Sunday, August 21, 2016

Attack of the (Plant) Clones

I'm not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing when I realized it was possible to grow plants from pieces of other plants. On the plus side I can make more plants for free. On the downside every time I prune a plant I have an internal debate about whether I should throw the cuttings away or not. You know those horrible pet owners who just let their animals propagate freely until they have like a hundred of them because they don't want to get them neutered?
Yeah. Yeah, I'm that person but with plants.
If I run out of dirt and starter pots maybe I'll stop. Maybe.
Not every plant is a good prospect for cloning. I tried propagating the African Daisy before it died, and unfortunately it just didn't take. However, it's nearly impossible to NOT propagate a Pothos plant. I think you could probably just throw a stem on the ground and it'd somehow take root. Some plants naturally seem more able to form roots off of a cut stem than others.

To determine whether a plant could potentially be cloned I look for the following things:

Segmented stems: Segments mean that a stem comes in sections. These sections can usually sprout either leaves or roots depending on whether the segment is above or below the soil. 

Angel Wing begonia with segmented stems
Wandering Jew plant, with a new leaf bud growing from a  stem segment

 Root buds along the stem: These usually pop up when the plant is getting low on resources. If it's in a pot it may be getting root-bound or it could be running low on nutrients. It's common on runner vines like the Pothos, but other plants like tomatoes or this basil plant can also grow roots along the stem. I haven't tried re-rooting basil or tomato, but I've read that it's possible with root growing hormone. (A powder or liquid you can find in garden centers. It's an acid though, so apparently it should be treated like any household chemical. Wear gloves.) Putting a stem with a root node in the soil will result in the root node growing into a full root.
Basil plant with root buds on stem
Pothos plant with root bud

Pups or suckers: Plants such as aloes, hen-and-chick plants, spider plants, and iris grow tiny versions of themselves when they get big enough. These mini-me's can then be separated from the main plant and planted to form an entirely new plant! I've done this with several aloes and with spider plants but have only observed others doing it with other plants. Succulents (plants that grow well in dry conditions) work because their leaves store energy well, allowing time for the roots to grow. It appears to also work with plants that have rhizomes- energy storing roots which sprout tiny plant pups along the length of the root. 

Baby aloe that came off of a big aloe!

Sometimes plants surprise me with their cloning abilities. I should probably have guessed that Portulaca plants would clone well because they are a type of succulent. However, I was very surprised to find out that not only does it root well from a cutting, it will actually flower while still forming roots!
Literally planted this yesterday, not blooming.
This plant is crazy.
So uh....anyone need some free plants?
Portulacas winning at life.

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