Home Propagation (Beginners)

Learn to propagate plants - practical course -developed by John Mason, nurseryman, horticulturist for 50 years; author of several books on propagation.

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

  • Save money
  • Grow the plants that you want
  • Propagating plants is a rewarding hobby
  • Use your new knowledge to start a business

An average home garden can contain over 300 plants, and with the average plant costing up to $10.00 or more; it is easy to see how a lot of money can be saved by learning to propagate your own. Plants don't last forever either; so an initial cost of $3,000 to plant out a garden can continue eating into your budget year after year, as old plants die or go our of favour and need replacing

Foe some, propagating plants may be purely a way to save money; for others it can develop into a rewarding hobby, or even a profitable small business

“Learning about propagating your own plants will save you loads of money and give you a great hobby. Some of the toughest and most beautiful gardens I have seen were created with home made cuttings. Horticultural experts will show you how.” - Tracey Morris Dip.Hort., Cert.Hort., Cert III Organic Farming, ACS Tutor.

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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Obtain leaflets or catalogues plus prices for a range of plant containers.
  • Obtain samples of at least 6 different potting soil components and make up a mix which could be used for general potting of outdoor shrubs and trees into 6 inch pots.
  • Collect samples of at least six types of plant labels.
  • Collect at least three different types of seed to plant and germinate.
  • Obtain catalogues or price lists from at least six companies or organisations which supply seed.
  • Put in cuttings of at least three different types of plants.
  • Use diagrams to explain how you would grow four different cuttings.
  • Contact a bulb or herb farm to research the type of propagation program they have.
  • Carry out aerial layering.
  • Practice budding and grafting.
  • Prepare a work schedule for a propagation set up.
  • Design the layout for a new nursery or propagation area which would be ideal for your purposes.

Learn How Plants are Propagated?

There are many different ways of producing plants though most plants are produced commercially by either seed or cutting propagation. ‘Tissue culture’ or ‘micropropagation’ techniques carried out in a laboratory are sometimes used where very large numbers of one plant variety are required quickly, or where limited propagation stock is available. Other plants (eg. roses, deciduous fruit and ornamental trees) are traditionally produced by budding and grafting onto seed or cutting grown rootstocks. Division and separation are commonly used for the propagation of bulbs and herbaceous perennials.

Other propagation techniques (eg. layering or marcotting) may be important in the propagation of some specific types of plants; however they are relatively insignificant when taking a broad view of the nursery industry.




Sexual propagation involves growing a plant from a seed or spore which has been produced by fertilization of the female part of a plant by the male part. Plants grown this way can have some characteristics of one parent and some characteristics from the other parent. A sexually propagated plant is not always exactly the same as the plant from which the seed or spores were taken. Most flowering annuals, vegetables, biennials and perennials are grown this way. Ferns and some trees and shrubs are also propagated sexually in the nursery industry.


Asexual or vegetative propagation involves producing a new plant from only one parent. A part of an existing plant such as a piece of stem, leaf or root, is treated in some way so that it can produce a new plant. In asexual propagation, the parent plant and offspring are genetically identical. A range of techniques can be used for asexuall propagation.



Runners are shoots that grow along the ground from axillary buds and produce roots at the nodes. Plants such as strawberries are produced from runners.



Suckers are new shoots that develop from the root of the parent plant. Suckers can be divided when they have developed independent root systems. Plants such as raspberries can be produced from suckers.



Layering is the process of producing roots on the stem of a plant. There are several forms of layering:

  • Tip layering is the development of roots on the growing tips of stems. This form is used to propagate blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry;
  • Simple layering is the development of roots along growing stems. This form is used to propagate honeysuckle, filbert, spiraea, rhododendron, magnolia;
  • Trench layering or etiolation layering involves pegging down new shoots so that they develop roots. This method is used for fruits and nuts such as apple, pear, filbert, walnut;
  • Mound or stool layering involves burying the bulk of the parent plant so that roots form along the stems. This method is used for apple stock, cherry stock, currant.;
  • Air Layering is the development of roots on aerial stems through specific management methods. This technique is utilised for figs, monstera, philodendron, camellia, rhododendron, azalea, holly, magnolia, lilac;
  • Compound layering is the process of producing layers multiple times along the one shoot. This method is used for grape, philodendron, wisteria, magnolia , lilac.



New bulbs and corms produced vegetatively are separated from the parent plants to provide new propagation stock.

  • Bulbs: Hyacinth, lily, narcissus, tulip;
  • Corms: Gladiolus, crocus.



Particular root structures such as rhizomes, tubers, and clumping crowns are suitable for division.

  • Rhizomes: canna, iris;
  • Offsets: leek, pineapple, date;
  • Tubers: potato, dahlia;
  • Crowns: phlox.



This involves taking a section of stem from one plant and attaching it to another plant in such a way that the two will grow together. Grafting enables you to change the variety of an existing plant. (ie: By attaching a variety which you want to an existing root system you can remove the old top and have a plant comprising the roots of one variety and the top of another). Plants which can be grafted include apples, pear, peach, almond, citrus, avocado, camellia, ash, birch, elm, walnut.



A cutting is a piece of root, stem or leaf which has been treated in a way that stimulates it to grow roots, stems and leaves; hence producing another new plant. Whilst there are different types of cuttings, the majority of cuttings are pieces of stem, often with some leaves left at the top.

Cutting propagation can be carried out on a very wide variety of plants, and second to seed propagation, it is the most commonly used method of producing new plants. Cutting propagation is most commonly used for shrubs, indoor plants and many herbaceous perennials.


  • Save Money - a home garden can use well over 1,000 plants.
  • Increase your success rate - plants that are propagates on your property are acclimatised to your property, and often more likely to succeed when planted
  • It's fun
  • Propagating can be very satisfying - it can easily become a passion
  • It is therapeutic - neurological research shows that connecting with nature can lower stress, not to mention the physical exercise benefits
  • Make money - sell any excess plants; or give them away
  • Develop a skill - if you get really good - home propagation can lead to a job or a business of your own. 
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's

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Course Contributors

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

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Leading horticultural expert in Australia.
Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.
She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.
In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others.
Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing

Jacinda Cole (Horticulturist)

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer.
She was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up her own landscaping firm. She spent three years working in our Gold Coast office, as a tutor and writer for Your Backyard (gardening magazine) which we produced monthly for a Sydney punlisher between 1999 and 2003. Since then, Jacinda has contributed regularly to many magazines, co authored several gardening books and is currently one of the "garden experts" writing regularly for the "green living" magazine "Home Grown".

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