Possibly Propagating a Pretty Potted Sans?

wndy_gardenweb(USDA z4b)March 13, 2013

Hello all!

I am new to Gardenweb, and so I apologize in advance for any missteps I might make :-)

I have a Sans that I would like to repot/propagate. It is in the 8" black plastic pot that it came in when I bought it about two years ago. I'm unsure of the variety, but it's very common--dark green, thin, tall ( 2-3') leaves, with yellow on the outside. There are many rosettes in the pot; I count nine rosettes. There really isn't room in the pot for any more of them, which is my reason for repotting the plant.

I searched the Gardenweb forums to find information on propagating them by dividing the rhizome, as I didn't want to ask a question that's been asked over and over again (how tiresome!), but I didn't find a thread that addressed that method--they all seem to deal with propagation by leaf cuttings.

Anyhow, thank you for reading this far. The information I have gathered so far from all you lovely knowledgeable folk is:

- they need to be watered sparingly
- fast-draining soil is a must
- do not water right after repot/potting
- let any wounds heal before repot/first watering (let them callous over)
- no direct sun
- do not over pot / smallest pot possible for new plants

OK, so that is what I have learned so far. My questions that remain are...

1) I have a bag of perlite, and a bag of spaghnum moss (not peat moss, but actual whole moss in a bag). I have some "used" soil (miracle grow potting mix most likely, with probably some peat mixed in?) leftover from last year's outdoor growing. I also have been saving coffee grounds as a free soil filler. So I am wondering, what should I put the new plants in? Just perlite? Should I put a miracle grow cactus mix for the fertilizer? I'm really quite a newbie to this. Also, I'm not sure what kind of pot to use (other than one with lots of holes at the bottom). Does it matter?

2) To propagate this plant, should I just remove the entire thing from the pot (I think that would be really easy as the soil is really loose/non-existent). Then, would I just take scissors or a serrated knife and cut through the rhizome between the parts where the rosettes came forth? (I'm just imagining what it looks like--I've never looked at the roots before).

3) And if I cut the rhizome, should I leave each new rhizome/rosette section on the counter for a day or two to let it heal, and then plant it in appropriate medium?

4) And one last question (sorry there are so many!) Most rosettes are about 1.5' tall, but only an inch or so at the base... how do I repot them without them tipping over?

5) OK it turns out I lied, I have another question. How many cuts can I make to the rhizome before stressing the plant out? Can I cut up the rhizome into nine sections for each rosette? Or best to cut it into three sections, each with three rosettes? Thanks!!

Thank you everyone who made it this far for reading this lengthy post!!

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Welcome wndy!

I don't have the best answers for all of your questions, but I can get you started:

1) A lot of people here are going to tell you not to use any MG products, pretty much, and no sphagnum or peat moss, because, for these plants, those will hold too much water. I have been using MG potting soil for a long time for all of my plants because I didn't know any different. I am transitioning to better-draining options. If that's all you have/can get (most places near me only sell MG mixes), then mix it 50/50 with perlite to quicken the drainage.

2) Yes, remove the whole plant from the pot and remove as much old soil as you can without hurting too many roots. Minor root damage during repotting will encourage new roots to grow when you are finished. Use a sterile knife to cut through the rhizomes between each rosette, if you wish to take them all apart. Otherwise just remove as many as you want. See link for photos. Make sure there are some roots attached to each rosette that you remove.

Do not use scissors in this case since the rhizomes will be too thick and you could damage them by squeezing with scissors.

3) I do not let the cut points on the rhizomes callous over before potting, because I want to get the roots into soil asap, but I'm sure different people do this differently.

4) This I do not really know since all of my sans. are shorter-growing types.

5) Like I mentioned in #2, you can remove as many as you want. It depends on how many different pots of these you want to have at the end, and what look you prefer (ex. tight clumps or individual plants).

Make sure you don't put them into pots that are too big because this allows for too much water to be held in the soil, thus encouraging root rot and eventual death of the plant.

Hope that gets you started, and that others will chime in. Good luck and have fun!


Here is a link that might be useful: Scroll down for photos of rhizome division

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 6:45PM
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Stush2049 Pitts. PA, zone 6

Sounds good to me.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 1:19PM
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wndy_gardenweb(USDA z4b)

Thank you both for the quick responses! I am very excited :-D I know what you mean about only being able to find MG products :-/

I read some stuff by tapla on GardenWeb about potting medium & drainage... but I haven't been able to find the same kind of ingredients that people here have been using (crushed slate and the like).

