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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Katarina Eriksson's Propagation tips from David King's Class

Asexual Propagation = Genetically the same as parent plant, not from 2 parents as in a hybrid or seedling. This is a great way to increase your plants in a economical way and share with friends.
There are a variety of ways in which you can take cuttings from your plants and it is important to know what type to take in order to maximise success,
This technique is used for most all soft, tender, half-ripe SOFTWOOD plants, like houseplants, flowering perennials, fast growing herbs and vines etc. mainly before bloom.
Also HALF-RIPE is from the stems of plants well advanced in their season of growth and already becoming fairly firm.
SEMI-HARDWOOD is usually done in Autumn after the summer bloom, Roses, Rosemary, flowering shrubs, Azaleas, Lavenders, Coleus, geraniums and tropical trees...
HARDWOOD is from past seasons growth when the shoots have become fully ripe and firm. Some deciduous cuttings may be callused in storage and planted in spring. I usually do this with trees and hardy shrubs, Willows, Grape vines, .
BASAL CUTTINGS are from non-flowering shoots thrown up from the base of the plant, sometimes directly from the roots. Stem cutting where the base of the cutting is made at the point where the young shoot joins the older branch. At this point there is often some swelling in the stem. The basal cutting does not necessarily contain any older wood, as does the heel cutting. Example; Chrysanthemum, Delphiniums, and Dahlias.

  • Sharp, clean cutting tool - knife or pruner. 
  • Baggy and pen to label plant and keep from drying out. 
  • Sterile, clean, container and soil-less medium - shallow pan with drainage holes at depth of 2" depending on size of cutting (to keep humid), or 3 to 6" pot. 
  • Labels to remember plant name, and the date propagated with #2 pencil. I like a plastic storage box with clear lid, or store bought mini greenhouses. 
  • Rooting hormone, or willow water*. chopstick.
Soil-less medium: 1 part perlite or clean sand. 1 part vermiculite, 1 part sterile compost (or peatmoss for acid loving plants, like begonias and fuchsias.) For drought tolerant plants or hairy stems, straight perlite.
Transplant mix: 4 parts good potting soil, 1 part perlite or sand. (More perlite for drought tolerant plants)
* Willow water is ground cut twigs of any kind of willow (Salix sp.) and made into a tea, cool before use. Will last a week or freeze.

Have your clean container with soil-less medium ready, moist not soggy.  Take cuttings a quarter to three-eighths inch in diameter (about the diameter of a pencil or slightly larger)

  1. Count down from a tip of a healthy branch of about 4-6 nodes or 3 to 5". With a sterile cutting tool, cut below a node on a softwood or semi-hardwood stem to about 3 to 5" TIP CUTTING. I try to make cuts that will not disfigure the parent plant. They will root where the leaf was at the node.
Softwood in spring, and early summer.
Semi-hardwood cuttings may be taken in autumn after flowering for most plants.
  1. Remove the flowers, buds and lower leaves, by snapping downward, or cutting off with scissors all the way to the top 3-4 leaves and cut those in half leaving new shoots. (this helps save energy from the shock, will concentrate on rooting, not making new leaves.)
  2. Dip stem in rooting hormone, at least 3 nodes to 6. Or soak cutting in willow water for 5 minutes.
  3. Punch a hole with your chopstick and gently place the cutting in 3 nodes or more, try to keep hormone on and don't bury new leaves. Some people crowd many cuttings in a pot, some people will place one cutting in each 3" pot to prevent spread of diseases. I've done both with equal success. try to keep leaves from touching each other and the sides of box/mini greenhouse. Mist with luke warm water. and place into clear box, cover.
  4. I place my trays in a clear plastic box with a lid, Under grow lights or outside with morning light, (No direct sun) and if its cold outside then bring the box inside for the night and if you have a area that can be warmed with bottom heat then your cutting will be faster in rooting. Keep looking to make sure that they are not rotting from too much moisture or too dry.
  5. In about 6 to 12 weeks you should have roots, slowly uncover box a little day by day for a week and accumulate them to normal outdoor temperatures, otherwise they go into shock. Pinch the tips to encourage bushiness.
  6. Transfer to new small pots that fit the root size with Transplant soil mix, once established in the new pot they can be transplanted to next size pot to get established before being planted in the ground or largest pot. This gradual upgrade encourages rooting, if put into too large a pot, it stays waterlogged and may get fungal or bacterial root rot.
  7. Pinch again if needed and give a good complete mild fertilizer at this point. Graduate to more sun if needed if the plant stretches toward light.


WEDGE LEAF CUTTINGS, mostly taken in summer.
Good for medium, large and giant-leaved begonias with rhizome roots either above ground or surface creepers. Use shallow tray with perlite and peatmoss mix. use clear spastic box with lid or cover as a mini greenhouse. NO need for rooting hormone.
  1. Cut the leaf from the plant and then remove the petiole (leaf stalk.) First cut the center out in a circular fashion. The cut wedges from the main part of the leaf. Put the wedge in the rooting medium at a depth to 1/4 to 1/3" the bottom length of wedge.
  2. Or cut leaf in wedges from the main center of leaf with a piece of petiole with a sharp knife
  3. you can also cut more of the leaf into smaller wedges, the goal is to have some veins in the wedges.
  4. When you put wedges in the propagation container, make certain that you put them in straight and in lines, not touching each other. label in pencil, cover the box with lid, make sure it stays moist not damp or too dry.

CONE LEAF CUTTINGS, is a faster way and will get more baby sprouts
  1. Cut the center of leaf blade (Leave the petiole on and insert 1/2 in medium)
  2. With the remainder of the leaf, form a loose core with cut edge so its even cut side in rooting medium or 1" deep.

