Propagation Blog #5 – The Last Mention of Containers

by LaVille Logan

If you have read Pot and Re-pot (Blog #4), you’ll realize that I use a lot of containers of different sizes. Keeping these organized and available for re-use can be a chore. I use and re-use the smallest sizes constantly. I do not sterilize between uses, but Stan retrieves the used cups from a plastic milk crate and while seated on an upturned 3 gal. bucket, washes them over the lawn and scrubs each out with a circular brush.  He stacks them in the crate again. I have so many he has only had to do this twice. I use the same crate to stack the used ones, and the stacks get tall but one crate seems to be just fine. (I wonder how long it has been since milk crates have been used for hauling milk).  The larger 1 and 2 gal. pots are stacked against our side fence. Since many plants are sold in the larger sizes, we need to replenish them, and many trips to the local nursery to check the recycle bin has kept our supply healthy.  Go out to your storage area to see if you have something like a milk crate in which to stack smaller useful square or round pots. Taking and planting cuttings is complicated, and it helps to keep the many necessary items in some sort of order.

 

Propagation Blog #4 – Pot and Re-Pot

by LaVille Logan

Choosing the right container for your cuttings will increase success and keeping an eye on root development is necessary.  Knock the plant out of its pot to see if the roots are filling up.

  1. Choose a pot at least 2” to 3” larger. Any larger encourages over watering.
  2. Put a bit of E.B. Stone Sure Start on the new mix so roots come in contact.
  3. For anything but a tree, 1 gal. is a large enough pot. This keeps the digging reasonable when placing in garden.

Save your used containers.  Rinse them out, use again. I have used my smallest containers over and over.

Propagation Blog #3 Timing Softwood Cuttings

by LaVille Logan

For most plants there is a window of opportunity for success. I always rely on asking Google for help with this as it steers me away from mistakes.  “Google, when is the best time for ________ cuttings? Often the answer is “When the plant is actively growing.” This makes it unnecessary for me to be concerned with the planting zone because the plant will be growing when conditions are good for it. Plant growth stages fall into 4 categories: herbaceous softwood, semi hardwood, and hardwood and are very important in determining whether or not the cutting will root. I will be concerned with softwood cuttings today as much of my experience is with this group. I have started clematis, forsythia, fuchsia, pelargoniums, salvia, ivy, hoya, abutilons and hydrangea this last season. (Be aware that I did not take all of the cuttings at precisely the “correct” time.) Softwood is when the young stems are just getting a little hard—not likely to dry out after they are cut. Older stems become harder and it is more difficult for them to develop roots in that stage. The softwood should snap and break when bent. You can use the same starting procedures with softwood cuttings: 1. Cutting length from 4 to 6 inches, 2. Strip bottom two sets of leaves, creating a scar to ‘work with’ the hormone, 3. Dip into hormone powder, shake off extra, and 4. Place into readymade hole in dampened potting mix. Keep cutting in a humid environment for 2 to 3weeks ( refer to blog about tote containers or use inverted Zip Lock bags. It is better if the bags do not touch the cuttings. There are many plants that will work with these procedures, but the ones listed are the plants to which I had access. Regading not taking cuttings at the ‘correct’ time–remember the windstorm? A branch of our Xylosma tree broke off, I made a 20+ cuttings, (insert unhappy emoji) they all failed, but when I trimmed back my clematis later (not actively growing, and kind of crunchy) I got two of those cuttings to grow!  Yay!

Mini on Mini

Years ago I bought a pack of 60 sheets of yellow sticky traps figuring that it was enough to last a life time.  I now see that the stack of sheets is running low.  I’m afraid that does not bode well for my future.  But until we both expire, I’ll keep plodding along.

The reason for my original purchase was to do battle with the white flies that like to infest our iris beds.  Being cheap, I always cut the letter size sheets vertically into thirds and then hung these narrow strips throughout the beds every year.  That technique has worked fairly well as whenever we walk through the beds, we purposely knock against the plants, the white flies fly up and zip over to the yellow strips to which they become stuck.

When LaVille mentioned that several of the plants she was propagating started to get white fly, I cut sheets into thirds and then those strips in half.  I then mounted them on miniblind stakes and taped the stakes to the sides of the totes in which the plants were being raised.  Well this was only partially successful as the stakes stuck to the totes, but the mini pieces of sticky sheet sometimes did not want to adhere to the stakes.  The yellow sticky sheet material is flat and likes to stay that way—they didn’t want to bend around the bent stakes.  Adding blue masking tape worked somewhat, but I found small metal clips worked as a last resort.

