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Growing Hibiscus rosa-sinensis from seed

Growing Hibiscus rosa-sinensis from seed

This post is as far away from cold-hardy as it gets. This time, I tried growing tropical hibiscus seeds. After growing and hybridizing temperate Hibiscus moscheutos and later Hibiscus coccineus, I added completely non-hardy tropical Hibiscus rosa-sinensis to the list.

How hard can it be?

When I first tried growing the seeds, they were old and haven’t been kept in ideal conditions. None of the seeds germinated. I have successfully germinated at least 2 years old seeds of temperate Hibiscus moscheutos before, so I expected at least some success with the tropical variety as well. Seeds were not that old after all, 6 months at most.

The second time, I used fresh seeds and soon noticed they started sprouting. They emerged as typical Hibiscus with the same cotyledon as its siblings before. The only evident difference was the smooth glossy texture of the leaves.

Leaves are dark brown on top with reddish-brown underside.

Brown leaves!

Soon after germination, first sets of true leaves emerged and they immediately started gaining red color under LED grow lights. Temperate hibiscus seedlings could get it, but it never got that extreme. Leaves that are originally dark green turned chocolate brown when the red leaf pigmentation formed. New leaves start light green and color-up as they mature. They really look unique with that dark colored leaves. Under LED grow light, they appear almost completely black.

Seedling diversity

From the very beginning, leaves of the seedlings looked different. Since these are most likely juvenile leaves, they could eventually become identical. They both have leaves with 3 lobes. One of the seedlings have extremely thin lobes. I’m new to the tropical hibiscus seedlings so I got quite surprised by both its appearance and the fact how different their leaf shape is.

I will grow these two seedlings as potted plants and I’m looking forward to see how they develop. Their growth is getting very vigorous now. I’m afraid they could soon run out of space I can offer them, but for now, they are doing great. I might write an update when they mature and possibly even start flowering.

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Drosera spatulata propagation – cuttings

Drosera spatulata propagation – cuttings

The easiest and fastest option to multiply your Drosera spatulata (or many other Drosera plants) is making leaf cuttings. They can easily grow tiny plants which take a lot less time than growing seedlings. Let’s see how you can easily make cuttings of your Drosera spatulata.

Drosera-spatulata
Drosera spatulata ‘Fraser island’

What do you need?

Like mentioned earlier, Drosera spatulata easily grows small plantlets from leaf cuttings. They don’t need any help using rooting hormones or growth regulators, the only thing they need is water. Speaking of water, it needs to have low TDS value (total dissolved solids). That means the water doesn’t have much salts in it, which are usually present in ground or tap water. The best option is if you can collect rain water. I usually wait for a while and discard the first couple of hours of rain, so the atmosphere and the roof cleans up a bit. I measured TDS and it can make quite a difference. If collected rain is not an option, you can use RO (reverse osmosis) water or distilled water.

How do you make the cuttings?

Making leaf cuttings is easy, you need small scissors and forceps. I make a cut as close to the base of the plant as possible and discard old and damaged leaves. Using forceps I pick out the leaves I just cut and place them into petri dish, filled half-way with distilled water. You can also use a glass or any kind of container that holds water. In an experiment with Drosera capensis a few years ago, I used zip-lock bags, which also worked.

How long does it take?

It can take quite some time before you see the first signs of life. Young, healthy and large leaves will take faster and grow more small plants, while smaller, older or damaged leaves usually take longer and produces only a couple of plants, some even fail. It usually takes around a month to get them started, but it often takes longer, up to two months. Beside health of the cuttings, there are other key factors that can also affect the speed of propagation – light and temperature. Keep them in light place but not directly exposed to sun. They grow well under artificial lights, I have set the lights to 16 hour day length. I try to keep temperature between 20°C and 30°C.

Well fed Drosera spatulata. It single handedly eradicated fungus gnats infestation.

PROS / CONS compared to growing seedlings?

First there are pros:
Cuttings take off a lot faster than seedlings which can stay in their super tiny phase for quite some time.
When they first emerge, they can already start “hunting” small insects. Seedlings are usually too small to catch even the smallest springtails.
All the seedlings are identical to their parent plant – they are clones. That comes especially handy with Drosera hybrids that are not fertile.

Smaller leaves don’t give as many plantlets

Cons of taking cuttings are:
They are clones. There is no biodiversity in that, all the plants you get are identical, they have the same vigor, same shape, color,… As it is a good thing, it can be a bad thing as well. I like diversity!
By generative (sexual) reproduction, you can get hybrids and selectively breed your plants, trying to get their best characteristics and create a superior seedling. That alone makes it worth playing with the seeds, it’s just not to make a lot of plants in a shortest time possible.

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Propagation of Blueberries by cuttings

Propagation of Blueberries by cuttings

Blueberry propagation is relatively easy and gives good results, but it takes at least a year to get a well rooted plant that can be planted to it’s final location.

One year old branches can be used. Flower buds on top have to be removed.
One year old branches can be used. Flower buds on top have to be removed.

Blueberries are usually propagated from softwood or hardwood cuttings by cutting twigs from healthy mother plants. Cuttings are then placed into soil, that holds moisture well and allows adequate aeration. Drainage is extremely important and in most cases cuttings fail to root, because of waterlogged soil which causes young fragile roots to rot. Softwood cuttings are usually taken during the late spring or early summer. Hardwood cuttings, on the other hand, can be obtained during winter dormancy in January or February in northern hemisphere.

