http://www.nepenthes.xo.com/Plants/growing.html#PROPAGATION PROPAGATION Propagation is the reproduction of plants, and is accomplished by two different means. One is by seeds or spores (the normal reproductive process of plants), the other is by vegetative propagation, which involves cuttings, layers, division, separation, or graftings. SEEDS The seeds of many annuals will germinate (sprout) readily when sown directly in the ground in spring. Other plants have seeds with hard seedcoats or dormancies that must be broken before they will grow. Methods of doing so include: Nicking and Soaking: Large seeds often benefit from soaking in water overnight or until swollen. Some seeds, such as the mescal bean and large woodrose, will refuse to swell unless the seed coat is nicked or scratched first. With a knife, small file, or hacksaw blade, scrape away a small portion of the seedcoat on the side opposite the hilum or germ eye (the small dent where the seed sprouts). The hole should not be big, just large enough for water to enter during soaking. When soaking any seed, be sure to plant it as soon as it is swollen, as some seeds will drown if left for long in the water. Stratification: Some seeds need to be stratified before they will germinate. This process involves placing the seed in damp peat moss or sand, and storing at a low temperature until dormancy is broken. Chemicals: Chemicals are sometimes used for seeds with hard seedcoats that are not affected by stratification or soaking. In nature, these seeds have their coats softened by the digestive juices of birds and animals that eat them. Acids such as vinegar or sulfuric acid, and alkalis like sodium hypochlorite (Clorox) are used. The seeds must be thoroughly washed after treatment. Scalding Seeds: Other hard-shelled seeds, particularly in the bean family, are best treated with boiling water. To do this, place the seeds in a teacup, and pour boiling water over them. The water is allowed to cool and the seeds are soaked until they swell. This may be repeated with any seed that does not swell after the first time. Peat Moss: This is a very good medium in which to sprout seeds. Put some milled sphagnum moss (peat moss) in a plastic bag. Add water and knead thoroughly until the moss is uniformly damp. Fill a shallow pan or aluminum pie tin about 1 inch deep with the damp moss. Cover with plastic wrap, or a sheet of glass. Seeds may be started on the surface of the moss or buried in it; with or without bottom heat. Bottom Heat: This hastens germination of many seeds. To provide bottom heat, take a strong corrugated cardboard box and turn it upside down with a 40-watt light inside. Cut slits or small holes in the bottom to let the heat through to the flats or seed pans. Be sure that the heat will not cook the seedlings, as different seed pans or flats transmit different amounts of heat. When sowing seeds a general rule is to cover them with soil two or three times their thickness. Very small seeds, like coleus or tobacco, should be just slightly covered or pressed into the surface. Small seeds may also be mixed with sand to insure even distribution. The soil for all seeds should be light and porous. Seedlings should be transplanted after the second pair of true leaves opens. Transplanting is preferably done on a cool cloudy day. The transplant should be shaded for several days. VEGETATIVE PROPAGATION Hardwood Cuttings: These are cuttings of dormant twigs or stems of woody plants. Such a cutting is usually taken in fall or winter. There should be two to four nodes or buds on the stem. This is inserted at an angle in sand, peat moss, or a combination of the two, with only the top bud projecting. It is then left in a cool place where it will not freeze, for the duration of winter. During this time the lower end will heal over or callus. In the spring, it is planted in a sandy soil where it will root readily, especially if the lower buds are removed. Greenwood Cuttings: These are cuttings made of shoots of plants that are mature enough to break when bent sharply. These cuttings are rooted indoors in sand, gravel, or sandy peat moss almost up to the lower leaves. The lower leaves are often removed or cut to reduce the area exposed to air and so prevent wilting. The cuttings should have some leaves, though, as this will help them to root faster. They should be shaded and have gentle bottom heat. Many herbaceous plants may be rooted in water. When rooting this way, never place the cuttings in more than 2 inches of water, as deep water does not absorb enough oxygen for good root development. If the cutting wilts, clip the leaves in half to reduce surface area, or placed a jar upside down over it. Rootone, a rooting hormone, may be used to hasten root growth. Plants from which cuttings are to be taken should receive plenty of sunlight for several days before the cutting is made. This builds up the sugar-energy storage and improves the success of the cutting. Root Cuttings: These may be taken from any plant that produces sprouts from the roots. They are made from roots the thickness of a pencil to 0.5 inch thick, and 3 to 5 inches long. They need not show buds as buds will develop later. They are treated similarly to hardwood cuttings except that in the spring they are placed horizontally in the soil and entirely covered to a depth, of 1 to 2 inches. Ground Layering: This is a method of rooting shoots while they are still attached to the parent plant. It is often used with plants whose cuttings refuse to root. Select a low-growing branch that can be bent to the ground. Make a slanting cut halfway through the branch at a point about 12 inches from the end, and just below a joint. Then wedge it open with a pebble. Bury the cut in about 4 inches of soil and anchor it with a stone. Stake up the end of the branch so that it extends above the soil line. Keep the soil moist, and carefully dig down to the cut every few months to check if rooting has taken place. Once rooted, the branch may be severed from the parent plant and grown like an ordinary cutting. Air Layering: This is similar to ground layering but may be done with any branch. Select a branch from pencil size up to 1 inch thick. Make a