watering rooted cuttings

luv_figsApril 9, 2010

i have such issues with watering my plants. i know i over-water, so i make a big effort not to. so basically my cutting that just rooted a month ago has 4 large leaves. i can see the roots through the clear plastic, and the once healthy white plump roots have turned brown. now it may have lignified, but i can't tell if its that or not.

my cutting stopped growing new leaves, the roots are not growing, and i don't know if i'm not watering it enough or too much. i've been watering it once a week, and not drenching it.

how often do you guys water? i keep it in my window will in 70 degree weather.


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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

How often you water depends on so many factors. The biggest one is environmental - is the plant in a humid area, or not? Is the plant in a hot area, or not? Is the plant in direct sunlight or indirect? Does the pot have lots of holes or not?

All of these factors determine how much water will aspirate from the soil, and more.

Ultimately, I err on the side of caution. I was talking with a fig friend about this earlier today. There are a lot of signs of water problems which you will see in your plants, and a lot of others can chip in tips above and beyond what I will post...

If all of your leaves are going limp at the same time and your cup/pot is light (not heavy), then you are low on water. Because new cuttings require very little water uptake, you do NOT need to saturate the plant, you probably want to add less than 10-20% of cup's volume in water, less if it's all soil, more if it's loose, chunky mix like perlite.

If all of your leaves limp to the point that they're U-shaped (upside-down U), they probably dried up and you lost that cutting. I had this happen the other day with one of the dozen or so VdB/Negronne I have going. It happens.

If you have some leaves standing firm, and one or two laying limp, you may be overwatering, this is how overwatering has presented in the 2 or 3 cases I've seen recently. If you don't cut out the watering, you're going to lose your cutting to rot or root suffocation. When this occurs, the stick will become pliable and easily bendable, and often times, might look wrinkly near the tip.

If you see the fringes of your leaves are yellowing or browning, this is something typical of repetitive dryout/water/dryout/water/etc. I've seen this regularly with tough-to-control-moisture mixes like 50/50 turface/sphagnum. It can also be a sign of nutrient loss, or excessive nutrients but the reality is, your newly sprouted cuttings don't need to take up any significant amount of nutrients, so you don't need to be using fertilizers, and you shouldn't have any problems with lack of nutrients for the first 3-4 months after rooting. If you start using fertilizers after the first 2-3-4 months, like any other sapling/seedling, you need to heavily dilute them.

Darkening leaf edges which then lead to brown spotting of the leaves, tearing/ripping of the leaves is a good sign of spider mites. You can confirm by lightly misting with a fine spray of water around the leaf splits, acute angles, and under the leaf itself and looking for little "cobwebs". No need for a magnifying glass, just drench the leaves in a neem-based product like Bon-neem.

White fluff on leaves, stems and bud scars is typical of mealybugs. You'll know if you have these. A neem-based product like Bon-neem will kill them.

Finally, solid yellowing leaves...nutrient overload...cold weather snaps...excessive shade...parasites.

I think that pretty much covers all of the cases I've witnessed. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 11:30PM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

In my environment, for 16ox-20oz cups, in a 70-degree F house that's hardly humid at all, with partial unfiltered sun, I'm watering once every 2-3 days. Back in winter when temps were closer to 65, and there was more humidity in the house, I was watering once every 4-6 days. When in the basement with cuttings, which is more humid with temps around 60, I was watering once every 8-12 days.

If material is sticking to the side of the cup, or is so wet you see water sticking it to the side of the cup, you're overwatering.

The ideal water situation is maintaining a level of moisture where there is a light film of condensation on the sides of the cup. You know you're about halfway between needing to water and having enough water at that point.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 11:35PM
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My experience parallels that of Jason (satellitehead).

I will add that I have about 30 leafed and rooted cuttings in three bins (tops open) getting filtered FL sunlight for 6-7 hours (and heat and humidity for 24 hours) daily. Filtered means through a screened porch and if the plants look wilty I add a 30% shade cloth snapped to a PVC frame.

When do I water? I inspect visually, by feel, and by weight. If it looks dry, does it feel dry, and does it feel light? If it gets three checks, then I water it. If it doesn't pass the sight, feel, and weight test, I don't water. So usually every 3rd-4th-5th day and varies with the weather: hot/cool/cloudy/overcast.

How do I water? I fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and then slowly push the cup (16-20-32) into the water and 'bottom' water until the soil is saturated. I do not submerge the cup but I watch the water level 'equalize' just up to the top. The Turface:Perlite:Pro-Mix BX media drains very well. To date, this process has worked well for me and I have only lost one of the cuttings the reside on the patio and have potted up seven.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 11:41AM
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hi guys,
thanks for the helpful responses. my plant is in a non-humid, 70 degree area with indirect light.

satellitehead: i see condensation at the side of my cup often, but the mix can still be pretty dry at that point. if i were to grip it, it wouldn't turn into a clump, it is so loose and dry that its like gravel.

JD: for your bottom watering method, why do you not water from top? Is it so you don't compact the soil by top watering? and in terms of the amount of water absorbed, does bottom watering give it less water than top watering?


    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 2:52PM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

I know that was directed at JD, but I thought I'd share also. I don't like to water from the top because this promotes conditions which are perfect for an outbreak of the pesky fungus gnats, which can harm your cuttings.

Don't overthink the wetness, get over the mentality of "it seems too dry at that point". This mentality leads to overwatering - think about this logically...a fresh cutting has almost no roots, and for the roots that are there, they don't really have many leaves to support. Cuttings "sip" water in very miniscule amounts. Because of this they DO NOT need a lot of water, which is why the condition of "appearing close to dry" with condensation on the sides of the cup is ideal - you're not suffocating the roots with water they can't uptake and don't need. The ideal situation is to have high humidity around the rooting mix, rather than "saturation" of the soil area. Just enough to prevent dessication, but not so much that water chokes the roots.

You'll see some folks posting on here about how they manage to lose 12 out of 12 cuttings or 18 out of 20 cuttings, or have persistent mold problems....this is almost always due to improper moisture levels; too moist - overwatering potting mix or too much moisture in the bag. It always concerns me when people express overthinking/overcaring of their newly rooted cuttings.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 10:02PM
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For me, bottom watering helps with my sight, feel, weight 'test'. With it I a) know that the medium is saturated, b) can keep the top dry (to Jason's point about fungus gnats), and c) handle the cuttings at least once every 3-4-5 days.

Since the cups are outside so the leaves get acclimated to direct sunlight and the roots regular waterings, this process seems to be working thus far. With a goal of fig tree producing figs, I have TIME - 12 to 24 months worth - for so much more to happen.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 8:22PM
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