Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!


Reproduction and cloning

Cloning methods in plants

People may want to clone a plant deliberately. Cloning of plants has many important commercial implications. It allows a successful variety of a plant to be produced commercially and cheaply on a massive scale in a short space of time.


The simplest way to clone a plant involves taking a cutting. A branch from the parent plant is cut off, its lower leaves removed and the stem planted in damp compost. Plant hormoneshormones: Chemical messengers produced in glands and carried by the blood to specific organs in the body are often used to encourage new roots to develop. The cutting is usually covered in a clear plastic bag at this stage to keep it moist and warm. After a few weeks, new roots develop and a new plant is produced. The method is easy enough for most gardeners to do successfully.

Tissue culture

Another way of cloning plants is by tissue culture, which works not with cuttings but with tiny pieces from the parent plant. Sterile agar jelly with plant hormones and lots of nutrients is needed. This makes tissue culture more expensive and difficult to do than taking cuttings.

Cloning plants by tissue culture

Tissue culture involves the following steps:

  1. Small amounts of parent tissue or a number of cells are taken
  2. The plant material is transferred to plates containing sterile nutrient agar jelly
  3. Plant hormones are added to stimulate the cells to divide
  4. Cells grow rapidly into small masses of tissue
  5. More growth hormones are added to stimulate the growth of roots and stems
  6. The tiny plantlets are transferred into potting trays where they develop into plants

Back to Evolution and environment index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.