WHOLE LEAF CUTTING Also for Gloxinia , African Violets and Peperomia

  1. Cut a medium size leaf leaving 1/2" of petiole, cut slits across veins from the bottom, this is were the new plants will form. You can powder with rooting hormone on slits. lay flat on perlite in tray, peg down with hair pins or staples so slits are in perlite. cover and wait 6 weeks. transplant in small pots and slowly move up o next size in a peat-base potting soil. Use a fertilizer for acid loving plants.

Keep rooting medium moist at all times, not soggy wet. water by putting tray in room temp. water to soak up from drainage holes. Best to start and grow under grow lights or location of good light, no direct sun.
Plants will appear in 4 to 6 weeks some varieties take longer.
About 1 week before you plan to transplant the plantlets, remove the cover of propagation container gradually a little each day, this "HARDENS OFF" and prevents shock.
When you transplant, put the plantlets in a small plastic pot using a soil-less mix with some mild fertilizer added or 1/2 potting soil with 1/2 perlite with 1/2 peatmoss.
Be careful not to disturb the roots system when transplanting, hold the baby plantlet by the leaf, very gently and use chopstick to dig up from medium, and do not remove rooting medium that clings to the root system.
The plantlets should remain in their soil-less mix for 3 to 4 weeks, sometimes more if weather is cold.
Next transplant the small plants into the next size pot using potting soil with peatmoss, then when plant fills that pot, next size up again into a clay pot.
Repot every other year with new peatmoss type potting soil and use acid type fertilizer.

Info for Begonias is from the book
Begonias The Complete Reference Guide by Mildred L. Thompson and Edward J. Thompson 1981

Also check out
it has very good drawings, (I disagree that rooting in water is OK, I find that they have different roots in water that perlite or sand, but its worth a try.)

Katarina for david

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dress For Success: Wear An Umbrella!

Our sunshine and balmy weather has deserted us (finally)  this weekend. Because we don't have the possibility of make up days, we must meet today - please dress for foul and cool weather. I have an indoor classroom if we need it to get us through the day, but, no matter what, we will have to face whatever nature throws at us and by all accounts right now, there is 50% chance of rain increasing to 70% chance as evening comes on.  We cannot work with bees if it's raining, so I've got an alternate lecture coming along.

Having said that, we have really good rain-karma, most events that have been rain threatened have had the rain stop right as we started and begin again just after we've finished.  But I want to cover all bases.  

Those of you who washed your car this last week, thank you for bringing on the rain...


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants

Jane S. Smith Author 
Penguin (Non-Classics) (February 23, 2010)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0143116894
    ISBN-13: 978-0143116899
Jane Smith gave a presentation to the Southern California Horticultural Society on her recently published (and soon to be published in paperback) book, The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants. I wish the propagation class had been there. I bought the book, however, so expect to regaled with stories from it over the coming weeks. 

Burbank, before the world in general had grasped the implications of Mendel and Darwin's work, was busy putting his intellect into the art of breeding plants. He proved to be a genius at it and the catalog of his introductions over his lifetime is staggering! We owe to him the Burbank potato (over 150 years after its' introduction, it is still the most widely planted potato in the world); Shasta Daisy, a plant with four parents and a staple in cottage gardens world wide; and the Santa Rosa plum (and others) which is probably still the standard against which all red plums are gaged to this day.

His home in Santa Rosa, CA (hence the names of the plum and the daisy) is almost like going to Mecca for those gardeners who admire Burbank's work. This book, not so much a biography of the man as it is directed at his plant breeding, is perfect to understand the motives and the actions of Burbank, who still stirs controversy today. Some folks call him a huckster, some folks call him a charlatan. Others count Luther Burbank a hero and an extraordinary genius, up in the pantheon with Mendel, Darwin and others working in this field.

One story that I thought would be wonderful for a propagation class, involved a banker who had purchased a quantity of land that he wished to plant into orchards of plums. In February, he placed an order for 120,000 plum trees to be delivered that November. Burbank accepted the order and set about to fulfill it.

He planted fields of almond trees, a very fast growing tree in the same family and closely related to the plum. In late summer, Burbank grafted plum buds to all those trees which were dug and sold that November.! Not only was is it quite a cash windfall that Burbank could use, good reputations have been built on a lot less! It heaved Burbank's already god-like status heavily into the stratosphere.

Although I have only started the book, I think it will be a fine read to tear through on a week without a class. And it will be right in tune with teaching propagation to gardeners!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Few Videos on Grafting

The Saddle Graft

It sounds like he is talking about a 'subtle' graft, but he's English and so he is saying 'SADDLE' graft:

Still its a lovely English video on grafting.

And, quite nicely, he follows up in this video.

A Whip and Tongue Graft

A little more complicated, but once you master this one, it's a very solid graft. And it too is followed up, in this YouTube video.

A Clef Graft

While we saw this on our field trip to California Rare Fruit Growers this is a good reference. Another one here. And while he 'works the wax' until it's soft, I don't. I find the wax difficult to 'work.' You can see his results here.

Chip Budding

While I prefer a T-Bud, he shows a chip bud, which is a similar process and done at the same time of year, same reasons. Most of us won't get a perfect match like that on one try!


A couple laid back (howdy!) Americans, have a video on T-budding here. Not nearly as straight-forward as the Brit! But the photography is really good when he gets to the cutting.

Rain or shine, we'll meet every class - we need every scheduled hour of class time. On the 21st, Katarina Ericksen will be guest lecturing, on the 28th, I'll be doing California Natives. March 7th, I will try to get one of the speakers from the field trip to come in and work with us on our last two grafts - each student this year will get to try THREE grafts! (All apple, that's all the root stock I have.) So, the syllabus has been changed a little; that last meeting will not be as laid back as I had thought. We have a lot of material to cut and play with before March 7th.

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