Blueberry propagation
Awaking dormant bud

Hardwood cuttings usually give better results than softwood cuttings, which are more delicate, can easily dessicate and are more susceptible to fungal infections and rot. To take hardwood cuttings, one year old shoots are used. It’s essential that the cuttings don’t have flower buds, if they do, you need to cut off the top part of the shoot. Flowers make rooting almost impossible, because they deplete the energy of the cutting faster than new roots can grow. Cuttings need to be 10 to 12 cm long. Bottom part of each cutting needs to be severed, to promote root growth. By peeling of 1 cm of bark on one side of the cutting should be enough. Place the cuttings into the soil so that the peeled bark ends up on the bottom in the substrate. You need to stick at least half of the cutting below soil level and only one or two leaf buds above the soil.

leaves on blueberry cutting
Fresh set of leaves on Blueberry branch cutting.
Soil needs to be acidic with pH ranging from 4.5 to 5 and slightly moist. Good drainage is essential. At first, without the leaves, water consumption will be minimal, so water the cuttings accordingly. When the leaves start growing, they need a bit more water and can use occasional misting. In case of misting, good ventilation is essential to prevent fungal infections. In early summer, blueberry cuttings should start growing faster. Faster growth indicates that the roots have started growing and that the plants started to use new source of nutrients. At that point, blueberries can start receiving their fertilizer. At first, I rather use half strength solution of water soluble fertilizer. If the plants don’t complain, I up the dosage according to instructions on the label.

 

callus formation
Callus formation

In a couple of months, cuttings form callus around the wounded tissue and it doesn’t take long before first roots appear and the cuttings take off. The roots are fragile in the beginning, so it’s essential to keep the rooting medium moist but not overly wet. It is essential to keep the cuttings protected from drying out at this phase. If everything goes well, first cuttings start swelling the buds on the shoots they initially grew in the beginning. The new growth indicates that the cuttings made their first roots. Those roots make it possible for them to acquire more nutrients and continue with growth. When their second growth phase is completed after the growth of new leaves and shoots ceases, it’s time to plant them into separate pots. Some of the cuttings never make it and I wouldn’t wait too long, before I transplant the ones that had rooted successfully.

 

New shoots are a good sign - cuttings have grown roots!
New shoots are a good sign – cuttings have grown roots!
New growth started in mid summer
New growth started in mid summer

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How to propagate Drosera cuttings in water

How to propagate Drosera cuttings in water

When I took my Drosera capensis seedlings inside for the winter, I’ve had severe aphid infestation. To battle the vermin, I used strong insecticide diluted in distilled water. It removed the vermin and only removed the dew for a couple of days. After that the seedlings looked better than before treating with insecticide. When I saw they have lost their dew and started curling their tentacles as if they would have caught something, I thought about loosing the poor seedlings and whole year of growing would become wasted. As they recovered, I started thinking about making leaf cuttings.

Compared to growing from seed, Drosera cuttings are way faster option. Seeds are extremely tiny and can only hold small limited amount of food for a fresh seedling to start growing. With cuttings, there’s much more energy stored in the leaf, which eventually grows roots and tiny plantlets and restart considerably faster. I usually prefer growing seedlings as it’s usually a bit more rewarding. With cuttings, you always get the plants with identical genetic material, great thing if your mother plant is worth cloning. Drosera species are often able to produce hybrids – some are completely sterile and therefore can’t produce viable seeds. In that case, asexual propagation is the only option.

Drosera leaves in distilled water
Drosera leaves in distilled water

I decided to try taking a couple of whole Drosera capensis leaves and placing them into zip-lock bag, filled with distilled water. All parts of plant can be used to create cuttings as long as they are alive, so I also took a couple of flower stalks from the flowers that already ripened and started turning yellow. I tried some of the yellow and some of still green parts of the flower stalk. I placed the bags right next to other Drosera plants under strong growing lights. Usually leaves can be cut into 2.5cm (an inch) long sections, but I just squeezed the leaves into the bag and only cut down the flower stalks. When they start rooting, leaves can always be chopped between the newly emerged plantlets before planting.

Small Drosera capensis plants
Small Drosera capensis plants

It was not the best idea to use zip-lock bags and I had to throw away a couple of them, before they actually started growing small plants. I did not clean the leaves and there were also some remains of captured insects that made the water cloudy and perhaps even caused some of the leaves to rot.
In a bit less than two months, small plants emerged from leaf cuttings. First, they pushed out a couple of carnivorous leaves, and in a couple of weeks, first roots followed as well. By using stored energy from the mother plant’s leaf, they tend to grow much faster than plants propagated from seeds, which means propagation of Drosera by cuttings is way faster and more efficient, at least for Drosera capensis.

Cuttings after their first meal, temporary placed into chopped living moss
Cuttings after their first meal, temporary placed into chopped living moss

7 days later, moss started to grow. Two young Drosera capensis plants  grew incredibly fast.
7 days later, moss started to grow. Two young Drosera capensis plants grew incredibly fast.

very vigorous growth of drosera cuttings
Two weeks after planting, both, Drosera cuttings and moss growth exploded

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