Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Plant Cuttings

I don't call myself the King of Procrastination without good cause.  Anyway, here I am about two weeks late, but finally getting around to doing my cuttings for the season.  I hope they will be well enough rooted by the May 24th weekend.

My other seedlings are coming along beautifully as you can see in the photo.  But again, I need to start a few more from seed -- you know the ones that say to start 6-8 weeks before the last frost.  Maybe this weekend.

Wave petunias and tomatoes, a few purple millet.

But back to the cuttings.  Step one is to fill the plastic fourpacks with potting soil (soilless mix -- peatmoss, perlite and vermiculite), and put 12 in a tray.  Water the soil down thoroughly -- it needs to be wet. I find it better to water with hot water, before the plants go in, it seems to wet down quicker than cool water. Remember your cuttings are only surviving on the moisture they can pull up through their stalks, until the roots begin to take over.

I had a couple of trays of mother plants, that I kept over winter, expressly for the purpose of propagating their shoots as cuttings this spring.  They were mostly unusual coleus.

The very straggly mother plants.

Cut the shoots off, just above a pair of leaves, leaving as long a stem as possible.  If you are careful, you can take several cuttings on the same stem, just keep cutting back to another pair of leaves, as long as there are good healthy little buds or shoots showing tucked between the leaf and stem.

note the cut stem is coated with Stim Root powder.

Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone.  This is an acid that aids the plant in quickly developing roots at the cut end.  Some plants will root all the way up the stem -- tomatoes for instance.

Push the stem into the wet soil, one to a quadrant of the four pack.  Finish out the entire flat and then mist with a solution of Damp-off, an antifungicide.  The little cuttings are most susceptible to rot, mold and fungus at this phase, because they are stressed and the environment has to be kept moist, humid and warm, ideal growing conditions for mold and fungus.

A tray of cuttings, misted and ready to cover with a plastic dome.

Place a clear plastic cover over the trays and put them under direct light, but not sunlight (that will get too warm and cook your babies).  Leave the cover on for about two weeks until the roots are established.  I try to take them off as soon as I can.  The plants may wilt a bit for a day or two, but it seems to force them into getting those baby roots working to their potential.  Obviously at this point you may need to mist and keep the soil well soaked.

So before you know it, you have a whole bunch of trays of new plants, all clones of the mother plant, ready to set out in your spring garden.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

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