I went to Home Depot today and was going to pick up the MG cactus mix (I would like some sort of "soil" beyond perlite...), but when I picked up the bag it felt just like the other MG products... really fine particles and I think it said it contained peat! (peat has been giving me all sorts of trouble with the herbs I planted... so hydrophobic!). I did find an "orchid mix" however, so I bought that, as it was just "forest products" + fertilizer. Anyhow, it's basically shredded bark, fairly large in size. My perlite I think is pretty small.. so I'm not sure if that will be a problem (I read something about how it is a good idea to have all potting medium particles be the same size to promote good drainage?)

Anyhow, since that is what I was able to find, I will try that mix for now. Maybe 50% perlite & 50% "orchid mix" aka bark, depending on how it looks once I mix it. I may only take off a few of the rosettes just in case they don't like the potting mix hehehe :-D I will plant them in some free plastic containers (yogurt/sour cream containers) and then maybe put all those little containers in a big ceramic one so they don't tip over. I'll let ya'll know how it goes! Thank you again so much! Wheeee.... here goes!

- Siobhan

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 4:53PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Pls remember to make drainage holes in the containers, otherwise sounds like a plan. Good luck & let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 8:59PM
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Good advice from the above. Perlite is good for aerating and helping drainage. I have used the MG products out of convenience before but I usually add a bunch more perlite and a handful or two of actual garden soil. I have sometimes added coarse sand and also some of that orchid soil too.
You can use small sticks to prop the new plants up or I usually use a couple of well placed stones around the base of the plant to hold it in place while rooting. BTW the way watering is extremely dependent on your growing conditions and temps. When my Sans are outside in the summer (New Jersey) it can rain on them every day and they love it (when it is warm and they are in active growth). In winter at my home, they get watered every week or two. However, I have some smaller plants in clay pots in a room at work where the heater runs almost constantly. This dries things up really fast, including Sans, and I have to water them twice a week to keep them from shriveling. The biggest help you can do is just to water them when dry and water in the morning of a bright day so that any excess evaporates and therefore you don't leave cool standing water against the foliage.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 8:21AM
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wndy_gardenweb(USDA z4b)

Hello again all! Thank you so much for the advice--I went ahead and repotted/propagated the Sans and so far, so good (it's been one week). I took a lot of photos, and uploaded a few of them. By few, I mean, 22 photos!! A picture is worth 1,000 words, as they say. OK, so here goes (I think I finally figured out how to put multiple photos in a single post)

1. The picture above is of my very crowded Sans, in its bent-out-of-shape black plastic pot, before repotting. It was really easy to tip the plant over--heavy & tall leaves, and light soil!

2. I removed the Sans from its pot, and almost immediately half the soil nearly broke off, as you can kind of tell in the picture. Whatever roots were in the bottom half, well, I don't think they were alive (unless they break that easy?) The un-potted Sans held its shape very well though :)

3. I then began removing the plant from the soil, I think by gently breaking up the soil and maybe lightly shaking it a bit. Though there were plenty of roots in the soil, not many of them stayed with the plants..!

4. Here is a closer shot of the roots & rhizome of one of the Sans. I decided I would cut them all apart at this point.

5. Another shot of Sans roots. In this picture you can see some of the roots look dead. I gently tugged at the roots and a lot of them came off, and seemed quite dead. I hope this was OK! I was operating under the assumption that since people make cuttings of their leaves, which start with zero roots, then it would be OK if I accidentally removed a few good roots in the process of removing the dead ones. Hope what I did was OK!

6. Here is a close up of one of the rhizomes. There are a lot of holes in it. Are these holes former root locations? Are they bad? I do not know what they are.

7. This Sans rosette looked like it was coming out of two leaves, instead of the two leaves being part of the rosette. I felt like the top rosette was its own rosette because there were roots coming from it, above the two lower leaves. Because of this, I decided to remove those two leaves and see if they would take :-D

8. A picture of the now-removed Sans leaf, with a few roots growing from it.

9. I now know a lot of people start cuttings without rooting hormone, but I bought some before I read this. I've never used it before, so I decided to try it out of these leaf cuttings. I put down some plastic wrap, put some powder on the plastic, and closed the bottle to protect the rest of the unused rooting powder.

