Introduction: Plants can be propagated by a variety of methods, with mixed results. Success may be understood differently by each person and may be affected by the species and health of plant, environmental conditions (such as time of year, lighting, and temperature), the skill of the person performing the procedure, and the materials at hand.
Purpose: Determine whether Tradescantia zebrina cuttings result in more aesthetically pleasing (read: compact, rather than leggy or etoliated) plants when propagated by placing in water to form roots or when dipping in rooting hormone, then placing in soil.
Hypothesis: The cuttings dipped in rooting hormone and then in soil will result in a more aesthetically pleasing plant.
Method: This experiment will use two easy methods of propagation of a Tradescantia zebrina that make use of tools at my disposal.
Method 1: Water propagation
Snip five 2- to 3-inch cuttings from the mother plant.
Trim the lower leaves until a node is exposed.
Place node of each plant into a glass container with filtered water, keeping leaves out of the water as much as possible. Note 1: Due to the shape of the container, cuttings require more length to keep the leaves out of the water than the cuttings in Method 2. Some of these cuttings are angled between different nodes and leaves, resulting in more overall length.
Place the glass container and cuttings in a well-lit window.
Change the water every 5 days to 1 week, as needed to keep the water clear.
Method 2: Soil propagation
Snip five 1- to 3-inch cuttings from the mother plant.
Trim the lower leaves until a node is exposed. Trim the cutting so that the length between the node in the soil and the top leaves is as short as possible. Note 2: Due to the shape of the nursery pot, cuttings in this method are much shorter than in Method 1.
Place well-draining potting mix into a nursery pot that is as small as possible. I used a 2.5 inch square pot and made a mixture of 1 part perlite : 1 part African violet mix, because it was on hand.
Dip the stem and node of each plant into rooting hormone. I used Wilson liquid root stimulator.
Bury the stem past the first node into the potting mix.
Place the nursery pot and cuttings in a well-lit window. Note 3: Although they are placed about 6 inches apart in the same window, the cuttings from Method 1 and Method 2 may receive different amounts of light, as they are shaded by an external tree or by nearby indoor plants.
Water every 3 days to 1 week, as needed to keep the soil moist.
Observations: They both got equally leggy over the next two weeks.
Conclusion: No difference, even with the benefit accorded to the cuttings propagated in soil. Lighting is probably more important as a variable to ensure compact plant growth. I gave the water-propagated cuttings to a friend after transferring to soil.
Here is the in-soil prop; I’ll likely repot it with the mother soon to create a fuller plant.
When I visited my aunt a couple weeks ago, I saw her one indoor plant and said, “Oh! I have propagations of that one!”
And she said that this is her only indoor plant because it’s the only one that she doesn’t kill. And then she insisted I take some cuttings!
So I brought it home, and it’s been happy! Unfortunately, with the thrips outbreak, I ill-treated my original props while attempting to kill any thrips in the soil (there were no signs on the plant, but I saw larvae in the soil), and also killed the roots. I had to snip my props off before the spreading rot and stick them back into water to root again.
About a week and a half later, I don’t see any issues on either plant, so this morning I added my refreshed props to the pot my aunt gave me, and the height of the props well-matches the new plants. So it’s all working out and it’s now a nice, full-ish looking plant. Together, they will still be called “Lorraine”, because why not.
Soil: slightly dry
Light: grow light LEDs (white full-spectrum on a Dr Octopus-style fixture + red-blue seedling grow light LED panel), combined about 100 FC
Note: this was such a good reminder to check; the Dr Octopus light was not enough on its own by any means. I used the Lux app on my phone to measure.
Longest strand: 25.2 cm soil to node
Number of strands: 11
Largest leaf: 8.1 cm long
New growth: at the end of each strand, new leaves are coming–I just looked up how to branch the plant and learned that I can pull these out to encourage branching, so I’ve done so.
Signs of pests: None
Signs of care issues: None
Propagation: After just over a week, the props in water had good roots! Much faster than last time.
Repotting: Today, added props to the pot with others.
I was out of town for just over a week, leaving behind a husband and dog who care for plants about equally well, so to keep it easy I moved all my “keep-it-moist” plants into the bathroom (and a couple there into the shower) and all other plants onto my desk where they receive medium light.
I asked my husband to check the bathroom plants and give them water if the pot was light, which he did and they all look great!
The desk plants all seemed pretty healthy too; some needed water, some had some mold growth on top of the soil. I checked them over and moved them all to their original or better locations in the home.
