It’s been said that hydroponics is the Cadillac of gardening. If that is the case, then aeroponics is surely the Ferrari. Propagating clones aeroponicallly has proven to be one of the fastest methods for producing roots. However, true to the analogy, aeroponic systems is a high performance model not only in the speed in which they root and provide nutrients to the plant but also in the capacious amounts of care that it can take to maintain them.
Let that not be a deterrent to propagating with an aeroponic cloner. Once you get past the initial learning curve it will undoubtedly be a lot of fun. Whether you choose to use a homemade or a store-bought system, the key elements to remember are:
- Water quality
- Temperature of air/water
- Light – foliar exposure/UV penetration
It is always important to use distilled or reverse osmosis purified water, not only to keep harmful concentrations of chlorine or alkalizing minerals from continuously spraying on slowly decaying stems but also to keep sprayers from building up deposits. Going back to the Ferrari analogy, would you put in regular or high octane fuel? While some gardeners choose to clone with just water, you can achieve increased success and expediency in rooting by adding Liquid Hormex Growth Stimulant at 5 to 10 ml of Liquid Hormex per gallon of water. Because it is imperative to root and transfer freshly rooted youngsters as quickly as possible to maintain overall good health, the specialized formulation of rooting hormones will aid in lateral root development and the added vitamin B1 will help keep young plants from wilting by strengthening their cellular walls.
Both the temperature of the air outside of the reservoir and the temperature of the water inside can have a dramatic effect on the success of new roots. If you are not using a humidome to maintain a high level of humidity, it is important to add a light misting to plants if the relative humidity drops below 20%. Most importantly, keep the water temperature cool within the reservoir (the radiator, if you will) as this is the area that needs to be maintained at a range of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer the water gets, the greater the risk of inviting water borne pathogens like Pythium which will not only keep struggling clones from rooting but will also infect every other cutting within the system.
And, of course, we can’t grow any photophilic plants very long without light. It is essential for cuttings to receive consistent direct sunlight 24 hours straight. Thus, even if you place your cloning unit in direct sunlight, be it indoors or out, you will still need an additional source of light. For this reason it is best to do this in a controlled environment, preferably with fluorescent or LED lighting which will not run as hot as other light sources. Conversely, the reservoir of the cloning unit must be as close to being impenetrable by light as possible so as not to raise the water temperature and to provide the photophobic environment that roots prefer.
With proper maintenance and the eventual fine-tuning that comes with time, aeroponics can prove to be as easy to operate as a garden trowel. And while it may not compare with getting an Italian sports car, operating an aeroponics system will still make you feel pretty cool.