In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
November, 2008
Regional Report

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2951

With canes aplenty, this confederate rose needs propagating -- and thinning, too.

Propagation Station

Set up a simple arrangement close at hand and you can readily propagate almost anything. There are plants whose cuttings root best in every month of the year, and many perennials to be divided now. If you're ready, you can take advantage of generous friends' excesses, too.

A Basic Bench
Set up a table in the spare room, some boards on sawhorses on the porch, or set aside a bench in the greenhouse. Wherever it is, do yourself a favor and make it at a comfortable height for standing or sitting to work there. (I like bar stool height myself.) Get a few small baskets, shears and scissors, small pots, a container of potting soil mixed with sand and ground bark, and a watering can. Use the baskets to collect other useful items: rooting hormone powder, scoops, gloves, plant labels, and even string and twist ties. Take cuttings of your own plants or castoffs from friends as often as you want. With a place to do the task of cutting and potting to root, there'll be less plant material left on the kitchen counter with good intentions and no action.

Limits on Rooting
Plenty of plants can be rooted in the amount of light usually available indoors, but adding a full-spectrum bulb or fixture benefits most. Once you set up a light fixture large enough to illuminate several pots on a tray underneath, address their needs for humidity. A rooting chamber is nothing more than such as light fixture surrounded by plastic to raise the humidity around the plants. Formal setups include mist systems, but these are mostly used in greenhouses. Keep a spray bottle of water handy in your home to mist the cuttings daily. The best soil for rooting cuttings may sound like a conundrum, since it must stay damp but be well-drained. Easily prepared by using half potting soil and half sand mixed with ground bark, the mix needs to provide consistent moisture so the stem can root but not rot before it does.

Types of Cuttings
Green-stemmed plants, like philodendron vines, dieffenbachia canes, and coleus, are called herbaceous. All root at any time of the year, but each uses a different approach. Vining plants send out leaves at intervals called nodes. The node can grow a leaf or a root, depending on whether it is in the ground or above it. Cut such vines (pothos, weeping fig, and trailing succulents, too) with a leaf and growing node or two in the middle, then slide the stem ends into the pot so the nodes touch the soil, too. Dieffenbachia can be cut straight across its cane, preferably, but not necessarily with leaves attached. When corn plant grows too tall, for example, you can cut its can into several smaller pieces, regardless of where the leaves are growing. Put a bit more sand in its mix; when you cut the wet cane, you'll understand why it needs a drier media to prevent rot during rooting. Coleus and similar plants from lantana to mint root in a more traditional way. Ideally, cuttings are 4 inches long with a few leaves still attached and are not in flower. Stick about 2 inches of the stem straight down into a pot whose soil has been watered once. Yes, the coleus-types will root in water, but form very skinny roots there which are sometimes lost in transplant. A fourth category of popular plants usually rooted at this time of year do root best in water. Canes like confederate rose and angel trumpet are best cut at 3-foot lengths to stand in 6 inches of water. It's a perfect use for an old pitcher.


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