A plant growing in the soil.

How the Plants Reproduce

All plants are designed to ensure their survival or that of the next generation, but they go about it in different ways. Some produce copious numbers of seeds, while others reproduce vegetatively, extending their root systems through the soil.

Making seed

Plants with colorful, nectar-filled flowers attract pollinating insects that pick up pollen from one flower and transfer it to another. This process activates plants’ sexual reproduction and prompts the flowers to start developing into seeds.

The benefit of reproducing sexually is that every seedling has a slightly different genetic makeup, and when adverse conditions hit, only the fittest survive to breed again, strengthening the species.

Rooting around

Many creepers and climbers throw out long stems above ground that produce roots when they touch the soil. The roots of others clump up and spread gradually, while some send up shoots from long, extended roots. The danger of vegetative reproduction is that it produces a less diverse population, which is more vulnerable to changing conditions. This is why plants that reproduce asexually also flower and set seed, just in case.

Food for thought

Plants feed via their roots, removing minerals dissolved in water in the soil. They are constantly seeking new areas to exploit and form a large underground network, so that when one area dries out or is killed off, other roots can be relied upon to take over and keep the plant alive. In a natural environment, the plant population will adjust to the nutrients that are available. In a well-stocked garden where plants are growing closely together you will need to top-up the nutrient level regularly by applying fertilizer and organic matter, such as well-rotted manure.

Organic fertilizers are a good choice for borders because they release nutrients slowly, feeding plants for a season, and do not harm beneficial soil organisms. You can also apply fertilizer to the leaves with a foliar feed. If a plant is suffering from a trace element deficiency, such as iron or manganese, a spray of foliar fertilizer can quickly improve its health. Apply fertilizer to the backs of leaves where they can absorb it more easily.