So far, pretty boring, right?  Well, look at the accompanying photo.  See the attached white flies? . . . No, you can’t.  They are tiny, and blend right in with the yellow mini sheet.  I just took a flashlight (It’s night time) and tried to count the white flies.  I figure there is at least 100 on both sides of the yellow mini sheet.  Look at the photo.  Guess what those dark specks are?  Those are fungus gnats.  It’s a 2fer!  After the sticky mini strips were in place for about 4 days, no flies or gnats appeared when we brushed the plants.  Adults were eliminated, so the life cycle was broken.

So if you have any trouble with white flies or fungus gnats, try using these yellow sticky traps.  I have to tell you though, working with these is a real pain.  I mean these traps are really sticky.  You can remove sticky stuff from you fingers with paint thinner.

Well, I feel foolish.  I just checked Amazon and found that there are all kinds of small yellow sticky traps now available.  Not only that—they actually advertise use on fungus gnats and flying aphids as well as white flies.  Do I feel out of touch!

Stan, The Feeling Old Man

Sticky Trap
Capture gnats with sticky trap

Propagation Blog #2 Container Size and Medium

By LaVille Logan

I think it is essential to have a really good medium for cuttings. The ratio of soil, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and worm castings is pretty critical to success.  I have learned this though some massive failures. I researched online, and came up with a mix that I could make with what was available to me, using our ability to purchase materials at Redi-gro.  My “recipe”:

Redi Gro potting soil – 3 parts

Perlite – 1 part

Worm castings -1/4 C. per gallon

Vermiculite – ½ part

My reasoning is that Redi Gro is a pretty good mix just as it is, and you will have success using it plain, so it is a good base.  I add perlite to loosen the mix and keep it well draining. I add worm castings as a natural fertilizer which will not burn.  It has microorganisms for healthy soil, and discourages root rot, aphids, mealy bugs and mites. I include vermiculite to increase water and nutrient retention. It is especially nice for water loving plants.  I don’t measure very accurately. I have a plastic ½ gallon container which I use to dip ingredients from their respective bags.

I have been experimenting with straight perlite verses my mix when I do my cuttings, and it has been instructive. For instance, I used to root my abutilon trees in water before I planted them in mix and or perlite. I now know I get a much better rate of success planting them in mix immediately. I plant 4 cuttings close together in the middle of a 4” pot hoping for 2 or 3 to ‘catch’ and provide a nice, bushy plant. Surprise, I get 4 healthy stems about 95% of the time.

Other cuttings I start in an 8oz. clear plastic cup (I have drilled a quarter in hole in the bottom, I can drill several at a time without them flying all over) I use clear cups so I can see the rate of rooting and know when it is ready without having to knock it out of the pot. Label the plant with name and date it was done. When repotting to the next size up, either a 4” pot or a 16” plastic cup, I use a dusting of Sure Start before placing cutting in larger container. This may be the last size I use for sale, but for large plants–trees, hydrangea, fast growing marguerites—I repot again to a gallon pot. Each time, I cross out the previous date of potting on the label, write the new date, and keep it with the plant.

When I repot something planted initially in straight perlite, I gently rinse the perlite off the roots, back into my barrel of mix, then plant the cutting (still holding on to some perlite with its roots) into a larger container, don’t forget the Sure Start. Water to settle the mix and do not press down. Perlite is a good rooting medium for many plants, but contains no nutrients, hence the need to watch roots and repot in a timely manner.

Propagation Blog #1 – TOTES

By LaVille Logan

I think it is important to do a job with the best tools.  One of my best tools is a clear plastic tote. The ones I use will hold 12 4”pots.  When I make cuttings, they do better if they are in high humidity for a period of time. I place the cuttings in small cups (Blog #2 Containers and Medium) using a variety of mediums, and I arrange the already watered plants closely in said tote.  The clear plastic of the sides and top allow bright indirect light to reach plants. The next day, and every day, I check to see if moisture had accumulated on the inside surface of the tote. If so, great. If not, I didn’t get the cuttings moist enough. They should be WET when placed in tote. You will not have to water them again for at least 2 weeks, perhaps a month if the lid is snapped on tightly. If the droplets of water that gather are large enough to “wander around” on the inside of the lid, perhaps there is too much humidity, and you can set the lid a little crooked on the tote to allow a little evaporation. House plants generally can use more humidity than outdoor plants. I check my totes daily, feeling the air inside to make sure it is not too hot. Any direct sun on a tote may create a solar oven, so be careful. The very low winter sun provides just the right amount of light and heat to keep cuttings safe from low temperatures.  However, when we had a streak of very low night temps (anything below 40 for several days) I brought them all inside.  I have learned a few plants don’t like humidity and will turn black and fuzzy after the initial root development (about three to four weeks) while others may be fine with it.  Just keep an eye on them daily and move plants that are not thriving to a protected place out of the closed tote. If you do not want to “dive in” and purchase large totes, you can create a humid environment around a pot containing cuttings by covering it with a large Ziploc plastic bag.