En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - June 26, 2012

From: Columbia, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Planting, Propagation
Title: Propagating plant cuttings in cut potato from Columbia MO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello. I belong to a garden group and one of the members posted a "tip" she found in an early 2000 garden magazine. I wanted to see if there was any truth to the tip? Basically the tip was to use a potato to help propagate plant cuttings. Simply cut a tiny hole in the potato and stick your prepared cutting into it and supposedly, it will root. Other members said they had heard that the pioneers had used this trick to take rose cuttings from one place to another. Is there any truth to this? I've been searching the edu's and can't find anything and only a few mentions at "questionable" sites like "E-how". Thank you! Dea Hollembeak

ANSWER:

We are afraid we don't know any more about this than anyone else. It doesn't involve native plants (no, not even the potato) so it's pretty far out of the realm of our expertise.

We went to our favorite website on taking cuttings from North Carolina State University Information on Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings and it certainly made no mention of potatoes. As we read the article, we noted it recommended keeping the cutting in the chosen medium enclosed in some way to retain moisture. My thinking is that, under those conditions, the first thing that would sprout would be the potato. We all know about leaving a potato too long in the bin and coming back to find it sprouting merrily. A raw potato is of a pretty dense texture and would not be receptive to small new rootlets. And it would sure be easier to use pots and medium designed for the purpose to propagate new plants from cuttings.

On the subject of transporting rose cuttings in potato halves in pioneer times, we have heard the same story. Since there was no Facebook or Internet in those days, we would relegate it to simply that, a story. A nice one, and certainly roses travelled from the Old World to the New World in some way, that sounds as good as any, since they couldn't go to a local nursery and buy pots and soil, or rose bushes. When we have all the resources we have now, we would recommend baking the potato and don't forget the sour cream.

 

More Planting Questions

Replacing non-native invasives with native grasses and wildflowers from Round Rock TX
April 04, 2012 - I have a small piece of property (1.5 AC) East of Austin, Texas that get's overgrown with weedy vegetation (johnson grass, dandelion, and some tall yellow flowering plant that I see all over the medi...
view the full question and answer

Shade trees for Spring TX
August 17, 2011 - Dear Mr.Pants, our west-facing backyard in Spring, Tx, is unbearable in this Summer's heat. Neither us nor the neighbors has any backyard trees established yet, as the subdivision is pretty new. C...
view the full question and answer

Moving "lily of the valley" from MD to TX. Is that OK?
January 17, 2012 - My question pertains to lily of the valley. From your database, I learned that it is a native plant but only the following states were listed: GA , KY , NC , PA , SC , TN , VA , WV. I am moving from...
view the full question and answer

Best preparation time for wildflower garden for summer
January 21, 2003 - Is it too late in late Fall to prepare a wildflower garden for next spring/summer?
view the full question and answer

Would like fast growing evergreen trees in Austin, TX.
October 31, 2012 - Hi, We're moving to Southwest Austin and would like to plant a cluster of pines (or cypress trees?) or other fast growing, large and tall evergreen trees. Any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center