Cuttings into plants

lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)June 29, 2009

This is like Rumplestiltskin - spinning straw into gold. We're turning a leaf into a whole new plant - and maybe even more than one new plant! You gotta love how this stuff works.

But, I've not done it yet and I've read many different things. I'm sure that all of them work....for someone. I guess I want to know what each of you have found that works well for you or have seen that seems to work well for everyone who uses it.

Here are a list of things I've read:

Stick the leaf in water to root

Cut the petiole to 1 1/2", stick in potting mix

Cut the petiole to 1", poke a skewer into the potting mix, then stick the stem in the hole made by the skewer and gently push the mix around the leaf

Cut the petiole at a 45 degree angle only 1/2" long and stick into the mix at an angle so that the babies come up more quickly

Cut as above, cut off the root tip, dip in Rootone or other rooting hormone, now place in potting mix

OK, I won't continue, but here seem to be the variables:

How long to cut the petiole

Whether or not to cut the leaf tip off

How far to insert the leaf into the soil (to the edge of the leaf?)

What angle to insert the leaf into the soil

Whether or not to use rooting hormone

What potting mix to use

Whether to use a plastic bag or covered container of some kind

I think that's about it...but you may know more. Those are the differences that I remember from what I read.

I just don't want to goof up. Sure, there are more leaves where these came from, but these leaves are alive and I hate killing things.

So, if anyone can provide any information as to why to cut the petiole a specific length or at an angle and why to place it in the mix a particular way or one potting mix is better, etc., I would be eternally grateful.

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Good the end you'll just have to pick one or several of these options and find out what works for you!

My mom swears by rooting in a glass of water and I hate that method! (water goes dry, jar goes green before anything happens)

In soil method notes:

Re/different length stems - NO - don't shove a long stem all the way to edge of leaf! Babies begin on the end of the stem and have to fight their way to the surface (adding longer time to the process and making them leggy, IMHO)

The skewer (a dibble!) is a good idea because you risk damaging the stem if you shove the stem directly into soil. (a pencil works fine ;)

Stems cut at an angle - doesn't hurt, probably helps?!

Never used rooting hormone - not needed. (IMHO ;)

I've used covered trays in winter for temp control - would also be good if you are a forgetful water-er but I trend the opposite way...helicopter mode (hover too much!)

GOOD LUCK!! (and get started :)

Here is a link that might be useful: dibble

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 3:56AM
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I know there are a lot of variables in AV growing but I think that many times, people make it much more complicated than it needs to be.

Rooting a leaf is simple IMO. I think there are a few things that will help your effort be more successful and heres a few of those.

Take a leaf )within the 3 or 4 rings of the crown) off the plant. If you take one that is on the way outer edge, especially if it's limpy, you aren't getting good quality to work with.

Cut the leaf petiole/stem wtih an exacto knife at a 45 degree angle about 1/5 to 2 inches from the base of the leaf. Obviously, if you have a mini/semi, you may not have that kind of length on the petiole and will have to adjust. Use some kind of poker (skewer, handle of exacto, tweezers, etc) and bore a hole in your potting mix.

Stick the prepared leaf directly into the dirt of a cup that has been prepared (wicking, perlite, etc). I don't angle the leaf, I put it straight down. I place it into the dirt until the bottom of the leaf touches the dirt. I do this so that when the new plant emerges from that cut area, it will be deep enough in the dirt that a root system won't be shallow and the strength and health of the plant will be more solid. Gently gather the dirt around that leaf. Press just enough to make it firm but not stiff around the leaf.

Pray with Phyton 27 solution and sprinkle with systemic granules. Place cup in a wicking container half filled w/ fertilizer water and place entire container in a zip-lock bag or growing tent and then....

leave it there for about 6 weeks or until you see mouse ears coming up from the potting mix.

Because the bag is sealed, the plant will live and thrive off it's own air/humidity. It has everything that it needs if you've put the bag into a lighted area. You don't need to do ANYTHING for a while.

It really is that simple. I've done about 200+ in the past year this way and had perhaps 10 leaves that didn't make it out of all of that.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 7:55AM
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I did find a research article just now.