And then, the next day…
For the first time ever…
I saw a small, thin, black bug hop away from me when I took a look at one of my plants. A thrips? Surely not? And then I saw it scurry under a leaf. And I saw a thing that looks like a thrips larva. Isolated the plant (peperomia hope) and sprayed it with insecticidal soap. Checked all my other plants–nothing seen. Whew?
But the next day: saw another thrips on the peperomia hope, and what seems to be thrips larvae in the soil of my tradescantia fluminensis, but no visible adults. Garbldfdjsksj. More spraying. I’ve ordered some neem oil and diatomaceous earth to hopefully combat existing thrips and guard non-affected plants from infestation. Checked all my plants again, but so far, I only see signs on these two. But they were placed several plants apart over the week I was away… so I’m not hopeful that they’re the only ones affected.
Oh, plant care. Why are you surprisingly anxiety-inducing instead of just happy chillness? But at least it’s fun.
I think I was told that this little guy is Tradescantia spathacea, but it seems images online include a purple-red underside that this one does not have. So let’s see! More likely Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Quicksilver’?
Original pot: none; bought as a cutting with a couple roots; allowed to continue rooting for nearly two more weeks
Current pot: 3 inch square plastic
Field notes — June 27, 2021
Longest stem: 5.5 cm from soil to base of leaves
Number of stems: 2
New growth: little leaves at end of each stem
Signs of care issues: browning on tip of one leaf, some spots on an older leaf (likely due to transport; the leaves are very delicate); I cut off some very brown tips in the earlier week
Light: bright indirect; low light will result in more green than purple
Humidity: moderate, 40%
Temperature: 18 to 27 degrees Celsius is ideal; minimum of 13 degrees Celsius; keep away from drafts and fluctuation of temperature
Preference: lightly moist, occasionally dry; allow the top two inches to dry out; reduce watering in winter; too little water is better than too much
Soil, fertilization, and pots
Soil type: peat-based, loamy, good drainage; good-quality all-purpose mix
Fertilization: every 4 weeks with balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer
Repotting: every couple years when plant is crowded, move up one size
Mature size: 15 to 30 cm high, 30 to 60 cm wide
Neat stuff: most Tradescantia grows downwards, but this one grows upwards
Common problems: Lack of humidity (signs: brown leaf tips) Spider mites (signs: webbing between leaves; pale, spotted, curled leaves; cut off affected areas and treat with insecticidal soap) Aphids (signs: sticky residue on leaves, especially new growth; isolate plant) Over-watering (signs: soft, limp stems; may cause root rot)
Propagation: Division: in spring; remove rooted offshoots from mother Stem cutting: cut with sterilized tool, root in soil or water
Turns out the wall close to my window, where this little friend has been sitting, doesn’t get enough sun and it has been losing its purple colour. So, I moved it to the shelf against the opposite wall that does receive more sun and hopefully we can turn this situation around.
Let’s get to know you
Binomial name: Tradescantia zebrina
Given name: Audrey Tautou
Native to: wetlands and rainforests in Mexico, Central America, Columbia
Given: June 6, 2021 by a friend
Original pot (current): 4 inch plastic
Field notes — June 26, 2021
Soil: 7 (moist-wet; watered two days ago)
Longest strand: 15 cm from edge of pot to base of leaf
Number of strands: 9
New growth: new leaves at ends of each strand
Signs of care issues: fading purple to green and leggy (needs more light)
Propagation: pinched off leggy section; placed in water
Light: bright, indirect
Humidity: slightly more humid; otherwise leaves will brown
Temperature: 13 to 27 degrees
Preference: moist but well-drained
When: the top 50 to 75% of soil is dry, then drench
Soil, fertilization, and pots
Soil type: moist but well-drained
Soil pH: neutral to acidic
Fertilization: spring and summer, every 4 weeks with liquid fertilizer or half-strength every 2 weeks
Grow style: fast
Mature size: 15 to 30 cm tall, 30 to 60 cm wide; short lifespan before becoming very leggy, so propagate then
Neat stuff: “glabrous” is the term for not-hairy. My plant is hairy.
Common problems: Root rot (due to: overwatering) Spider mites (due to: low humidity. Increase humidity, rinse under running water) Too much light (signs: scorched leaves)
Pruning: pinch back long vines by 25% to encourage bushiness
Other care: skin problems can result from overhandling, especially exposure to sap
Propagation: In soil: one-inch stem cutting with at least one leaf, set it cutting-side down in fresh potting soil (no need for rooting hormone); water regularly; roots in a couple weeks In water: take 7 to 10 cm long cutting of healthy tip with new growth (below a leaf node, 45-degree angle) using a sharp, sterilized cutting tool; remove bottom leaves, place in water; put in sunlight; roots form in about a week, then pot in standard potting soil and treat as mature.