Paul Nickerson

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Germinating Prickly Pears

In Propagation on September 18, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Prickly Pear Seedlings

So this is a little more involved than your usual ‘bury and wait’ germination, but its not impossible. At the beginning of this past summer, a friend brought a number of Prickly Pear seeds home from vacation. Being the type of people we are, we HAD to give it a shot.

The first step to germinating these seeds is cleaning off any extra pulp that may remain. This can be done by soaking the seeds in a warm, soapy bath for a few minutes. You may have to use your fingers to pull the pulp from the seeds. Once the pulp has been removed, rinse the seeds.

This is the fun part. In nature, the seeds pass through the digestive system of different animals before they are ready to germinate. For higher germination yields, we will need to imitate this. The seeds need to be soaked for an hour in an acid bath. It is possible to germinate Prickly Pear seeds without washing them in acid, but it can take up to a year! (I recommend you use the acid.) Courtesy of the Department of Chemistry, we were able to use sulfuric acid for this step. Lemon juice will work fine however.

After allowing the seeds to soak, rinse them again in water, then stratify them in a mixture of 1:1 vermiculite and perlite. Cover the container, and place in an refrigerator for 90 days. After the 90 period, vent the container and place in a sunny location. You should begin to see sprouts shortly after. The individual plants can be potted separately in a well draining media. We had a very high rate of germination, and the plants seem to be doing really well!

Air Layering: Arborvitae

In Propagation on July 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Air layering is an effective means of propagating many species of trees and shrubs. By adding an air layer to a host plant, one can root a stem clipping prior to removing it from the parent plant, allowing it to grow a strong root system while still being supported. For most plants, air layering should be done in the early spring, before new growth. For some shrubs, such as Rhododendron, propagation can be done after the blooms have fallen from the bush, as the bush will begin to develop new growth at that point.

The process of air layering is very simple. For demonstration I photographed an air layer I recently did on an Arborvitae. In this case, I placed an air layer on every healthy branch, as we are planning on removing that tree altogether. Typically, it is best to select a healthy branch that will not ruin the look of the parent plant when removed.

Scored Pattern

Once you have selected the desired branch, find an internode that is about four inches long. If this is not possible, it may be necessary to prune some small branches to get a workable area.

Bark Removed

Using a knife, score around the branch in two places, about three inches from each other. Some people prefer to have these lines closer together, as to reduce the amount of bark removed, but it is important to realize that the tree will develop scare tissue around the edges of the cuts, and can close up the wound, restricting the development of roots. After making a long score from one cut to the next, peel the bark back from the hardwood of the branch. the goal is to only remove the bark, trying hard not to damage the wooded portion of the branch.

Plastic Wrap Attatched

Using zip-ties or twist-ties, attached the bottom end of an 12×12 inch square of plastic to the branch. For this I used a piece of a black garbage bag. It is best to use colored plastic as light will disturb root growth. You can also use clear plastic, then cover the wrap with foil.

Completed Wrap

Creating a pocket with the plastic, fill it with sphagnum moss. Be sure the branch has moss on all side, and that the moss is densely packed into the wrap. When the moss is in place, spray the moss with root hormone. It is important that the humidity is high inside the wrap, so don’t worry about over-watering. When the wrap is thoroughly moistened, secure the top of the wrap to the branch. Depending on the weather during the season, it may be necessary to remoisten the wrap periodically.

The wrap should be left on the branch for a few months. When it is ready to be removed, prune the branch just below the new roots and plant. Once the new cutting is in the ground, treat it as a new plant, being sure to water it often until it develops a larger root system.

Propagating Pothos

In Propagation on February 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Pothos Clipping

A close friend of mine recently cut back her Pothos plants, also known as Devil’s Ivy. She was kind enough to volunteer her clippings to be propagated. Pothos Plant is a wonderful houseplants, and perfect for any dorm room. It can flourishes in just about any conditions, and it long, vine-like branches at wonderful look to any windowsill.

Pothos Clippings In Pot

To increase my chances of rooting a strong plant, I utilized both pot-rooting and water-root. To prepare the branch for rooting in a pot, the branch was cut, using sterile scissors, just above each node. The node is located where the leaf meets the branch. These sections were planted in a pot of loose potting soil and compost. The pot should maintain a level of slight humidity, being careful not to allow the pieces to rot as they soak and dry.