ISHS Acta Horticulturae 64: Symposium on Production of Potted Plants and Cut Flowers
Author: W.U.v. Hentig
Past results with Saintpaulia ionantha Wendl. showed, that a special age of mother plants and a special stage of development of the leaf cuttings are profitable for propagation. This was confirmed again. Later it was shown, that there is a relation between the length of petiole of leaf cuttings and the formation of adventitious shoots.

There are three important statements:

  1. The most favorable age of mother plants for the propagation by leaf cuttings is between the fifth and tenth month of growth. The best results are in the first third of this time.
  2. Propagating leaves of the middle leaf zone of the plants and those of the upper (youngest) leaf zone showed adventitious shoots earlier than the leaves of the lowest (eldest) zone. With increasing age of mother plants differences became greater.
  3. Also the length of the petioles of leaf cuttings has an influence on the time of formation of adventitious shoots. Therefore number, size and weight of formed adventitious shoots depend on it. Shorter lengths of petioles gave best results. An attempt to determine the reason for this will be made.

I had read #2. I can't control #1 in this case, as I am ordering leaves, but I can do this in the future.

#3 is interesting. This was just the synopsis of the research, so I don't know if they mean that they found leaves that naturally had a shorter petiole worked better, or that cutting it shorter was helpful.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 9:17AM
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I'd prefer using an organic fert for them, but I'm OK starting out with a non-organic one. I'm not so sure I want to use systemic insecticides or fungicides, though. I may read a bit more about using cinnamon to act as the fungicide. Not sure why the insecticide is needed and if I have any potential alternatives. It would make me very happy if I did.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 9:21AM
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I just answered one of my own questions. I was doing more reading and came across an article that said cutting the top of the leaf off encourages a leaf to produce plantlets. It was recommended to use this when a leaf was reluctant. I am guessing that AVSA recommends this because it probably helps in all situations, not just when it's reluctant.

Here is a link that might be useful: About cutting upper part of leaf

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:01AM
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This is yet another variation. Instead of the 45 degree angle at the end of the stem, this one suggests notching it as a V. Logic? More plantlets.

Here is a link that might be useful: Making a V notch at end of petiole

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:04AM
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I thought these tips seemed worthwhile:
- Use clean, sterilized tools. Use a solution of 1:2 bleach to water to clean tools and pots.
- Cuts must be smooth with no rough edges.
- Do not touch a freshly cut stem
- Do not let the cutting dry out

Also, another tip is to gently tug on the cutting after about 10 days (but never before 7 days) to see if the roots are forming. I guess that if you didn't have anything happening, you could cut the top part of the leaf off.

Put, if you pull on it too early or too hard, you will disturb root formation and cause problems. So, not too hard and not too early!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:19AM
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AVSA suggests the 45 degree angle cut, but says it in a way I haven't heard. They suggest cutting 1.5" petiole for a standard plant, but to cut it at a 45 dress angle so "that the cut surface faces the same general direction as the top surface of the leaf." Reading words that would be helpful in pictures is always hard, but I am guessing that this means is should be parallel with the plane of the leaf.

They also suggest that water rooting is inefficient because the water roots are weak and have to be replaced by soil roots by the plantlets.

They like a mixture with activated charcoal They don't say how much, rather "a bit."

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:35AM
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If you keep reading long enough, you find out the WHYs to the whats and hows.

Interesting quote, "Cut the petiole at a 45 degree angle (cut side facing up) about 1"-1 ½" from bottom of leaf. The sharper the angle, you will get more, but weaker plantlets. Not as much angle will give you fewer plantlets, but stronger ones."

This same author had a suggestion related to variegated leaf plants. "For a variegated plant, choose a greener leaf rather than a highly variegated one."

Not sure why, though....

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:46AM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

