Root Vining Houseplants

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Ivy Clones and Updates Lots of plants are called ‘ivy’ and some actually are the real deal. Several months ago I wrote about a request from a relative to root some of the English ivy from her yard. She had some work done on her house and wanted to replant an area disturbed by the construction. She dug up several long vines from the other side of the bed and sent them home with my husband. As I wrote about then, we cut them into pieces about a foot long and laid them in a well-drained mix, then watered them in with Hormex Liquid Concentrate mixed 1T/quart of water. About once a month, I watered them with a slightly more dilute solution, 2t/quart. Although some leaves were green, others showed some yellowing when we set them to root but developed good color quickly and have kept it all summer. The vines themselves were not woody, but were quite thick, fleshy, and almost white from being buried under leaves and soil. They, too, turned green where they were exposed to sunlight in the rooting box, a sign of their vibrancy and my success. They have rooted, new shoots are forming and ready to transplant. Now it’s pothos ivy and heart leaf ivy that are on my bench and on my mind. Plenty would argue with me, but neither is truly ivy. Although the words ‘vine’ and ‘ivy’ are used interchangeably, true ivy is a Hedera family member like H. helix, the botanic name of English ivy. Pothos and heart leaf, both popular colloquial ivies, are not closely related to English nor to each other, either! What they have in common is the basic way that they grow and therefore, how we can clone them. The vines extend themselves from growing points called nodes that sprout leaves and new vine segments. Nodes can also push out roots, especially if you encourage them to make contact with potting soil or another growing medium such as bark or perlite. The ‘air roots’ that sprout from nodes on mature vining plants to anchor them are another example of the power of nodes. They are able to adapt at the cellular level and so control growth. It is a propagator’s joy that nodes can be manipulated pretty easily in green stemmed plants, nowhere more than in the ‘ivies’. A modest pot of golden pothos ivy (Epipremnum aureum, an arum also known as devil’s ivy) got away from me this summer. I took a few cuttings from an overgrown bunch that have taken well and grew a foot, but it is the mother plant that I underestimated badly. It seemed logical that the crowded pot would grow slowly, and I intentionally did not fertilize it all summer. Surprise - when I finally unwound the vines from the baker’s rack, many of the vines were 4 feet long or more. You can make a lot of cuttings from 20 feet of healthy vine. Take a sharp knife and cut through the vine halfway between any 2 nodes. As long as there is one node, a cutting, or slip as these are often called, can become a new plant. Some growers slip single node cuttings into the rooting medium so they stand up straight, an inch of stem below the soil level, leaf and another inch of stem above. I have better success with 3 node cuttings, but still make a sharp, slanted cut along the vine to create them. Two well-used window boxes can hold plenty of these 3 node cuttings laid end to end on top of the rooting medium. If the vine refuses to lie flat, coax it with a U shaped piece of wire, a toothpick, or my favorite, old-fashioned hair pins. Do not press the anchor into the vine, simply make contact. Water in with 1T Hormex Liquid Concentrate mixed in 1 quart of water. I use the same solution to start green vine cuttings in water. Last week I decided to clone 2 ivy leaf Philodendrons, not because they grew like weeds, but because they will make perfect gifts for our family exchange in December. Heart leaf ivy, Philodendron scandans, may be the most commonly grown houseplant and I do not think even my relatives can kill it. P. scandans mediopictum has the same dark green leaves marked with yellow and is called flame ivy. I started both of them in a plastic cup of the HLC solution because the vines, though vigorous, are a bit thin. To do this, I took 6 inch cuttings from the tips only and stripped the leaves from the 3 inches that touch the water. There are 2 or 3 nodes on each vine in the water and roots will appear at most of them. My usual caution applies here: roots formed in water will be thinner than those formed in soil. I’ll let the ivy clones develop dense clusters of white roots before potting them up in a very well-drained potting mix. It won’t be long before they are ready for pots and a space under the grow light until the holidays. I hope there’s room – sometimes being a passionate propagator is like being a bibliophile with too few bookshelves.
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