Propagation experiment

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

  1. Snip five 2- to 3-inch cuttings from the mother plant.
  2. Trim the lower leaves until a node is exposed.
  3. 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.
  4. Place the glass container and cuttings in a well-lit window.
  5. Change the water every 5 days to 1 week, as needed to keep the water clear.
Water Propagation

Method 2: Soil propagation

  1. Snip five 1- to 3-inch cuttings from the mother plant.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Dip the stem and node of each plant into rooting hormone.
    I used Wilson liquid root stimulator.
  5. Bury the stem past the first node into the potting mix.
  6. 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.
  7. Water every 3 days to 1 week, as needed to keep the soil moist.
Soil propagation

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.

A family member gave me this pot, knowing my problems very well

Field notes — September 2, 2021

Jade, Jubileum

  • Soil: moist (last watered three days ago)
  • Light: at 6:20 a.m., ~3 FC from the south-facing window (which faces the neighbour’s house) and ~15 FC from the kitchen lights. But who expects good light at this time?
  • Longest stem: ~6.5 cm from soil to node of top set of leaves
  • Number of strands: three
  • Largest leaf: 3 cm from node to tip; 2.3 cm wide
  • New growth: at tips. Pinched off 2/3 sets of newest leaves to encourage branching.
  • Signs of pests: none
  • Signs of care issues: new leaves at top had indentations three days ago; probably a sign of underwatering. I watered the plant immediately after noticing, and today, the indentations are gone in the smaller leaves. So that’s pretty neat.
  • Other care: Seems somewhat etoliated (leggy due to not enough light), but also is developing the red edges and undersides to the leaves (due to high intensity light). So… not enough light overall, but too intense when it gets it? Iunno, man. Probably.

Plant care spreadsheet

In July, I started building a spreadsheet to keep track of various plant care information–when did I last water, repot, check the plant over? What kind of light does the plant like? How often does it want to be watered? I don’t keep this information reliably in my head, so the spreadsheet is helping a lot. It’s not complete, but I add to it as I go. It’s also useful to sort the sheet by when I watered last or checked for pests last, because it’s easy to see which ones should probably have attention now.

This is how it is.

A couple columns shown here; there’s quite a few more.

Pff I now have 52 plants. Definitely enough. I did not need to know that. Damn.
No comments necessary on that, right?

Leaf collection

Plants often show distress via their leaves in a cryptic code of browning here, crispiness there, and the tactical expansion of yellowing across the surface.

What does it all mean!?

The answer to “why is this leaf yellow?” could be many things from over- to underwatering or too much or too little light. It could depend on how the leaf is yellowing, where the leaf is located on the plant, what kind of plant it belongs to, and just understanding how your plant experiences your environment.

Result: honestly, I generally just don’t know, and not knowing is frustrating, so I will treat the leaves I am given as a collection of specimens and find out what I can each time.

Leaves of distress: the pictures

Leaves of distress: the breakdown

Sign of distressNotesInexpert diagnosis and treatment
Yellowing from the base up on a bottom leaf– On a Dracaena surculosa (Päivi)
– On the lowest leaf
– The previous lowest leaf also yellowed and fell off
– The same stem has pushed out three new leaves
– Plant is not in the best area to receive light.
Plant took energy from old leaves to support new leaves.

Add more light to give it enough energy to support new and old growth.
Crispy edges– On a Calathea lancifolia (Jessica)
– New leaf
– Other new leaves have shown similar signs
– All new leaves are hidden under larger leaves
– Plant is recently acquired
– Moisture meter was not functioning and improperly indicated “moist” when soil was dry, so I left it too long
Distress from moving to my house.

Improve watering and humidity consistency.
Brown spots along the edge– On a Virginia rabbit’s foot fern (Fern)
– Appears on two leaves
– Appeared one day after spraying with insecticidal soap
Insecticidal soap applied in the daylight may have burned the leaves or have been applied too heavily.
Apply pest treatments more carefully or switch treatments.
Completely yellow or pale– On a Pothos plant (Esmerelda)
– Two yellowed leaves out of many on an otherwise healthy vine
– Yellowing leaves are further from the window than the healthiest ones
Too little light on that side of the plant; aging out those leaves.

Not a cause for concern.
Yellowing from the inside out– On a Virginia rabbit’s foot fern (Fern)
– On a newish, lower leaf
– Petiole is crispy and brown
– Moisture meter was not functioning and improperly indicated “moist” when soil was dry, so I left it too long
– All other leaves are OK
Too little water when this leaf was growing.

Monitor soil moisture more carefully.

Field notes — July 8, 2021

Cissus discolor, Jane Feeniks

Since this plant has had nodules of new growth that have remained unchanged for a month, I’ve posted questions online.

Stuff I learned online

  • prefers a very coarse mix
  • let dry between watering
  • likes lots of light, just not direct
  • cuttings need a lot of coddling (humidity: plastic bag, trips to bathroom during showers); might take two years to really pick up (I suspect it might be the same for this plant if rehab works)
  • for bags and cloches: take them off fairly regularly, don’t want condensation dipping on plant or leaves touching the edges

Very pleased to meet you, Vera

How rude of me, after knowing you for three or more years, so only say hello now.

New placement in bright sun on the kitchen windowsill
  • Binomial name: Aloe barbadensis
  • Given name: Vera
  • Native to: Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar
  • Given: 2017–2018, propagated by a friend
  • Grown in: Canada
  • Current pot: terracotta, 4 inch
  • New growth: they hadn’t grown much since I received them, they were kept in a low-light area, but there was a new pup.
  • Repotting: moved and divided them from a very small and shallow plastic pot into 4 inch plastic pots using cactus mix.
  • Signs of care issues: probably watered too early. Plastic pot is too large and holding too much moisture. Not enough light.
  • Soil: dry
  • New growth: none; no root development
  • Signs of care issues: one transparent, droopy leaf (underwatering)
  • Per Garden for Indoor, trying:
    Add rooting hormone to tips.
    They recommend placing 1/3 into potting mix, but I went to the base of leaves(added more cactus mix to pot for enough depth)
    Place into south-facing kitchen window.
    Keep it moist for 4 weeks.