This is what I do. I take the leaf, cut the stem at a 45 degree angle with an Exacto knife, such that the part that exposes more of the cut edge faces forward. This is so that there is a greater chance that the mouse ears will appear in front of the leaf rather than behind. It still happens anyway, so don't worry about it too much. I take a 2oz condiment cup, fill it with my potting mix, and stick the leaf in. I try to ease it in a bit, but I don't bother with creating a pilot hole with a skewer or pencil or whatnot, mainly because it hasn't ever caused me a problem. I then get the mix damp, label the cup with the name and date I started it, stick the whole thing into a sandwich ziploc baggie and forget about it for a couple months. I put the baggies where there is room for them, be it under lights or in the window. I have never cut the end of the leaf off, I've never bothered tugging on the leaf to see if it rooted, I just let it do its own thing. Every single leaf I have started this way has produced plantlets for me, usually showing mouse ears by the end of two months. I also remove plantlets once they have at least four leaves, with at least one or two of those leaves being dime sized, and stick the leaf back in the cup to keep on going. Honestly, that's a practice I should discontinue soon, because I end up with too many plantlets that way. But it's hard when the leaf is still fresh looking.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it's a really easy process, and the hardest part really is being patient. I do sterilize my Exacto between cuts using a lighter to heat the blade until I can smell that it is hot (kinda like the smell of a hot iron), and wiping down my cutting surface with rubbing alcohol. But I don't worry about fertilizing the leaf or using fungicides or insecticides, or even watering it for a good long while. It's in its own little microcosm in that plastic baggie. All I do is peek at it every now and then to make sure it hasn't gone bone dry, and to occasionally inflate the bag again - changing temps sometimes make the bag deflate.

The best way to take the mystery out of the whole process is to just go ahead and do it. I'd save the worrying over details for when you have 50 plantlets to separate and grow on to full sized plants - that's when trying to figure out how to best to grow them comes in handy : )

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:58AM
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Thanks quinnfyre.

I imagine many of you think I'm worrying or overthinking this. I'm not, truly. For a living, I write instructional materials. For me, it's just natural to want to know everything I can, find the "best practices" and then figure out how to teach other people to do it. I'm always optimizing everything, lol. So, more than anything, I'm just gathering info and creating a "how-to" in my head, so that when the leaves get here, I can just do it. When I see conflicting info, it's again part of what I do to figure out if there is a reason for it. Sometimes it's just preference, sometimes it matters. So, I'm picking through and finding preference vs affects final outcome so I can "worry" about the things that affect outcome, not on the preferences.

Last, since I'm usually coming from an instructional perspective, I figure others just might stumble on my posts and find something that will help, so I offer the info I find. It may again seem like worrying, but it's mostly just me trying to help the next person who is like me. Some people won't find it of any help at all and find it overwhelming. A few will and I'll feel good knowing I paid it forward.

The leaves were shipped today, Priority Mail, so I hope to have them by Wednesday. I'll get to practice then. Yippee!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 6:44AM
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The best explanation I have seen for the 45 degree cut is simply that it increases the area for plants to grow. The plantlets are formed from the edge of the cut, and the 45 degree cut simply gives you a larger area for potential growth. I've read about the notch-V cut, but do I really need that many plantlets? And, I do think fewer plantlets gives you stronger plantlets.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 11:32AM
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inlovewithhoyas(Boston,MA Z6)

This is a very informative post, since I have never tried starting a plant from a leaf. My friend and co worker was doing something in the office and she knocked out het av by mistake. One leaf broke off, so made a little whole with her pinky and placed the leaf in the soil. She was so excited to show me that the leaf had babies. Now because of that I am trying to grow my own av's, I guess my question is once the leaf is in the dirt, do you water it or do you let a couple of days go by before you water it

Nae boston

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 11:55AM
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Nae, that's exciting!

I've learned a lot since I posted this. I've now successfully started about 35 leaves and had no failures. (I'm sure it will happen, however I've been lucky so far).

1. Keep your soil a bit on the dry side. It should feel just damp, but not at all wet, to your touch.
2. Plant the leaves in a small container. A plastic Solo cup with a few drain holes poked in it is about perfect for a regular size AV leaf. (A large container stays too wet, encouraging rot.)
3. If you have humidity under 50% in your house, consider putting the pot/leaf in a baggie. You MUST make sure your soil mix is not too damp if you do this. My leaves are happier this way. Another option is to put it in a clear container (like a take out container) with a lid on it. My leaves preferred the baggies, but I did about 8 of them in a container and they did OK. If you have too much water in the soil, you can get too much condensation in the container and it can drip on the leaves.
4. Keep the leaves out of direct sunlight. If you bag them, this is a must. But, I found mine did much better on my fireplace, which does not get any direct sun, than in a window that had the blinds down.
5. Only water when the top 1/4 to 1/2" of soil mix is dry and then only add a tiny amount of water. I add about 15 ml of water to one Solo cup of potting mix (not packed, but loosely dipped from the container of soil mix). When I add water, I add 1-2 ml most times. If it is in a baggy, I can usually go at least 1-2 weeks without watering. In the plastic container, I needed to water every 3 days or so.
6. When the leaves do not have roots, they use much less water. The more roots, the more often you need to check to see if it needs water.
7. Do not use rooting hormone. It can be used, but several people have done tests; the leaves with rooting hormone take longer to produce plantlets.
8. You only need about 1/2" to 3/4" of the stem end inserted in the soil mix. More than that and it makes it harder for the plantlets to get to the soil surface. It also takes them longer.
9. I put the leaf in at a slight angle, with the cut end facing upward. The plantlets tend to come from this cut area.

