In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
November, 2001
Regional Report

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Coleus makes a colorful houseplant that is very easy to propagate.

Home-Grown Gifts

One of the most appreciated holiday gifts I've ever given was an African violet I propagated from my own plant. A friend admired my double white blossoms, and as soon as she left, I pinched off a leaf and started a plant for her. I gave her a tiny African violet tucked in a decorative pot and tied with a festive ribbon as a holiday gift a couple of months later. Aside from the practical aspect of saving money by propagating your own plants, you are really giving the gift of a little piece of yourself.

Best Choices for Propagating

The first step is to decide which plants you wish to produce. Houseplants that are easy to care for are usually easy to propagate. Also, you'll have the best luck propagating herbaceous rather than woody plants since woody plants such as hibiscus and sweet bay usually take a very long time to root and need extremely high humidity while doing so.

Some good possibilities for easy propagation include African violet, Swedish ivy, wandering Jew, pothos, philodendron, Christmas or Easter cactus, begonia, peperomia, jade, kalanchoe, asparagus fern, grape ivy, spider plant, piggyback plant, English ivy and snake plant. Herbs such as rosemary can also be propagated as long as you are patient.

Materials

You'll need sterile potting soil, small plastic pots or flats and trays for drainage, labels, a watering can, plastic covers of some type that fit over the trays (plastic wrap, clear recycled plastic bags or seed-starting domes) and rooting powder (available at most garden centers).

Technique

Fill your flats or pots with lightly moistened soil and firm it gently. Choose sturdy stems and take three- to five-inch cuttings, or a leaf of an African violet or jade. Remove all but two leaves of stem cuttings to reduce moisture loss while rooting. Dip the cutting (or the base of the leaf) in water and then in rooting powder, tapping off the excess. Stick the cutting in a hole made with a pencil or your finger to prevent the surrounding soil from rubbing off the powder. Firm the soil around the stem and water gently. Cover the "stuck" cuttings with a plastic cover.

Check the cuttings daily, and if leaves deteriorate, remove them. Some fungus is okay, but you don't want to end up with a totally sodden mess. You may need to lift the cover occasionally to exchange the air. After about two weeks, check your cuttings for rooting by tugging gently. A rooted cutting will resist. If not rooted yet, replace it in the soil and continue to keep it moist.

When the cuttings are rooted, pot them up and you are ready to give a little piece of yourself as a gift!


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