When the Bough Breaks…

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Propagate This! Weekly Blog June 6, 2012 Doris and Charlie No, I don’t name all my plants nor all my cars, just the special ones. Bluebird, the first new car I ever bought, a VW Beetle of the first generation. Cocoa, the brown Datsun, 140,000 miles before we outgrew her. DD the dieffenbachia rooted from a cane smuggled out of work and Lily and Debbie, orchid cacti named so I could remember which cutting came from which friend. You get the idea – where there’s a story, there’s a name, and therein lies this tale. Doris and Charlie will put my propagation skills to the test this week and give me the chance to tell you how I use different Hormex products for different purposes. When my husband’s mother passed away 14 years ago, a family friend sent the traditional peace lily to the funeral home. It was lovely, blooming with 5 spikes in a 10 inch pot, a florist’s dream wrapped with lavender foil and bow. We call her Doris, for his mom, an elegantly tough lady from the country and the name suits the Spathiphyllum to a T. She has grown steadily, repotted every 3rd year when roots run out the drain hole, and now occupies a pot 18 inches across and about as deep. I have only ever removed one clump during a repotting event, one that fell off its mother with 2 viable roots. That one will never catch Doris, but is a healthy plant today because I dabbed Hormex Rooting Powder on the base of the clump before slipping it into a 4 inch pot of lightweight potting mix. Now it’s time to take Doris apart because I have run out of tables that can support the weight of her pot and soil and at the same time offer her a brightly lit exposure. To put it politely, if she grows anymore, she’ll break my furniture. Taking large potted plants apart is not usually difficult. Turn the pot on its side (thankfully I have a plywood saw horse table – she’s bigger than my potting bench) and press into the plastic or tap hard on the terra cotta to loosen any attached roots. Slip and slide, wrestle if necessary, to get the pot off of the root ball. Yes, you may have to break or cut the pot off if it has been too long and the roots are embedded in the pot. With a large peace lily, there is still one large clump in the center but the side clumps may be almost as large. Start with a wish that, upon being freed from the confines of container life, the clumps with leaves and roots attached will simply fall apart. It is more likely that at least some will be tightly bound together and require you to cut them apart. Slice straight down between one clump and another so the new plant has leaves, crown, and roots. The next step is to fortify the roots to protect them from transplant shock and stimulate new growth and for that I use Hormex Liquid Concentrate full strength. Dip the roots in, count to ten slowly, and pot the plant. If no new growth pops up from the center in 2 weeks, drench with HLC mixed 1T/1g water. Yes, peace lily is sometimes grown in water like the faddish brandy snifters with beta fish so popular at one time and HLC would work in that sort of container, too. Charlie is a more difficult task to root so I’m using both kinds of Hormex on this butterfly bush. A small but very sentimental plant, Charlie got smushed under a fallen branch in a recent storm. I cut away the damage and poured on a cup of water with 1T of HLC mixed into it. The one decent stem gets 2 more shots at saving my reputation. The base is woody, the tip is green, and the whole thing is rather wimpy but yielded a 4 inch tip cutting and a longer piece with a woody base and 3 leaves on it. I dunked the tip cutting into HLC and put it in 1 cup of water with a few drops of HLC in it. I think the green cutting will root more easily this way and I can pot it up very soon. The woody cutting got a roll in HRP #3 and is resting comfortably in a small pot of lightweight mix. My experiences in propagation are usually intentional, but when gardening gives me cuttings unexpectedly, I confess they get a special place in my heart – and in my rooting bench.
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