10. I dipped the leaf in the powder, and picked up the plastic to sort of "hug" the leaf. Then after I tapped gently on the leaf so the excess powder would fall off. Hope I did it right!

11. Next, I went about cutting up all the Sans into individual rosettes. I wasn't planning on cutting them all, but once I started, I couldn't stop! I used a very sharp knife for this task--a knife we use rarely, only when we need a very sharp knife. They were very easy to cut btw. I wasn't really sure where on the rhizome to separate them, so hopefully this looks OK?

12. Here are all the Sans rosettes laying on the counter...

13. I mentioned how the roots came off really easily. I also gently tugged at roots to remove what I thought were dead ones. Some roots had resistance and I left those, others had no resistance, and others seemed like they were a little thin string inside a brown wrapper--seemed very dead to me. Anyhow, this is a pile of roots left behind... and those are not all of the roots of course.

14. I bought a bag of perlite, and later, a bag of MG Orchid Mix, when I couldn't find any pine bark fines. This orchid bark mix had a LOT of big chunks, as you can see from the photo. In the photo, you can see I already added some perlite (before I realized that I would have to pick through and remove all these big bark chunks). The pen is included for scale.

15. I had a pretty blue pot laying around empty, so I decided to use it for some of the rosettes. In this photo, you can see the long wick I have put in the pot, coming out of the only hole. I wish this pot had more holes, but at least this single hole is very large. The wick helps keep some of the perlite from falling out (though not all of it...!)

16. Here is the finished product. Five (now separated) rosettes repotted into a new pot, with a fast-draining soil. Though I removed the really big chunks of bark, there are still pieces in there that I think are too big. I hope it doesn't damage the plant...! I put a lot more perlite in there than I was originally planning, since I was worried it would have weird drainage issues if the medium was half big, half small particle size. Anyhow, we'll see!

I should also mention that the individual Sans rosettes are rather unstable in their new pot, but they can't be planted any deeper of course. I used some of the large bark pieces on the top to try and prop them up/wedge them into an upright position. They seem to be doing OK one week later, I think watering them helped.

Also, the roots were out in the open air for an hour or two before they were repotted--in case that is significant. Also, I waited two days to water them, to hopefully give time for their wounds to heal before adding moisture. I think they are more stable in their post post-watering. They are now back by a western window, where they get some evening direct sun, just like before the repot.

I have a few more pictures to post (of potting a cutting in a 1 QT yogurt container), but instead of adding them here, I'll just link to the imageshack album where they are located: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/838/18sansqtwickinside.jpg. Thank you again everyone! Feel free to critique my work, suggestions for next time, and what you think about there being very few roots left on each new cutting... I hope to continually improve on this front!

- Siobhan

p.s. I realize I posted a lot of photos, and for most of you, you already know what rooting powder looks like, rhizomes, and so forth, so it probably seems very gratuitous. I posted a lot of pictures because when I was about to do this, I wanted to find a page of someone who had done this, and had LOTS of pictures... but I never found that. So, I hope you can tolerate the picture-heavy post, knowing that it may help some other new Sans owner out there... thanks! :-)

This post was edited by wndy on Fri, Mar 22, 13 at 1:53

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 1:45AM
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Stush2049 Pitts. PA, zone 6

Nice job. And a nicer job of telling everyone. You could use a tomato cage to help hold it all in place when done. I use them on my tall sans.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:15AM
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These look lovely! How are they doing now - just wondering how long it takes for roots to settle in. I re-potted mine using almost all the same steps, except that I gave them lots of water in the end and let them drain before moving them to a warm room. Was watering them a huge mistake - should I re-pot again?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:06AM
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(continuing from above) I planted them in different pots and all look like this. Its an 8 inch pot which would have likely been too large for one bunch, so I filled it half way

This post was edited by jansy1985 on Sat, Jun 29, 13 at 1:15

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:16AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Great job, good looking tutorial, but I'm perplexed why you're using a wick on Sans. pls? Also what's it made of, looks like it could be paper towel or even terrycloth?

Thought all was looking good, but I'd save rooting hormone (or cinnamon that I use for a similar purpose for after trimming all the ends (I thought I saw it used before).

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 5:19PM
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