Aquaponics cuttings work very well since the aquaponics environment offers moisture, nutrients and a good aeration. You will find here my recommendations to improve your success rate.
Different ways to propagate plants:
1 Sexual propagation
We use this technique in aquaponics. if your grow-bed media is fine (less than 10mm), then you can sow seeds directly on the media. If your grow-bed media is large, then you must sow your seeds in a separate propagation tray. You will be able to move the seedlings once they are well developped.
2 Vegetative propagation techniques (cloning)
If you are growing strawberries, you may have noticed that they produce runners. you can cover the base of the buds with media and roots will grow. This technique also works from branches on shrubs. It is a free way to reproduce plants. Unfortunately, it is not practical with all plants in aquaponics.
This technique consist of cutting a branch and place it in a moist environment to allow roots to develop. Gardeners often use vases filled with water. However, with aquaponics we have a clear advantage. The media is moist, aerated and rich in nutrients. Exactly what a plant need to develop nice roots! This technique is very efficient and completely free!
The plant hormone responsible for root development is the axin. in contact with axin and placed in the good conditions, the plant cells will grow roots. The more hormones, the more chances you have to develop your cuttings into a new plant. Hormones are not spread evenly in the plants. The largest concentrations of axin is in the plant apex, extremities and buds. The base of leaves are generally an area where new branches will grow. Hence, micro buds are often in development in those area. Be aware of this when you prepare your cuttings.
How to prepare your aquaponics cuttings
Cut the plant branch 10 to 20 cm below the extremity (depending on plant species). Then take the branch in your hand and cut exactly at the base of the first leaves. As a result, the extremity of your cutting contains a high concentration of rooting hormones. You can now remove the first leaves from the base to allow 4 cm without any leaf. Your cutting is now ready to be “planted” in your aquaponics grow-bed. Be careful to not bury the cutting too deep. Your aquaponics grow-bed has the first 3 cm of media dry. Hence, you can position your cutting 4 cm deep. Just enough to have access to the moist and nutritious environment but not too much to avoid rotting.
Fungus are a threat for cuttings. a cutting has by definition a large wound at his base. This opening is an entrance point for disease. Fungus will make your cutting wilt and mold. Hence, the aim is to keep the opening as small as possible. We must keep this in mind and act on 2 things:
1. The cutting by itself, it must be a clear and net cut. The tool must cut well. if you want to put all chances on your side you can also sterilize the blade.
2. When we plant our cuttings, we must not push the cutting through the media. It would damage the extremity and offer more opportunity for fungus to reach the cutting. Instead, we take a little stick and make a hole in the media. Then only, we can slide the cutting into the hole and push the media back, in contact to the branch.
Temperature, a large factor
For a plant to grow, all factors must be met. As explained in the aquaponics plants guide, sunlight and temperature are very important. Hence, if we want to increase the chances of our cuttings to grow roots, we can consider the following:
Do the cuttings at the good season. Spring and summer are the best periods.
Plant the cuttings in the front of the grow-bed (sun exposed).
If your aquaponics system is in a greenhouse, this is perfect. If not, you have the possibility to cut a plastic bottle on top of each cuttings. It will act as a mini greenhouse. Maintaining a warm temperature all day long.
Don’t make this mistake!
It is common to see gardeners using rooting hormones in order to increase the chances of success. homemade mixes are sometimes applied with limited effects. Honey is one of the substances often described but I don’t know of any study proving the positive effect.
Also, rooting hormone products found in garden shops are not always what you would think… Sometimes the rooting hormones are a mix of the hormone with fungicides. Fungicides could have a very negative impact on your aquaponics ecosystem. Hence, I would recommend to not use rooting hormones in aquaponics. If you do, make sure they don’t contain fungicides.
What type of plants make a good aquaponics cuttings?
Most shrubs do very good cuttings in aquaponics. However, make sure to select softwood cuttings and not hardwood cuttings. grape vines, jasmine, fig trees are perfect trees to make cuttings.
In terms of fruit plants, most of them will offer very good cuttings. The one I have the most experience with is tomato.
Flowers are also giving excellent results. among them we have the geranium, roses and begonias.
If you are starting your cuttings, mint is one of the easiest ones to propagate by cuttings.
At the moment I am experimenting native plants 🙂
What surprised me…
Some plants are known to be less adapted to aquaponics. But I was surprised with the excellent results I obtained on succulent cuttings. That said, once the cutting has taken roots I don’t recommend to live it there for too long. Transfer it to a well drained garden.
A challenging transition
If it is easy to grow aquaponics cuttings, the transfer to a classic garden can be tricky. Indeed, the moist and nutritive environment offered by the aquaponics growbed is perfect. But a classic garden doesn’t offer all those advantages. The plant may have a choc. Hence, I recommend to keep an eye on your young plants during the next 2 weeks following the transfer. Don’t hesitate to water and keep the soil moist during this critical period.
If you follow the above recommendation, you will probably have a great success. Doing cuttings is a great way to obtain free plants and to create gift for your friends 🙂
Have fun doing your aquaponics cuttings. If you haven’t started aquaponics yet I recommend you to discover my six steps to build and manage an Aquaponics system. Click here to access for free! Thanks and good reading 🙂