slanting cut halfway through the branch. Wedge the cut open with a matchstick and dust the cut lightly with rooting hormone. With thick branches, a ring of bark should be removed instead of cutting the branch. Surround it with a handful of damp peat moss and enclose it with plastic wrap. Tie the wrap at both ends with wire tape. The peat moss should be kept damp. Check it frequently during the summer. In a month or two roots will form and the branch may be severed and treated like an ordinary cutting. Division: This is the process of dividing plants that have root stocks or tubers, or which produce suckers (young plants rising from the base of the older plants). This may be achieved by breaking up large clumps of plants such as heliotrope, or cutting tubers or rootstocks into sections containing buds, as is done with potatoes or hops. Division is usually performed during the dormant season. Separation: This is a form of division. It is the process of separating bulblets from the main bulb in the same way garlic is propagated, and setting them out to be new plants. CULTIVATION When cultivating plants make sure that your soil has been well worked and has been fertilized properly. The addition of humus, sand, or compost assures a workable soil. Start seedlings in flats and transplant when a few leaves have formed. Transplanting is best done on an overcast, cool, cloudy or foggy day. Keep the roots intact as much as possible and perform your repotting swiftly and gently. Water thoroughly and shade the plant for a few days. Do not overwater your plants. Water them thoroughly and deeply but infrequently. The roots draw upon water 1 foot or more below the surface; therefore the wetness of the soil's surface is not important. I have found that the most common cause of death among house plants is overwatering. Volumes have been written on the basics of plant cultivation. Your local library will have many good books on the subject. Plants should be grown with joy in one's heart and with calmness in one's actions. If you dislike your plants or the responsibility they represent they will often refuse to grow. If you like your plants and treat them as your friends, they will respond favorably and not mind as much when you use them for your purposes. In controlled experiments under laboratory conditions it has been demonstrated that plants react to people's emotions. Plants that were treated with affection grew faster and larger than those that were not. PESTICIDES The subject of pesticides is too involved to discuss here. A very good pamphlet entitled "Pesticides and Your Environment" has been put out by the National Wildlife Federation (see Suppliers). It tells sources of ladybugs, praying mantises, and lacewings (all beneficial insects), gives information on companion planting, and has lists of desirable and undesirable pesticides. This pamphlet suggests that nicotine sulfate not be used. This is due to its highly poisonous nature, rather than because of any damage to the environment. Otherwise this insecticide has the advantage that it evaporates completely, leaving no residue. Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol has been used as a spray, but it can "burn" tender plants. If used it should be tested on a few leaves first. If the leaves wither in a few days, another pesticide must be used. THE HALLUCINOGENS BELLADONNA Atropa belladonna L.; Nightshade family (Solanaceae) A perennial branching herb growing to 5 feet tall, with 8 inch long ovate leaves. The leaves in first-year plants are larger than those of older plants. The flowers are bell-shaped, blue-purple or dull red, followed by a shiny, black or purple 0.5 inch berry. Native of Europe and Asia. Cultivation and Propagation: Belladonna is hardy throughout the U.S., dying back in winter and rising from the root in spring. It prefers a well-drained, well-limed soil in full sun or part shade. The soil should be kept moist at all times. Plants exposed to too much sun will be stunted. In hot sunny areas it may be grown between rows of beans to shade it. Belladonna is most frequently propagated by seed, sown in flats in early March. Because the seeds take 4-6 weeks to germinate, they should be started early. When the seedlings are an inch or so high they may be set out 18 inches apart. The seedlings should be well watered just after transplanting, and shaded for several days. First-year plants will grow only 1.5 feet high and will flower in September. At this time the leaves and tops may be collected, but the plants should not be entirely stripped. The plants should be thinned to 2.5 to 3 feet apart at the approach of winter, or overcrowding will occur the second year. In June of the second year the plants may be cut to 1 inch above the ground when they are in flower. In good years a second crop will be ready for harvesting in September. The roots may be harvested in the autumn of the fourth year, and new plants set in their places. Belladonna may also be propagated by cuttings of the green branch tips. I have found that snails, aphids, and white flies are among this plant's worst enemies. Small children are much more susceptible to belladonna poisoning than adults, and should be kept away from it. Harvesting: The parts harvested as described above should be dried quickly in the sun. Wilted or discolored leaves may be discarded, as they contain only small amounts of alkaloids. Additional information about Atropa belladonna may be found here BETEL NUT Areca catechu L.; Palm family (Palmaceae) A very slender, graceful palm growing up to 100 feet tall but with a trunk only 6 inches in diameter. This is topped by a crown of three 6-foot-long leaves that are divided into many leaflets. The fruits are the size and shape of a hen's egg and are yellowish to scarlet with a fibrous covering. Native to Malaysia. Cultivation and Propagation: May be grown out of doors in California and Florida; must be grown in the greenhouse elsewhere. Young plants do well in a mixture of equal parts leaf-mold or peat and loam. Water at least every other day. If grown in the greenhouse, the temperature should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and about 