Where do new plants come from?

Have you ever wondered where new plants come from? I have.

With today’s technology, plants can be engineered to look and perform a special way. Plants created this way are called Transgenic plants, GMO’s and Cisgenic plants. (Visit Wikipedia for more information about these types of plants)

I am not going to go into the artificial manipulation of genetic material to produce a new plant. I don’t have too; it happens naturally!

Variegated plants are called chimeras but other plants may have abnormal growths called sports. The basic explanation of variegation is the lack of chlorophyll causes a discoloration in the leaves of the plant. This discoloration is what we call the variegation. This variegation will not carry through to the seeds. Seedlings will grow with the normal coloring of the parent plant. Sports are typically a stem, branch or other part of a plant that is growing differently than the parent. Some sports have very desirable traits and are propagated to maintain the traits and produce more plants with the same characteristics. For example, the nectarine is a sport from a peach tree.

So how do we get a new plants if not from seed?

Typically cuttings or division, depending on the plant. If the variegation is on a tree or shrub, cuttings would normally be used to create new plants that would have the variegation. The cutting is allowed to grow and more cuttings taken. For herbaceous plants like Hosta, dividing the plant is typically the method used. Continually growing and dividing  the plant results in the variegation being retained. However, even after all this work is done, the desirable traits may revert back to the original characteristics of the parent plant. This is one reason it takes a very long time to get a new plant to market. (Don’t get me going on patenting plants, another reason it takes a long time, and something I don’t personally believe in…) Once there is enough quantity of a plant, the propagator can then bring it to market.

Here are a few pictures I have taken over the years of plants I have found that had sports or variegation. Unfortunately, I did not get to propagate any of the plants. The only plant I have access to now is the Hosta. The privet was at an old job and the maple was unfortunately cut down by my neighbor. I would have liked to see what would have happened to those plants if I had propagated them.

Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Hosta variegation

variegation on privet

Variegated maple leaf

And here is a picture of my favorite lilac. It is called Sensation. It is patented, so no propagation allowed without paying a royalty! I assume it is a form of variegation but it may well have been a sport, I am not sure.

Sensation® Lilac

Stunning isn’t it?
And for those of you who want your own Sensation Lilac…

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