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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
South Shore News

Asexual propagation is quite amazing


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With plants, sexual propagation means seeds for which there are two parents, often one known and other unknown. The seedlings can thus surprise you.

After all these years I still find the sprouting of seeds amazing.

For most of us asexual propagation means cuttings, layering and division. The plants have only one parent and produce the same color, flavor, size, etc.

The first time I took cuttings in college, it seemed like a miracle to turn a stem into whole new plant in two weeks’ time.

When I was pregnant for many years, I often wondered why we couldn’t just take a piece, perhaps a finger, and start at baby that way. A plant would grow back two fingers for the one removed.

I just realized that God used asexual propagation to produce the Eve from Adam’s rib. It seems God has a great sense of humor.

I take cuttings constantly and wrote a long, detailed column on how to do so several years ago. That column, complete with nine photos, can be still be found on my website. Check it out for all the details.

Take twice as many cuttings as you need, because they may not all root. The best time of the month for cuttings to root is when the moon is getting brighter.

For most plants you should have a sterile medium: pure sand, perlite, vermiculite or sterile potting soil. Green stems root much more quickly and surely than woody stems. Snip off four-to-eight-inch long stems from the parent plant with a slanted cut just below a node (where the leaf come out) because that is where the roots will come out, too. Take off the leaves in the lower half, and if the leaves are very large, cut the top ones back halfway or so. The cuttings lose moisture from leaf surface so the less you have, the better.

I have found a few plants such as my bush sunflower and milkweed root best if you take off all the leaves and root the bare sticks.

I don’t use rooting hormone unless I have had trouble with rooting a specific plant before. I stick the cutting stems into the damp medium and press it around them. I do this either in pots or dishpan-like containers with holes in the bottom for drainage. The medium should stay damp but not soggy. I also keep the cuttings in the shade until the roots have formed. Misting them occasionally helps.

You can leave these cuttings in the same place until you see new growth. Or you can gently pull on a leaf after about two weeks or so. If the stem comes out or up, just put it back into the medium. If it holds firm, you know that roots have formed and you can carefully dig it out and plant it elsewhere.

If you go from shade to sun, cover the new plant for a few days, taking the cover off for a longer part of each subsequent day until it adjusts, about a week. If the plant is in a pot, move the pot into less shade and more sun for several days.

Today’s pick is Althernanthera ficoidea, cultivar Partytime, is one of several plants commonly called Joseph’s coat because of the many colors of its foliage. This is a perennial that grows 18 to 24 inches tall, is hardy from Zones 8 to 11, and likes sun to partial shade. It doesn’t like to be crowded. I lost some that way a few times but now have had success for a few years.

The plants tend to be straggly, but I just cut back the long stems and restart them as cuttings. They can also be propagated by division. The flowers are inconspicuous.

Now’s the time to tell you about some plants from which you might not have thought of taking cuttings. First there’s the tomato. Take a stem about 12 inches long and stick it deeply into the medium. You’ll have a new plant in two weeks.

Nasturtiums also root easily. Root a few cuttings from your best plants and put them in a container. They will bloom until it gets too hot. Then put the container in the shade over the summer. They will survive there and start blooming quickly in the fall. I have a bougainvillea and some huge rose bushes I rooted from cuttings.

Roses are iffy. Sometimes they root and often they don’t, but they are always worth a try.

Upcoming events On Wednesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., master gardener Harriett GordNoghani, will present a Cat Lover’s Garden at the Bloomingdale Library, 1906 Bloomingdale Avenue, Valrico. This informative program is free. For a map and directions go to http://goo.gl/f7uQN or call (813) 2733652.

?On Tuesday from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m., master gardener Heather Diaz will present a program titled Get Those Hummers!, all about hummingbirds found in Hillsborough County at the Seffner-Mango Library, at 410 N. Kingsway Road, Seffner. It will include information about the plants and feeders that will attract them to your yard. For more information, call (813) 685-1055.


Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, author and freelance writer who can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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