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Harvesting: Betel nuts should be harvested when the fruits are ripe. The acorn-sized nut is removed and washed free of pulp. An adult tree may produce 250 nuts per year. Additional information about Areca catechu may be found here THE BROOMS Bean family (Leguminosae) There is some confusion as to which is the most potent of the three species of brooms used for their psychotropic effects. According to the paper first reporting the discovery of the effects of these plants, the blossoms of Canary Island broom were the "most pleasant and effective" of the three. This is also the species used by Yaqui shamans. Some herbals claim that Spanish broom tops are five times as strong as Scotch broom, while other sources claim that the alkaloid content of the Scotch broom is higher than that of the other two. To clarify (or confuse) the issue, it has been found that alkaloid content varies with environment. Canary Island Broom (Cytisus canariensis L., formerly Genista canariensis). A much-branched shrub to 6 feet tall with hairy branches, covered with bright green leaves divided into three leaflets. This is the only broom of the three that keeps its leaves through the year. It flowers from May to July, and is covered with many bright yellow blossoms in short racemes. It is damaged at 15 degrees Fahrenheit but it recovers quickly. Native to the Canary Islands. Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius L.). A shrub to 10 feet with many erect, slender, almost leafless branches. The flowers are yellow, 0.75 inch long, and bloom from March to June. Native to central and southern Europe; naturalized in California and found sparingly in the East. Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum L.). A shrub to 10 feet high with slender green branches and bearing a few small leaves. The flowers are yellow, 1 inch long, and fragrant, followed by 4 inch long pods. Blooms from June to September in most of the US. In California it flowers most of the year. Native to the Mediterranean region. Cultivation and Propagation: The brooms need a well-drained soil and full sun. They often naturalize on dry, rocky slopes in the west. Scotch and Spanish broom are hardy everywhere except in the most northern states, while Canary Island broom is hardy only in the west and south. All are very drought-resistant. Brooms are easily propagated by seeds, cuttings, and layers. Seeds may be started as early as January. They should be nicked and soaked until swollen before sowing. Seedlings should be transplanted carefully when young; they transplant well when older. Plants grown from seed will flower 1 year from sowing. Cuttings should be young growth taken with a heel in early spring or August and September. They should be rooted in sandy soil. When grown as a pot or tub plant, they should be pruned after flowering. They should be left outdoors from early spring until light frost in the fall. Brooms are subject to attack by the genista worm in southern California. These are difficult to control except with DDT. Harvesting: Broom plants grown in full sun have a higher alkaloid content than those grown in the shade. The flowers should be gathered, aged in a sealed jar for 10 days, and dried at a low heat. The aging greatly reduces the harshness of the smoke. The active flowering tops may be gathered in May and dried without aging. Any material from pruning may also be used. Additional information about the brooms may be found under the Cytisus and Spartium plant sections at the SDIZ. CABEZA DE ANGEL Calliandra anomala (Kunth) Macbride; Bean family (Leguminosae) Cultivation and Propagation: It may be grown out of doors in California and the South, and in the greenhouse in the North. It needs plenty of water and sunshine and will do well in a good garden soil. If grown indoors it should be pruned after blooming and set out of doors for the summer. Propagation is by seeds, which may require nicking and soaking before germination will take place. When seeds are not available it may be propagated by cuttings taken with a heel and planted in sand over bottom heat. Harvesting: Incisions are made in the bark in the early morning and the exuding resin is collected after several days, dried and pulverized. The incisions should be shallow and narrow so that they will heal quickly. Take care not to cut too deep as this may permanently damage the plant. Additional information about Calliandra anomala may be found here. CALAMUS Acorus calamus L.; Arum family (Araceae) A vigorous perennial herb growing up to 6 feet tall, composed of many long, slender, grasslike leaves up to 0.75 inch wide rising from a horizontal rootstock. The flowers are minute and greenish-yellow in color, occurring on a 4 inch long spike resembling a finger. The fruit is berrylike. Native to eastern North America, Europe and Asia. Cultivation and Propagation: Calamus is hardy throughout the U.S. and much of Canada. It thrives best in a rich soil, but can be grown in shallow water on dry land. It is propagated by division of the rootstock in spring or fall. Pieces of the rhizome should be planted horizontally, an inch or two deep, a foot apart in each direction, with the leaf-shoots upward. They can be planted in marshes and at the edges of ponds and streams. They will do well in the garden if the soil is rich and is kept moist by frequent waterings. Formerly it was maintained that calamus would not flower unless its roots were submerged in water. This author, however, has seen many exceptions to this belief. Harvesting: The rhizomes should be collected when two to three years old, in early spring before new growth, or in the late autumn. The leaves and rootlets should be removed and the rhizomes washed thoroughly. They should be dried without the application of heat. Upon drying, the rhizomes lose 70 to 75 percent of their weight, but improve in flavor and aroma. They should be stored in a cool dry place, as calamus deteriorates with age, heat and moisture. Also dried roots are often eaten by worms or small boring beetles. After a year or so of storage the roots have lost much of their active principle. Additional information about Acorus calamus may be found here.