or not suited to producing large numbers of plants. Some methods (eg. tissue culture), can produce large quantities of plants, but could require a big financial investment in equipment.


Propagating Seed

Propagating plants from seeds is called asexual propagation. It is cheap and simple, and because of this, many more plants are produced from seed then by any other method. Seeds however can be variable in other words they may not always be a replica of the parent plant there could be variations, sometimes only slight. The growth habit and colour may vary between plants grown from the same batch of seeds. This is brought about by a random combination of genetic material from the parents. The genetic make-up of each seed is unique. Plant breeders cross-pollinate plants that are genetically different deliberately in order to find interesting features this produces new varieties or cultivars.
Some plants (various vegetable and flowers), produce seeds that are reliably ‘true to type’ (an example is the Grosse Lisse tomato); but others do not (e.g. flower colours may vary from the parent).
Be aware of the following points:

  • Seed-grown plants are often different from their parents.
  • Not all plants are grown easily from seed.
  • Often seed must experience a certain set of environmental conditions before it will germinate.
  • Seed and very young seedlings are more susceptible to disease attack or adverse environments than any other type of plant.
  • Seeds have their own store of food to support the new plant in its early stages of life; they don't need fertiliser.
  • Some seeds will store easily, while others need very special conditions.


Propagating Cuttings

Cuttings are pieces of plant, commonly a stem with a few leaves (but sometimes other parts), which are prepared and treated in a way that encourages them to grow into a new plant.

The most critical decisions are:

  • What medium (e.g. potting mix) do you plant the cuttings into?
  • How should the cutting be treated as it is forming roots?
  • What environment should be provided after you plant them?

There are many different alternatives to each of these three questions.
Most cuttings are pieces of stem, often with some leaves left at the top of the stem. Some plants can be grown from cuttings of other tissue (e.g. a piece of leaf, or section of root, or even part of a bulb, with no stem at all).

Cuttings are usually planted into a mix of freely draining materials such as sand, peat moss, perlite, rock-wool or vermiculite in a plastic pot or tray. Part of the tissue is usually below the surface of the mix, and some exposed above the surface. There are other alternatives – such as planting directly into beds of soil in the open.

Most cuttings need to be kept moist but not excessively wet. Softer tissue is more susceptible to drying out; so needs to be kept in a more humid environment; this can be done by either misting cuttings or putting a plastic or glass cover over them). Some cuttings may need to be shaded. Others may benefit from applications of fertiliser, after the roots have started to form (there is no benefit before the roots form).
Other conditions such as light, temperature and hygiene should be kept appropriate to the requirements of the variety of plant being grown. For most pots of cuttings, the ideal environment is on a clean bench in a greenhouse, where temperature, humidity and hygiene is strictly controlled. For some plants though, cuttings can be struck just as easily in an unheated cold frame or in the open ground, with or without some protection (e.g. a cloche, shade or windbreak). Amateur gardeners often do well placing pots of cuttings on a warm window ledge or an enclosed veranda in their home. The most important requirement is usually to protect the cuttings from excessive heat or cold.

Other things that can be done to enhance development of the cutting will either speed the rate of growth, or improve the percentage of cuttings that succeed. Chemical hormones may be applied to stimulate the formation of either roots, or foliage/shoot growth. Pesticides or disinfectants may be used to prevent diseases or pests. Heating may be used to warm the root zone (i.e. bottom heat), to encourage faster growth of roots; or periodic misting of the foliage to cool the top of the plant, or prevent dehydration of the foliage.

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Accredited ACS Global Partner

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason has been a member of the International Society of Horticultural Science, since 2003

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

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