Thursday, February 20, 2003
Steamboat Springs Last summer, Claire Fraser gave me some cuttings from one of her houseplants as a thank you for a favor I did. This winter, I have been enjoying several pots of beautiful purple-leafed, pink-flowering begonias that grew from Claire's cuttings.
There are several ways to increase your houseplant collection, whether for personal enjoyment or to give to friends.
One way is to propagate houseplants by using a small section of the plant that doesn't harm the parent plant.
Another way is to propagate through division, main-stem cuttings, and air layering. This destroys the parent plant.
Houseplant seed is yet another option, although it is difficult to find and does not store very well.
Like Claire, many gardeners prefer to propagate houseplants by taking a small piece of stem or leaf and rooting it. The cutting should be 1 to 4 inches long with two to four leaves attached. Make your cut just below the point where the leaves are attached. Remove the lowest set of leaves and insert the cutting into moist rooting mixture.
You might want to place several cuttings into the pot so you have more growing sections and fill the pot more quickly.
Covering the pot with a plastic bag and setting it in good -- not direct -- sunlight will help speed root development.
Thick-leafed plants such as African violets, some begonias and succulents can be propagated by taking a leaf and laying it on the surface of the rooting medium.
Cut the veins in several places and place small weights on the leaf to hold it in contact with the soil.
New plantlets will form at the location of the cut veins, which can then be repotted.
Plants with cane-like stems can be propagated by cutting the stem into sections of 1 inch to several inches, making sure that at least one node is on each section.
Lay the segments horizontally atop the rooting medium or upright with half the section in the soil.
New roots will form and a shoot will grow from the uppermost bud.
Any plant that produces underground stems or a crown without a long, above-ground stem can be divided.
This is best done in late winter or early summer when the plant comes out of a period of inactivity. Keep as much of the root system intact as possible and replant in a new pot at the same level as it was growing.
Air-layering is a propagation technique generally used on overgrown plants whose only attractive foliage is at the end of a stem.
Weeping fig, Norfolk Island pine, dumbcane and tree philodendrons can be air-layered.
To do this, the stem should be girdled at least one-third of an inch entirely around the stem. Cut a diagonal slice halfway through the stem and hold it open with a small stick.
Dust rooting hormone in the slice, place a moist ball of sphagnum peat moss around the wounded area and wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
After two to four months, roots will appear on a new plantlet which can be removed below the root ball and repotted.
Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call the CSU Cooperative Extension office at 879-0825 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.