I hope that you took my advice a few weeks ago and began cutting back tropical plants for rooting material. Ok, so sometimes you have to cut back container plants to move them indoors or to the greenhouse, and sometimes you cut them back to reduce shock as you plan to shelter them in place outdoors. Either way, you have plenty of healthy material including tip, stem, and sometimes leaf cuttings. With routine attention to water and ventilation, you should expect to be seeing some results at this point. Gently grasp one of the stems and wiggle it just a bit. If it pulls right out, something is wrong, and you may have to begin again. But if the month-old clone resists your tug, it is rooting. At that point, add 1 teaspoon of Hormex Liquid Concentrate to a small reservoir.
Sometimes all is not well in the cloning world, however. Here are some conditions to watch out for, no matter what kind of plants you are rooting.
- A cutting pulls right out of the rooting media more than a month after being stuck.
- The surface of the rooting media looks dark; perlite turns green; cuttings wilt.
- A crust forms on top of the rooting media.
- Leaves fall off and tips wither.
- No condensation forms on the inside of the rooting chamber.
Inconsistent watering is fatal to many cuttings, vulnerable as they are to extreme conditions whether wet or dry. The cutting needs water and rooting hormone to be able to initialize and develop roots. The same cut stem can be overwhelmed by too much water in the rooting media and respond by sealing itself up against excess hydration. It is truly a question of balance and a happy medium for most plant species lies somewhere between green perlite and crusty soil surfaces. An effective way to avoid these extremes is to use a reservoir for the chamber. Of course you still have to check in and refill it as needed, but there is some confidence in starting with damp media and maintaining it. Speaking of damp media, most soilless mixes cannot tolerate much rewetting without ill effect. Pour out what you plan to use when filling a rooting chamber and moisten it just a few hours before you want to use it. Too many people take the short cut of pouring water into the bag to dampen the whole mix but only remove what they will use. The resulting sealed up mess will clump up or dry out and flake – neither is advisable. As you pour out a small amount of Hormex Rooting Hormone to protect the rest from contamination, so you should protect the soilless mix you use for the rooting chamber by keeping it dry and covered.
When the surface of a soilless mix gets dry enough to form a crust, it is very difficult to rewet and may have to be consigned to the compost heap. The reaction of the cutting is to first shed its leaves and then dry from the top down as it struggles to survive. But forgetting to water or to fill the reservoir is not the only condition that produces dried out cuttings. The reason a rooting chamber is covered is to trap humidity around the clones and assist in hydration so the leaves do not dry up and fall off during the process. Without a cover in place most of the time, the soil surface quickly dries out. Leave the top sealed on the rooting chamber too long in a sunny spot and the cuttings will collapse as surely as if a disease ravaged them. You’ve cooked them and no amount of resuscitation can save them. Clean out the box, put in fresh mix, and start again – and this time remember to ventilate!
- A stem darkens at the soil surface or leaves turn black and fall off.
- Cuttings fall over all at once or in rapid sequence.
These ruined cuttings are diseased and must be discarded along with the rooting media. The disease came in on the cuttings or the soil, which explains why you are always advised to use fresh media for cloning. It can be hard to spot diseased plant material, but if there are spots, streaks, or any other discoloration, root a different piece.