Pothos In Water

I took the second length of Pothos branch, cut a fresh, sterile cut off the end of it. I cut the leaves from the bottom six inches of the branch, and placed it in a bottle of distilled water. It is important that a least 2 nodes are submerged in water, as those are where the roots will form. When a strong root system has formed, the cuttings can be potted in multipurpose potting soil.

UpDate: Rooting Jade Plants From Leaves

In Propagation on November 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

As I have previously written, I have been working on propagating a number of jade plants from leaves that I have collected from a number of different parent plant. I am happy to say that all 13 clippings, representing five different varieties of succulents, have all sprouted! While I am really excited about this, I am also nervous, for as I have witnessed with my mother’s snake plants, cute little plants eventually take over your living room!

Cacti, New Project

Also, in response to the wonderful success I have had with these succulents, I cut sections from a cactus that I have, and am working on propagating those.

Propagating Succulents – Rooting Techniques

In Propagation on October 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm

My mother has a number of Snake Plants, Sanseveria trifasciata, that were propagated from clippings of a parent plant owned by my great grandmother. The original plant was cut, and many members of my mother’s family currently own genetically identical daughter plants. Just under a year ago, I decided to continue the legacy, and planted clippings from my mother’s plant. Recently, a new plant emerged in my pot, showing that not only did the clippings successful root, but they also have put forth runners.

Although I had known about rooting plants from clippings, I was not aware of how simple it really was, especially when it comes to succulents. When taking segments of the parent plant, whether a clipping, or leaf, it is beneficial to water the parent plant heavily the day before. This will ensure that the clipping will have a high water content, and will be more prepared for the process. Furthermore, this will allow the parent plant to recover more readily. When taking clippings, be sure to use sterile scissors, and take the clippings as close to a node as possible. Make sure to include at least 2 or three nodes in the cutting. When harvesting a leaf for rooting, try to clip the leaf as close to the stem as possible.

There are two main ways by which to root segments: Water Rooting, and Medium Rooting. Water rooting is very simply explained, and is more commonly used for clippings, rather than leaves. With your clipping in hand, remove all of the leaves along the clipping, leaving only the topmost leaves. Then, place the clipping in a narrow container of water. The water should cover as many nodes as possible, as this is where the roots will form. Some people prefer to use a water soluble rooting hormone, but I have had success simple placing the cuttings in water.

Water Rooting Lavender

Although water rooting is typical with clippings, it is possible to root a leaf in the same manor. I have found that using a shallow tray (the bottom of a soda bottle) filled with water, can be used to soak just the bottom end of the leaf. Although it may be seen as cheating, I have found it very useful to place small shreds of paper towel in the container, this seems to stimulate root growth. When the roots have formed, transfer the plant over to a normal, medium filled pot, and allow the plant to continue growth.

Rooting a plant in medium is a little bit more complicated. Some plants will root effectively if the clipping or leaf is placed directly into the soil, watered, and is allowed to run its course. Although this may be true for some plants, such as my Snake Plant, many succulents require a bit more care.

After collecting your segments, it is important to allow them to sit in a clean area until a scab forms over the wound. This may take anywhere from a couple days, to a couple weeks depending on the clipping, and the humidity where it is stored. This scab is important, as will help the rooting process, and will help prevent infection. When the scab forms, you can apply a small amount of rooting hormone. I personally use Bontone ® Rooting Powder. I have learned however, that it is not entirely necessary to use a hormone, as I have had pretty much the same results with and without the hormone.

Medium Rooting Resting Technique

Once rooted, there are three methods typically used to starting the clipping. Many people subscribe to the idea that the cut end of the segment should simply be placed to rest on top of the soil. This will stimulate root growth downward into the medium. This same idea is reflected in the very similar technique of laying the leaf flat on top of the growing medium.

Planted Lavender Clippings

Another commonly used rooting technique is to physically plant the cutting. This is done by gently pressing the end of the cutting or leaf into the soil. If you apply a powder hormone to the cutting, it is important to make small holes in the medium, then inserting the cuttings, careful not to rub the hormone from the cuttings.

New Growth

After beginning the rooting process, it is important to immediately water the soil, then allow it to dry. Gently moistening the medium with a spray bottle can be helpful, but the majority of the nutrients needed to start roots will come from within the leaf itself. Once the roots have formed, water the new plant regularly, allowing the medium to dry slightly between waterings. One of my most effective rootings occurred void of any medium or supplemental water. After a short period of time, you will begin to notice new growth in the form of small leaves forming at the soil line.

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