Starting a New Garden Inside

Starting a New Garden Inside

by Kim Tilley (editor(at)

Perhaps you don't want- or feel- like bringing in a jungle of a plant for the winter, or maybe you'd like to get a head start on next year by propagating and growing new plants over the winter. If they die, you can always start over again. Half the fun is trying! Here are a few methods of propagation, which you can use to start a new garden inside.


This is by far the easiest way to propagate, and you get an exact replica of the plant you are copying, instead of taking your chances with saved seed (we'll get to that later!) Most fleshy plants and tender, newer plant growth will root very easily. I've had great success with basil, begonias, coleus, impatients, tomatoes, and tomatillos. All of these plants will root in water or damp soil.

Coleus and basil are wonderful rooters- sit them in a glass of water, wait about 5 days, and you'll see tiny white root hairs sticking out of the bottom of the cuttings. Replant them and you have new plants that are more likely to be disease- and pest-free than the original they came from.

Tomatillos are also very easy to root. I grew these for fun one year. They grew very quickly from seed, and were very tall. A strong wind snapped both of my tomatillo plants in half one day, so I tucked the top halfs into the soil, hoping for a miracle. The tops grew very well, and just as quickly. I snapped off a few more branches from the original plants, and later that summer, had more tomatillos than I could handle!

Try your hand at all kinds of plants. If they don't root in water, try rooting them in a dampened seed starting mixture. Place a plastic bag over the entire pot, and let it sit in a dark corner. Once you see new growth, take the bag off, and water the mixture again. Give it some light (but don't overdo at first- it could get sunburned!)

I've heard of people rooting rose cuttings, but have never succeeded at it. I keep trying, knowing that someday I'll be able to propagate a garden of roses from one plant. Just be adventurous and persistent-you'll get the hang of it!

Root Starts

You can also start a new plant by digging up a piece of the old plant with a bit of root and root hairs attached. This method works well with groundcovers and other plants that spread quickly, such as creeping thyme, mints, lamb's ears, ajuga, vinca, mums, asters, and daisies.

Chrysanthemum trick: If you have a favorite mum or aster that you would like more of, try this method in the spring (the plant is too active in the fall): once the plant starts popping out of the ground, pull up small springs with roots attached, and transplant to other areas of the garden. You can get over 100 mums from one plant. I've done it several times, and have mums all over the place. It's highway robbery to buy them at the stores! Do that once if you have to, in order to get the colors and kinds you like, and then propagate them. You can even pot them up and give them to friends as gifts.

Tubers and Bulbs

Get a jump start on the holidays and laugh at Martha Stewart's prices by forcing your own bulbs and tubers from propagated plants. You can start entirely new plants from pieces of daylilies, tulips, hyacinths, and other beauties for next to nothing. Simply peel off the outer scales or bulblets and replant them in a pot. The bigger the scales or bulbets that you plant, the bigger the plant.

Christmas blooms- If you want your propagated bulbs to bloom for Christmas, they need a false winter (the fridge will work if you don't have fruit in there. Fruit gives off ethylene, which causes bulbs to sprout). You can bury the potted bulbs in a ditch, making sure to mark where they are buried. Leave them there for 4-6 weeks of cold weather, then dig them up, bring them in and water them. You can do this with any kind of flowering bulb-narcissus, daffodils, etc.

Daylily trick- You can make hundreds of plants from a few tubers by slicing a daylily tuber (root) vertically into many pieces, with roots hairs attached to each one. Replant in pots or in the garden for next year.

Garlic chives-Got a garlic bulb in the fridge that's sprouting? Plant it and snip off the green sprouts to flavor your food. Works fine with sprouting onions too.

Garden leftover salad-Bring in roots from the garden of vegetables you have already harvested- such as cabbage, rutabaga, lettuce, etc. Plant the roots in pots and treat as a houseplant. Before long, small leaves will appear on each root. You can snip these and use in salads. These "garden leftovers" are easily recycled to get a second crop. You can also try this with sprouted celeriac, fennel bulbs, even carrot tops (carrot leaves are good as a tea), but do NOT try this with potatoes of any kind. I don't think their leaves are edible. Better to be safe than sorry.

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