Plantopedia is the third book by indoor plant experts Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan of Sydney plant-delivery business Leaf Supply. The 400-page book is a guide to keeping plants happy and healthy in any space, with more than 150 profiles as well as tips and troubleshooting.
Plants are intrinsically built to grow and multiply. Whether you’re looking to expand your own collection or share the love with friends, propagating is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from your existing collection. When setting out to propagate plants it’s important to note that success is definitely not guaranteed, so don’t be discouraged if some cuttings don’t make it. Here are some things to consider to encourage successful propagation.
• Choose the healthiest plant. The exception to the rule here is if you have a plant that you are trying to salvage by propagating. In which case you really have nothing to lose.
• Propagation is best done in the warmer months when plants are in their active growing period.
• Water your chosen plant a couple of days before propagating, so it’s nice and hydrated.
• Rainwater or distilled water is preferred when propagating.
• Take more cuttings than you need as not all will take.
• Handle cuttings gently when separating them from the original plant.
• Don’t over-water cuttings or place them in too large a pot while the roots are settling in, as this can drown your plant.
• Keep baby plants in a warm, brightly lit spot without any direct sunlight.
To get started, all you need is a plant that’s ready for propagating; clean, sharp secateurs; clean pots filled with potting or seedling mix; or glass vessels (depending on which method you’re using). For those new to propagating, keep it simple and start with devil’s ivy cuttings in a glass.
Here are four techniques suitable for different varieties of indoor plants.
Probably the most common propagation technique that works well for lots of plants, including aroids, begonias and hoyas. Using a clean pair of secateurs, cut your stem at a 45 degree angle, ensuring it’s about 10-centimetres long and includes a few leaves and one or two nodes (ridges on the stem, often alongside a leaf or side shoot). Most tropical plants can be placed directly into a fresh pot filled with potting mix, seedling mix or coco coir, or into a water-filled glass vessel.
Unlike tropical plants, most cacti and succulent cuttings should be left to callus (dry out) for a few days before planting into a coarse, sandy potting mix.
Allowing the cut end to “seal” also means it’s less likely to become infected. You can further increase your chances of success by dipping the callused end into a store-bought rooting hormone, or use a natural substitute like honey or even saliva. Just spit on a plate rather than insert the cutting into your mouth. New roots can take up to six weeks to appear, so be patient.
Plantlets and offsets
Plantlets are miniature versions of the adult plant that appear at the ends of branches and runners. Spider plants are a perfect example, producing lots of baby spiders on aerial stems from the mother plant. Similarly, offsets are side shoots or “pups” that are genetically identical daughter plants, produced by plants such as the Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomiodes) or snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata).
These baby plants usually appear around the base of the mother plant and are very delicate with only a small number of roots. Once plantlets and offsets are a decent size, simply remove them with a clean, sharp knife or secateurs and place in a fresh pot with good-quality potting mix and adequate drainage. Both can also be rooted successfully in water.
This technique works well for plants such as succulents and begonias. Gently twist off a leaf at the stem, making sure to remove the whole leaf. Let the leaf dry out for one to three days to lessen its chance of rotting, then dip it in your choice of rooting hormone and insert two-thirds of the stem end into the soil. Point the leaves away from the middle of the pot so the new roots are centred, and gently press the potting mix down.
Once some plants are big enough, you can easily divide them to create two or more plants. It’s best to do this in early spring so your new plants will have a burst of growth once they’ve been repotted.
To start, remove the original plant from its pot, then grab the plant with both hands and gently try to pull it apart. If this fails, remove the soil from the roots and try again, or use a knife to carefully separate the roots. Then all you have to do is pop each new division into a fresh pot and top it up with new potting mix. Make sure you treat these new plants gently for a couple of weeks, watering them regularly and keeping out of direct light. Calatheas and peace lilies are good examples of plants that can be propagated using this method.
This is an extract from Plantopedia by Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan of Leaf Supply, out now. Published by Smith Street Books, $59.99.