Rooting from Stems and Leaves

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sometimes plant families have members that do not seem to resemble each other, but when you learn how they are propagated, their useful similarities surface. African violets and Gloxinias are gesneriads, and both are best rooted from their leaves. Besides writing about plants and growing hundreds of them in my garden, I host a weekly radio program. Spring finds me on the road with the show, traveling to garden events and retailers. Listeners come to the broadcast, where we eat donuts and drink coffee and talk plants during the breaks and afterwards. Last Saturday, a sweet lady brought in a sad African violet for me to diagnose. The leaves were perfect in size and beautiful underneath. Most of the upper leaf surfaces looked ok, but others were blotched brown. She assured me that the plant had not been exposed to direct sun, cold water, or other liquids. But its pot was a cute enamelware pot with 2 very small holes drilled into its base. The soil felt heavy and several offsets were crowding the thick stem of this troubled gesneriads. I suggested that she remove the damaged leaves, unpot the plant, rinse the roots and dust them with sulfur to deter diseases in the root zone before potting into a container that drains well and a mix made for the violets. But first, I cautioned her, root at least 5 leaves and use Hormex to do it. Take a leaf with 2-4 inches of stem from the middle row of a mature plant. In this case, that means you do not want the newest or oldest growth, but rather some from the middle rows of leaves. Use a single blade to slice a slanted end on the stem, roll it in Hormex Rooting Hormone #1, and slip it into a little pot of African Violet potting mix or damp sand. Keep it in humid shade until you see little plants at the base of the leaf. A good way to do this is to invert a glass jar over the leaf, as long as you can remember to lift it daily for good air exchange. When the little plants appear, pot up the stem with plants attached or separate small plants and root them. Lay the babies on damp sand and mist frequently with Hormex Liquid Concentrate mixed 10 drops/1 quart of water. When a new leaf sprouts, you’ve got roots and it is time to pot up the new plant. Big purple trumpets graced my first gloxinia and I was determined to root a leaf and did so using the process described above for African violets. While I was at it, I learned of another way to root them in water. Here’s how it works: Fill a pitcher with tap water and let it come to room temperature. Cut a circle of waxed paper (not plastic wrap) that is one inch larger around than the top of the jar and secure it to the top of the jar with a rubber band. Poke a small hole and one slightly larger in the wax paper. Cut a long stem of African violet or gloxinia and slip it into the small hole. Pour enough water into the jar to cover most of the stem without reaching the leaf. Add a drop or two of Hormex Liquid Concentrate and put the jar where it will get light but not direct sun. When you must add water lost to evaporation, add a drop of Hormex. Roots should form in less than 2 months and then you can pot up the stem as described above. There are more gesneriads, of course, and not all will root from leaves. Two of my favorites are miniature Sinningias, Columneas (like lipstick plant), and my nominee for most overlooked of the group, Achimenes. Don’t worry – I’ll get to all of them in this blog.

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