Native Plant Propagation


Are you planning a restoration project?

Would you like to acquire plants at no or a very low cost?

Do you know of a construction project that will bulldoze native vegetation?


There are many native plants that can be salvaged.  The smaller the plant the more easily it will successfully salvage. Salvageable plants include ferns (all times of the year), trees less than 5 ft. tall,  (deciduous trees in fall after leaves drop.  Conifers are best moved in early fall after rains start or early winter), shrubs under 5 ft. (if deciduous, best moved in fall or winter).

Note that salvaged plants will need be stored or transplanted immediately and will have to be watered during summers for at least 2 years.  Larger trees may need 3 years of watering.  Water deeply every other week.  The soil should dry out a little between watering.  You want to develop deep root growth.


If you know of a construction site that you can salvage plants from but your restoration project is sometime in the future, or you have limited space, you may want to salvage by collecting seeds, stakes, or other propagation methods.

Make sure the plants are native. Salvage from sites that are similar to your restoration site, preferably in the same watershed. Check for similar elevation, sunlight (if they have partial sun and if they are in sunlight only a portion of the day) soils, hydrology, and plant communities that you want in your restoration site.


Quotes from volunteers who were involved in King County’s Native Plant Salvage Program!

"I like the idea of using native plants to do what nature intended. Salvaging is almost free, in these days of government waste, it is a novel idea."

"I like salvage program's use of native plants to improve our streams, water quality and fish improves the overall environment."



Washington Native Plant Society Policy On Collection


Salvage Operations

Conduct salvage projects only in sites that are scheduled for imminent destruction and only in conjunction with appropriate agencies or conservation organizations, in order to ensure that all avenues to provide protection to the site have been pursued. If the site is public land, maintaining contact will also ensure that necessary permits and documentation are obtained. If the site is private land, obtain prior permission of the landowner. Collect only from those portions of the site which will not remain natural. Use salvaged plants only for such purposes as relocation, public education, botanical research or documentation, or as propagation stock, and not to sell to the public.


In the event that a rare plant occurs within an area facing destruction, contact the Washington Natural Heritage Program. If a population is no longer going to be in existence, this information should be entered into their database. Voucher specimens from the site may also be desirable; contact the WNHP and/or herbaria regarding this matter. To the extent possible, the fate of the rescued plants should be documented. Rare plants should be relocated only under the guidance of a plan which has been reviewed and approved by appropriate agencies and individuals.



 Development Sites Check with local city and county planning departments. They should records of who has applied for building and other permits. In proposed large projects some planning departments conduct regular reviews of large within their area. The information is public.

Talk to your local planning departments to find out what applications must be filed and what permits issued before development can occur. Tell them about your interest in salvaging plants, this may help. Ask to see the applications. Get the contact information of the person seeking the permit. Call the landowners and tell them about your plan to salvage plants. Never go on the property until you receive permission from the right people. If the landowner will let you salvage then you can find out exactly where on the site they are removing the vegetation. If a contractor is already involved, you may also need to talk to them and coordinate your activity so you don't place yourself at risk or interfere with their work. CHN_Badalin_2003_09_27...


Road-widening Projects
Salvaging plants from road widening projects isn’t as preferred as the development sites since there are many invasive plants that may be establish themselves on the roadside. You can find out about road widening projects from the city and county roads departments, and the state Department of Transportation. You will need to get permission to salvage, usually from the contractor doing the work or from the agency planning the widening.

Note: Do not salvage from projected clear cutting sites most native plants can survive timber harvesting, and collecting plants from the site will reduce the number of plants available to revegetate the area after the cut.






 profiles0900/seeds.asp seed1.htm 0,16417,471583,00.html

Collecting seeds:

Seed collection on a construction site would be ideal if you have a future restoration project and you have limited storage space, also if you need a large number of seedlings for planting.

Collect seeds when they are mature – seeds are ripe when they have turned dark and hard, berries are ripe when they turn their ripe color. Most seeds begin to ripen in early summer and can be harvested in the fall. To ensure genetic diversity, if possible, collect seeds from different plants that are spread 100 feet or more from each other.

Put the seeds in paper bags, to aid in drying, and write the species and date on the bag.

Extract, dry, and store the seeds in a labeled, airtight container, in a cool, dry place.







Several types of hardwood cuttings made from a narrow-leaved evergreen plant—cuttings also might be made from very long side shoots.

Several types of hardwood cuttings made from a deciduous plant.








Hardwood Cuttings and Live Stakes:

Cuttings from deciduous plants can be taken in the fall as soon as the plant has dropped its leaves. Wait until early winter to take cuttings from needle or broadleaf evergreens. Select the young, straight shoots growing up from the center of the plant or from near the ground. They should be the diameter of a pencil and long to cut in smaller pieces later.

Label with a tie around the bunch identifying species.

Store cuttings in a plastic container or bag. Keep them cool, moist, and out of direct sunlight. Avoid freezing. root_cut_horiz21.jpg




Root Cuttings

When cut and replanted a root cutting is will produce an entirely new plant. The best time to collect root cuttings is during the dormant season (late fall through winter). Look for roots that are ¼ - ½ inch in diameter. Each cutting should be long enough to have at least four buds (they will look like small bumps, or may actually have rootlets growing from them).

Root cuttings grow best in warm soil, so if you collect them during the winter bury them in moist sand and keep them at 40 degrees F until spring.




 miscanthus harvester rhizome-med.jpg        rhizome-med.jpg pics/poa/arundo_donax.htm                     rhizome_8.JPG


Rhizome Cuttings

Rhizomes can be used to propagate plants in a manner similar to root cuttings. Rhizome cuttings are best taken during the dormant season (late fall through winter). Dig around the plant to locate the rhizomes. They will be white or pale, and smooth with buds and visible roots. Dig the segment up. Then cut the rhizome into sections that are at least three inches in length, making sure each section has at least two buds.


Immediately plant the rhizome sections horizontally in pots, flats.


Label pots. images/division.jpg        grass9.JPG 2000/__data/page/15


Dividing Plants

Propagation by division involves digging up a plant and dividing the plant into two or more pieces by splitting its crown and root ball. Dividing should be done when the plants are dormant (late fall through winter).

Dig the entire plant up, and then carefully divide the crown and root ball into two equal parts with your hands or a sharp spade or knife (if the root ball is particularly large, you may be able to divide it into more parts).

Replant each division in pots.

Label pots. contortedfilbert2.jpg B0237.jpg/$FILE/B0237.jpg


Transplanting Suckers

If they have adequate roots, the suckers can be dug up. Dig up enough root to separate the plants. With a sharp shovel or pruners, sever the root connecting the sucker to the parent plant. Be sure the sucker has enough roots to survive on its own.

Keep the sucker's roots encased in their soil, and keep the roots moist until replanted.

Great sources of information!


Washington Native Plant Society



King County’s Native Plant Salvage Program


Washington State University, Gardening in Western Washington


Plant Native


Karen Suyama