Propagation’s the name of the game

Coffee beans germinating.
Coffee beans germinating.

Propagating your own plants brings not only a sense of achievement, but also saves money, as those who practice the art whenever an opportunity arises will confirm.

If you thought this activity was confined to summer only, then think again. It’s possible whenever the material is available and that is year-round.

Propagation material.

Propagation material.

One of the best chances you’ll ever get to transform bits and pieces into living plants is right now while celebrating Christmas and the dawn of a new year.

Instead of binning all the pips, stones, seeds and living tissue consumed during this seasonal feast, consider how they can be transformed into ornamental, even fruiting plants, absolutely free of charge.

If you are as selective as you should be when handling fruits on display, the freshest pineapple with least damaged topknot will have been placed in the basket. After removing this with a sharp knife, peel off some lower leaves then plant the bare stem portion in a pot of moist, gritty compost, and stand it in a warm, well-lit room to root. Grow the developing plant on in a bigger pot and anticipate fruits eventually.

Encouraging roots to develop on the large stone (correctly called a pit) at the heart of an avocado pear requires a little patience, but does work. All you need is a receptacle that holds water, say a glass tumbler, and three cocktail sticks. First of all soak the stone in warm water for one day then insert the sticks equidistant around the centre to hold it in position. The pointed end must face upward. This will eventually open at the tip allowing a shoot to emerge. The rounded base must be constantly submerged in the water which should be changed weekly. Add a piece of charcoal to keep it sweet.

Peanut seedlings.

Peanut seedlings.

Transferring into a pot with compost comes when a root system is established.

Really hard seeds, eg, date stones, benefit from soaking for 24 hours in water prior to being sown. For them I use water that is just off the boil. Coffee beans also respond to a day in water which is initially tepid. Both appreciate a little extra heat to initiate germination, just a notch above 20 Celsius being ideal.

My coffee beans are collected fresh from the plant. I doubt if those that have been roasted are capable of germination. We have two mature plants in the conservatory that stand eight foot tall. They crop regularly. After the white, fragrant flowers have gone, green fruits develop. When these eventually change to darkest brown, it indicates ripeness. After peeling the outer skin, there is an inner membrane which envelops a pair of beans. These are sown in compost, 10 to a small pot. We allow up to one month for signs of germination and pot the seedlings up individually when their roots peep through the drainage holes.

Whether you’ve bought them for your own consumption or that of the birds, peanuts, monkey nuts, groundnuts, call them what you will, are capable of germinating and turning into an attractive annual plant. They will even produce a crop. You can sow them without the shell, but I’ve had greater success by cracking it open to encourage moisture ingress and planting the whole lot. The best results follow planting into a large pot or deep tray of gritty compost. This is because it is open and allows for ease of penetration when the developing peanut plants its own crop.

The foliage is attractive and similar to that of clover because it is a leguminous plant. The flowers are yellow and as they fade, changing into pods, the shoot turns downwards burying them below ground. When all the top growth fades, there is elation as we get our hands into the compost and unearth new peanuts in their shells.