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Both plants and people can propagate through sexual reproduction, but obviously, this isn't true of asexual propagation: A severed human toe doesn't sprout a new person, nor does the person sprout a new toe!
Here we'll describe the most common types of asexual propagation methods used in the classroom setting: cuttings and division.Cuttings
Taking a cutting involves removing a piece of a leaf, stem or root and placing it in a growing medium where it then develops the other parts that it left behind (i.e., a stem will then grow roots, a root will then grow a stem).
Rates of success with cuttings generally are lower than seed germination rates. For the best chance of success:Take cuttings with clean instruments Place them in moist, sterile, soilless potting mix Choose plants that root easily (see table below)
Cuttings of some plants root easily in vases of water, but others will rot before making roots if you place them directly in water. Pot those stem cuttings, as well as any root and leaf cuttings, in soilless potting mix. Listed in the table below are plants that grow well from cuttings and should provide you with a good success rate even in tough classroom conditions.
Have your rooting medium set up before taking cuttings. Use clean scissors and make sure that each cutting measures 4 to 6 inches long and has at least 4 leaves. Remove the bottom leaves from the cutting and immediately insert it in water or soil.Caring for Cuttings
Cuttings need high humidity and warm temperatures to help them grow. Nursery professionals have mist beds that spray cuttings intermittently throughout the day to keep humidity high. You can create a similar effect by creating a tent with clear plastic wrap and then misting cuttings throughout the day with a spray bottle to keep the soil and the air around the cutting moist -- but not soaking wet. To make the tent, prop the plastic wrap off the surface of the planting mix and plant parts using popscicle sticks or other 'posts.' As soon as your plants establish a few roots (you can check by very gently tugging on the cutting to see if there is any resistance) you can remove moisture tents. You'll need to experiment to find the perfect balance for the humidity levels in your classroom.
Most of the plants listed in the table above root within a few weeks, but cuttings of some plants can take weeks or even months to develop the missing parts. Monitor plants regularly to check on progress. Are new leaves appearing? If the cutting is in water, can you see roots growing?
Further exploration: If your students have ever planted potato tubers, they'...