Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday Lab Update and a Fun & Easy Project!

Thursday mornings are my lab for my horticulture class. First I'll take you through some of the projects we're doing right now, and then at the end of the post I'll have a simple project for you to do at home.

First off, we have the mist-house projects.

 This is the pink hibiscus cutting that I have rooting in my box in the mist house.

 This is Peperomia scandens or False Philodendron that is growing new roots and shoots from a cutting.

This is what's happening beneath the soil. Here we have roots and a well developed shoot forming from what's called a petiole cutting. This is where you cut off a leaf but leave a bit of petiole on either side of the the leaf. This particular leaf has been treated with BA (benzyladenine) which is a common cytokinin (used to to promote shoot growth).

 And this is the curly willow tree that I've rooted and now is happily growing in the mist house.

The mist house is really only used when the plant we're working with needs to grow new roots. Because the plant doesn't have roots to take in water, the plants need to be constantly spritzed with water to keep it from dying off.  

The greenhouse, on the other hand, is where we germinate seeds and keep other plants that already have roots. They get watered consistently and usually do very well. 

 This is another goldfish plant, somewhat similar to the ones in my room. This plant, however, has much lighter colored leaves. 

 This umbrella plant has been 'air layered'. This means that, where you see the bag of peat moss tied onto the stem, we've shaved off the outer layer of stem so, while water can still get up to the leaves, chemicals cannot get back down to the roots. This forces the chemicals to pool where the damage has been done and grow roots there. When that happens, you snip off the plant below those roots and you have a whole new plant. 

 This is another succulent I saved from being thrown out.

 One of my three Honey Locust trees.

 One of my four Kentucky Coffee trees.

 And then there's my coleus...

...all TEN of them. 
I really have no idea what I'm going to do with them all. Hopefully I'll be able to get my family to take them. Maybe if I offer to plant them up as porch decorations, my aunt and grandma will want some. 
And now for the fun project of the day: your own miniature garden, equipped to root many types of plants.
What you'll need:
-A dinner plate sized plastic pot, one that's not too deep.
-A small clay pot, one that fits into the middle of the clay pot and is about the same height.
-Plants that you would like to have more of.
-A piece of paper towel.

1. Take your larger, plastic pot and lay a paper towel in the bottom, covering the holes. Vermiculite has mica in it which will slip through the holes.

2. Fill your pot up with vermiculite. Soak the vermiculite until water runs out the holes in the bottom. You'll be surprised how much water it can hold.

3. Take the small pot and plug up the hole in the bottom. Test it out to make sure that no water leaks out. Press this down into the center of the larger pot as far as you can. The whole thing will look somewhat like a doughnut.

4. Select your plants. I used spider plants, false philodendron, goldfish plants and a purple coleus. All of these plants root rather easily, so they're all good picks for this project. If you don't know what else to use, a quick Google search of the different plants at your disposal should help. Most herbaceous plants root well, but check first, just in case yours is a special case.

5. To take cuttings of these plants, cut just below a node. If you're confused on what a node is, this is the part of the stem where a leaf grows out. So cut just below a leaf and you should be set. 

6. Strip off some of the larger leaves but leave (haha, the puns) some still on the cutting.

7. Insert the cuttings into the vermiculite. Don't pack the vermiculite around the roots. Just make sure it's stable. Packing makes it harder for the new roots to form.

8. Fill the clay pot in the center up with water. The water will, very slowly, seep through the clay and keep the vermiculite constantly moist. This is what the plants need in order to grow roots. I don't see too much problem with giving the plants a good spritz with a mist bottle ever now and then as well.

9. Set in a good amount of light, but not direct sunlight. Direct light would probably dry out the soil faster than the water in the clay can replenish. 

Viola! Your own rooting garden!

My vermiculite garden.

Coming up soon (I hope!) a trip to the conservatory! Since I'm with family for all of Easter weekend, I may not have them (or any other posts) up until Monday.  Hope you all have a wonderful Easter! :)


  1. love this idea and will bookmark it o I can give it a try....Happy Easter

  2. I learned two new things here, never had heard of a mist plant. I love the vermiculite garden idea!!

  3. Is the vermiculite garden a good way to start curly willow tree? I have a nice size tree that I would like to have in another area as well. What is the best way to start a new cutting of this? Thank you!

    1. In our projects we only used vermiculite to root herbaceous plants and we opted to root our willows in sand. From what I've read, willows are pretty easy to start from cuttings and I've heard lots of people have had success by just sticking the cutting right into a pot of soil and making sure the soil stays consistently moist.
      I found a page on the Bluestem Nursery website that gives pretty good instructions on what to do with the cuttings.
      I hope that is useful to you! :)