Spring is here and outdoor planting season is less than a month away. That means it's time to get your propagation gear together.
The textbook definition of propagation is the breeding of specimens of a plant or animal by natural processes from the parent stock. In our case, this means growing plants from clones or seeds.
When you're growing from clones or seeds, you can't always just plant them straight into the ground and expect them to grow. This is especially the case with clones which are more sensitive to their environment when they are young.
While seeds tend to be more hearty and durable than clones, getting them started in the best environment possible will always yield better results in the end.
Giving your seeds and clones the best environment possible is the key to successful propagation, and there's a few essentials that we recommend to do it right.
Simple and to the point, propagation trays are going to be the home of your young seeds and clones. Whether its single-celled trays or an open tray, you want a supportive structure to house your plants.
Which type of tray your use will depend on the medium you have, which we'll talk about later.
Just as important as the tray that holds your plants, is the dome that covers and protects them. Not only does a dome protect your seedlings and clones from the elements, but it helps to provide a proper environment.
Seedlings and clones crave higher humidity levels than more mature plants. Through feeding the plants and covering with the dome, you can create a more humid environment. With some domes allowing you to crack open the top without removing the dome, you can also stabilize humidity levels should they get too high.
Without propagation trays and domes, your seedlings and clones are going to have a much harder time acclimating before moving outdoors.
Once you have your trays, you need to choose your medium, or lack of one! No, we don't mean just throwing some seeds in an empty tray and waiting for the to sprout.
When we talk about "mediums" or "media", we're referring to the soil, soil-based or soilless product in which you will plant your seeds or clones. This includes your typical potting soils, soil-based fertilizers, "soilless" mediums like coco fiber, rockwool, perlite or other blends that don't contain soil.
If you want to save the hassle of choosing trays and mediums all together, you can grab the General Hydroponics Rapid Rooter tray which includes an organic medium to plant into.
There's plenty of online grow forum arguments to be made about which medium will work best for seedlings or clones, but it comes down to preference in the end. However where there isn't much debate, is what you need to give your plants to grow stronger.
Clones and seedlings both require special attention when they are fresh. When you're planting clones for example, they don't have any sort of root structure developed on their own to grow.
Seedlings have the benefit of developing their own root structure as they develop, but that doesn't mean your seedlings couldn't use more support either.
In the case of clones, a rooting solution like Clonex Rooting Gel is exactly what you need. It is a tenacious gel that stick to the stem of your clone, sealing the cut tissue and supplying the hormones needed to promote root cell development and vitamins to protect the delicate new root tissue.
You want to dip the stems of your clones into the rooting gel before planting into your tray, and you greatly increase their chances of survival.
Seeds on the other hand develop their own roots right from the beginning. They don't need the same help as clones, and when they're young you don't even need to use a rooting supplement.
However once your seedlings have developed some foliage you can use a light foliar spray to help them absorb more nutrients. You want to do the same for your clones to optimize growth.
It seems so obvious we almost forgot to include it! But throwing your clones or seedlings under your average ceiling light bulb isn't going to do the trick.
You also don't want to take the same light you use for your flowering plants and put it over your trays, it will be too hot to handle. Your seedlings and clones are so small when they're young that they can't take too much heat or light energy.
For this reason the optimal light, dependent on how many plants you're working with, is a T5 fixture. This type of light can cover a wide area with the light your plants need without getting too bright or hot. It's also not the only option.
If you want to take advantage of the latest in LED grow light technology that is taking over the industry, the Luxx Clone LED is designed to be the T5's LED replacement. The Luxx 18w Clone LED is 60% more efficient running off 18 watts, fully waterproof, and is rated for 54,000 hours.
While these are the essentials for getting started in propagation, it's just the beginning of the process. Your plants will grow and you will eventually need to transplant them into larger pots, and maybe even larger pots after that to achieve their full growth.
Your lights will change, you could transplant into a new medium, plus all of the maintenance that needs to be performed on your plants regularly!
In other words, plants require a lot of attention, and different types of attention at different stages of their lives. But propagation is the is the first step, and the most essential to ensuring your plants can make it to the next stage.
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