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Rooting Succulents

Plants are really quite astonishing things – over time, they have developed all sorts of rather clever and interesting strategies for reproduction which makes our little mammal dance seem rather tame by comparison:
— Ferns, which reproduce through spores (with the help of droplets of water).
— Plants which grow their own little plantlets, which then break off and root themselves when they get to the ground.
— Plants which have flowers with both male and female parts and allow anything from insects to bats to move the boy stuff onto the girl stuff. Plants which have flowers which if they get hit or jostled become fertilized. And then they form seeds which fall to the ground, sprout and off you go.

And then, boys and girls, there are plants such as succulents, which not only do the ‘boy and girl thing’ but also have a neat little strategy whereby they drop pieces of themselves which fall to the ground and root. The pieces, in this case are leaves.

Now, some of these, from the Southwest or South Africa or the Canary islands can be very pricy. So, if you want a big display, taking advantage of this habit can get you a whole lot of plant material for less cost.

And here is how:
You’ll need —
The mother plant – carefully peel off a leaf.
A pot
Some well-draining planting medium

This is simplicity itself. Make the planting medium a bit moist (not super wet) and put it into the pot. Take your leaf and put it into the medium and set the pot into a shady area. That’s it.

This is what you will see for a very long time – I started these several months ago. Doesn’t look as if anything is going on here, right?

But, in reality, all the ‘action’ is going on underneath, as you can see from this photo – there are a whole lot of roots started from the bottom of that leaf and a new little plant (that white thing) is starting and will poke up through the dirt very shortly. So, starting things like this is really for the patient.

Now, there are other forms of ‘asexual reproduction’ (as this is called, because there are no ‘girl and boy’ bits involved and no flowers are required) that you can use with members of the succulent family.

This is a leaf-like structure from a plant referred to as “orchid cactus’ (technically they are called epiphyllum, which means ‘upon the leaf’ in Greek – you can amaze your friends with that). They are native to Central America and usually grow in the forks of trees. Yes, this does look like a leaf but it’s really not – it’s really a stem which has developed leaf-like structure and appearance. In any case, we can just perform the same operation as we did the last time to get it to root – just stick it into a pot. But these are rather large and it does seem rather wasteful to just get one plant out of one item.

SO. Here is how we do this little asexual reproduction dance:
You’ll need:
“Leaf” from the Mother plant
Small sharp knife
Rooting hormone powder
Pots or packs
Well-draining growing medium

Use the knife to slice the ‘leaf’ into as many pieces as you’d like. I’m sure there is some sort of size limit but if you have at least an inch of ‘leaf’ you should be able to make it root. Make sure you keep track of the bottom of the leaf – as you can just stick that into the growing medium and it will root on its own. Also keep track of the ‘bottoms’ of the other pieces – it does make a difference.

Shake a bit of rooting hormone powder (this will also work with rooting gels if that is what you’ve got) and dip the bottom cut into the powder and then stick that end of the cut piece of ‘leaf’ into the growing medium.

And what you will end up with is something like this – put the pot, again, into a shady spot. You should give it water occasionally – don’t drown it or water it every day; the cutting will rot and die. But once a week or every ten days should be enough.


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