  1. You can use many different potting mixes, but please remember that almost anything you use will have the ability to hold a LOT of water. I can't stress enough that because the soil mixes we tend to use hold a LOT of water, they can easily cause rot if you add too much water. If you water only a bit each time the soil is dry on top and never let the soil get really wet, you'll be fine.

Hope that gives a bit more info.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 5:49AM
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inlovewithhoyas(Boston,MA Z6)


Thank you so much for responding to my post. I am going to change the leaf to a solo cup, since I had it in a plastic container. I am going to do as you directed so that I can be succesful in propagating my av's. I will post a picture of the ones I have now. Your post gives me hope to become a good gardener with not only my av's but all of my babies.

Thank you...

Nae boston

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 5:49PM
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We tend to say that each person has to do what works for him or her. I do believe that's partially true. But, I also believe there are universals that work for all of us.

The universal with AVs is that they like a bit of humidity, but they dislike being wet. The main problem with any houseplant is that we kill them with kindness: too much water.

But, an AV likes humidity, so what are we supposed to do? Here's why I think we end up saying that each person has to find what works for him or her to achieve this. Some people wick water, some tray water, some use containers or baggies to start. They all have the same thing in common: they are keeping the soil relatively dry, while keeping the humidity higher.

If you can find a way to make that work for you, you'll be successful.

FYI, I LOVE using little baggies. I find them either at craft stores (for beading or holding jewelry) or online, even at Ebay. I buy 4x4, 4x5, 5x5 and 4x6. These work with *most* leaves and with 1 Solo cup. If you get a really large leaf, like from a big Buckeye variety, you may have to go to a 5x6 or small sandwich size.

Here's why I really like them:

1. Unlike larger sealing bags, they don't fall over with the Solo cup in them.
2. It's a perfect environment - dryish soil, but humid air.
3. You can move them anywhere that you have the right light.
4. And maybe the best thing is that it's a natural sequestered environment. If you start trading or buying leaves, you need to keep them separate from the rest of your plants. You can put them in another room, but some critters can take a ride with your clothing (or a pet) and move a pest from one room to another. In a baggie, the leaf keeps any potential problems away from your other plants.

I haven't purchased any plants yet, but when I do, I will also "bag" them to prevent/isolate problems.

I can't wait to see your successes. I am a long time gardener and have have always kept a few houseplants, but I'm new to the whole AV thing. It's very addicting!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 11:24PM
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inlovewithhoyas(Boston,MA Z6)


thanks again for responding. I have my leaf in a solo cup with a baggie over it. Forgive me for this question, since I am not too exposed to propagating, but can the baggie be any type of bag or is it an specific kind? Thanks for all of your feed back on my questions I really appreciate it.

Thanks a bunch,

nae boston

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 10:39AM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

I use ziploc sandwich bags. Usually not name brand, just whatever happens to be on sale. I tried using the snack bag size, which is a shorter bag, but it doesn't leave enough room for my liking. I prefer the plastic of the bag to stand away from the leaf, to help prevent the chances of rotting the leaf. I don't use Solo cups though, I use these 2oz condiment cups instead, which are quite a bit smaller. However, the Solo cups are much easier to find. I just mention this because I have no personal experience with Solo cups and sandwich baggies. It's possible you would prefer a larger baggie with the Solo cups.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 6:18AM
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inlovewithhoyas(Boston,MA Z6)


The sandwich bags are the ones I'm using. I like them because they stand straight over the leaf and the cup. I got a couple more leaves yesterday from a friend, she has two AV's and from the medical students where I work at I got some leaves as well. I placed them on solo cups with a baggie over it in a sunny location, but no direct sun.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 10:08AM
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