Multiply those plants

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We have finished repotting orchids and aroids, and now is the season to turn our attention to propagating our other plants. Craig Morell, curator of living collections at the Kampong, gave a wonderful talk to the Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society Monday night about the many techniques used in plant propagation, including tip cuttings, air layers, and divisions of bulbous/rhizomatous plants such as begonias.

Some 1,500 species of Begonia exist in the wild, and who knows how many cultivars there are in the world. Most are found in Central and South America and Asia, but Africa and China contribute about 150 species each.

Rhizomatous begonias are long-lasting in our South Florida gardens, and Morell shared some really easy ways to propagate them: by a leaf cutting, stem cutting or “in-pot divisions,” meaning simply take a trowel and cut through the rhizome and new leaves will sprout. A piece of rhizome pressed lightly into the top of a container of freely draining soil will do the trick. Or, for rooting cuttings: a 50-50 mix of Perlite and vermiculite serve well, he said.

For leaf cuttings, remove a healthy–but not too large--leaf and its petiole from the plant, insert the petiole into the Perlite/vermiculite mix and wait for new plants to grow. Keep the mix damp and in a shady area where humidity is high.

This begonia rhizome will produce roots and shoots.