Tissue culture, also known as micropropagation, is a process used to propagate plants asexually by taking small pieces of plant tissue and growing them in a sterile laboratory environment. This method is commonly used in agriculture and horticulture industries to create disease-free, high-quality plants. In the context of houseplant cloning, tissue culture is a technique used to produce large numbers of identical plants from a single, usually highly sought after or rare, parent plant.
Tissue culture involves taking small pieces of tissue, such as leaves or stems, and placing them in a sterile laboratory environment where they are grown in a culture medium containing nutrients and plant hormones. Under controlled conditions, the cells from the tissue will divide and form a mass of undifferentiated cells known as a callus. This callus is then divided into smaller pieces and placed onto a new culture medium to promote the growth of new plants.
Tissue culture has also been used to develop new varieties of houseplants with desirable traits, such as variegation or unusual growth habits. In the context of houseplants, this is why there were a number of plants that were selling for hundreds or thousands of dollars a couple of years ago, but can now be found for $50. Variegated Monsteras, for example, are now roughly half the price they used to be as they can now be mass produced.
- Select a Parent Plant. Choose a healthy, disease-free parent plant that has desirable characteristics, such as leaf shape, color, or size and take a cutting. Often, the most desirable parent plants are plants that are variegated or have other mutations that wouldn’t pass normally through seeds.
- Sterilize Equipment and Tissue. All equipment and plant tissue must be sterilized to prevent contamination. Use a sterilizing solution, such as a 10% bleach solution or 70% ethanol, to sterilize the equipment and tissue.
- Prepare the Culture Medium. This step is very proprietary depending on the lab that is going through with the process, but the general steps remain the same. There needs to be a culture medium, which is a nutrient rich environment where a plant can grow, usually including growth hormones.
- Transfer the Tissue to the Culture Medium. Using sterile forceps, carefully transfer the plant tissue to the culture medium. The tissue should be placed in a container with a lid to maintain a sterile environment. The container should be kept in a warm, well-lit area.
- Monitor the Growth. Over time, the cells from the plant tissue will divide and form a mass of undifferentiated cells known as a callus. This callus can then be transferred to a new culture medium containing plant hormones that will encourage the cells to differentiate into new plantlings.
- Transplant the New Plants. Once the new plants have developed roots and are large enough to be potted.
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