Plant Propagation via Tissue Culture is the most modern and scientific method of propagating new plants.
Plant propagation via tissue culture is a form of micro propagation where tiny pieces of plant tissue are used to produce exact clones of the plant from which the tissue originated. In the nursery business many plants are not grown from seed as most people think because the seeds collected from the desired plant will not produce an exact clone of that particular plant.
For instance, if you collect seeds from a Pink Dogwood tree and sow those seeds, the seedlings that you grow will be white flowering dogwoods, not pink. The chances of getting a Pink Dogwood tree from seed are probably one in a million I’d guess.
If that’s the case, then where did the first Pink Dogwood tree come from? From seed! The first Pink Dogwood tree was that one in a million plant that nurserymen dream of and many, many years ago when the first Pink Dogwood tree was spotted somebody was astute enough to make sure that particular tree was propagated via vegetative means so it could be reproduced many, many times over the years.
Then years later somebody found another dogwood seedling that flowered pink but this time the flowers were a much deeper pink and that particular tree was propagated via vegetative means so us plant lovers of today can enjoy Pink Dogwoods with deep pink blooms like the popular Cherokee Chief Pink Dogwood Tree.
In short, what I am trying to say is that most of the beautiful landscape plants that we enjoy today cannot be grown from seed, they have to be grown from a cutting, a single bud via budding, or a scion via grafting. All of these techniques involve collecting pieces of the parent plant and finding ways to either get the pieces to make their own roots, or attach those pieces to a rootstock that already has roots via budding or grafting.
But what’s important to understand is that in order to produce an exact clone of a plant must first remove tissue from that plant to make a new plant. Propagation by cuttings, budding, or grafting work well and those three techniques have been in use for hundreds of years. However, you can only collect so many cuttings, buds, or scions from from a single plant.
Then along comes a scientific process known as tissue culture.
With tissue culture you can collect a very small amount of tissue from the parent plant and using scientific strategies performed in an actual laboratory, you can actually trick that tissue into multiplying itself exponentially creating thousands and thousands of new plants at one time.
The process makes me think of splitting the atom. I’m about the farthest thing you’ll ever see from a scientist so I’m not sure that I can even explain this and make you understand. Basically it’s like making test tube babies by the tens of thousands.
Of course the tiny plants that you produce in a tissue culture lab are really, really tiny and they have to be cared for in a very sterile environment until they are strong enough to enter the real world as I say! I think of these tiny plants much like you would a really, really premature baby.
Everything about tissue culture is very, very scientific and it involves complicated chemical compounds etc. When done correctly a tissue culture lab can crank out plants faster than the industry could ever find a place for them. In many cases it can also crank out plants that are superior to plants that are grown by more traditional means. Plants that are more disease resistant, have better branching etc.
But then again, because you are creating exact clones, you might crank out a bunch of plants that are all vulnerable to some kind of a virus that could wipe them all out.
What I do know is that certain kinds of plants are commonly produced in tissue culture labs today, but most nurseries still rely on the old fashioned methods of in house plant propagation.
Years ago one of our more progressive local growers invested a significant amount of money to build a tissue culture lab at their nursery. After about three frustrating years of trying to make that lab do what they expected it today the closed it up and walked away from it. And this nursery is one of the most progressive plant propagation nurseries in this area, and they could not make it work for them without all kinds of issues and frustrations.
In other words, tissue culture is best performed by scientists.