  • Light: bright (south-facing); if facing north, rotate regularly
  • Humidity: not important
  • Temperature: 13 to 27 degrees Celsius


  • Preference: completely dry before more water, drench, then allow to drain.
  • Frequency: more water in hot weather. Might not need to water at all in winter if it’s in a cool spot.

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: cactus mix
  • Soil pH: 7.0 to 8.5
  • Fertilization: not necessary, but can fertilize once in spring with half-strength, phosphorus-heavy, liquid fertilizer
  • Repotting: terracotta pot with drainage holes. About as wide as it is deep or wider than it is taller; snug fit (one third larger than root system); plant becomes heavy, so want to avoid it tipping. Do not water after planting; wait a week. Place in bright indirect light until roots are established.


  • Grow style: moderately fast in growing season
  • Maturity: 4 to 6 years, 45 cm, but can spread far
  • Neat stuff: they can sometimes flower indoors at maturity
  • Common problems:
    Overwatering (signs: black spots, mushy leaves)
    Underwatering (signs: wrinkly, droopy, transparent leaves)
    Root rot (signs: wrinkly, droopy, transparent leaves due; due to: overwatering; treatment: A. cut off dead and mushy roots, repot with fresh compost, go easy on watering; B. if all roots are affected, remove them all; cut off biggest leaves to reduce plant size, repot in fresh mix)
  • Propagation:
    Pups without roots: press soil into bottom of pot. Add rocks and wedge pups between rocks OR add pups and place rocks around them for support. Wait two weeks, then repot into deeper soil and add water.

Research sources: Gardening Know HowThe Old Farmer’s Almanacthe spruceGarden for IndoorOur House Plants

Farewell, Ferris

Well, I suppose you aren’t faring well and aren’t likely to, and that’s the issue, eh.

You started out feisty and fuzzy, bouncy and pert, and oh-so-cute on June 15.

But you needed more humidity, lost some of your bounce, and I didn’t have a humidifier.

On June 21, I stuck you in a cloche.

So far so good!

Then I gave you some air on June 25 cause you smelled a little earthy (which is probably OK) and you wilted almost immediately.

Look at all those dull wilty bits.

And I thought, OK, you really need that cloche! And you seemed dry, so I gave you some water too.

Science experiment

But lo, by July 2, you developed a lot of — mold? A fungus?

So, with your friend Ympäri Pyöreä, I decided on June 3 evening that we were done.

Pretty gross now in there.

I took you outside and opened the cloche and a cloud gently drifted out from your slimy, damp, wilted strands. Your soil was soggy. You were too gross for the empty green bin, so I collected some dried weeds to line the bin, then dumped you in.

Such is your resting place, Ferris. Go forth, break down, and become part of something more.

Thank you for teaching me the beginnings of the importance of managing humidity in my plant environment, and giving me the lesson with alacrity. It will be some time before I try fern and moss-style plants again! And with more research in advance.

Dear My Succulent of Mystery,

I don’t care who you are,
Where you’re from,
What you did,
As long as you love me!

Aiee, so cute

And by love me, I mean, survive please and let me love you. You arrived a little battered, scarred, and sparse, and only cost me a dollar. You soon got a wrinkled leaf, so I have to be careful to make sure you get enough water. So without further ado…

  • Binomial name: no idea!
  • Given name: Tahmatassu
  • Native to: no idea!
  • Bought: June 16, 2021 at Plant & Curio (discount plant shelf)
  • Original pot (current): 3.5 inch plastic pot
  • Soil: dry (average 1.5)
  • Watered: top-down, filtered, twice to run through. If leaf is still wrinkled in 4 days, will water again.
  • Largest leaf: 7.4 cm long
  • New growth: two new leaves at the top, like pea shoots (since before purchase). Largest new leaf: 3.9 cm long
  • Signs of pests: ? see unknown
  • Signs of care issues: wilting leaf (underwatered), 1.5 cm scar along top of largest leaf (since before purchase); drying leaf tips
  • Unknown cause issues: bump like a knuckle over the tip of the largest leaf, 1.5 mm high; three tiny brown specks (hard and dry like scabs) on top of wilted leaf, each under a millimeter, scaly, dry brown patches (like bark) on underside of largest leaf and down the trunk. Are any of these bad? No idea. Nonetheless, will isolate and track for changes.
Bark-type growth? I assume natural. Maybe some leaves were removed from stem.
Three tiny scabs

Research sources: Succulent Studios


This morning, after breakfast I went outside with several plants and a much too barky dog for a bit of plant care.

  • Pulled out Uhanala, the string of dolphins, from its pot to remove entirely the roots that belonged to the stem with rot. Found another stem with starting rot and removed it too, roots and all. (Am a bit frustrated at this; wondering if other strings of dolphins from same seller are having the same problem; I saw a flat of them in the shop.) Cut off healthy part of latest stem to try to propagate. Learned from Facebook Marketplace seller L. P., who had a beautiful example for sale, that string of dolphins are extra sensitive and finicky until established; it’s better to buy one with long, thick strands. Ensure light hits top of soil to maintain health. Watered all string of dolphins. Isolating in spare bedroom.
Bottom-up watering for string of dolphin plants
  • Checked pothos ‘Glacier’ (bought from L. P. last night) because two leaves were half in soil. Roots and plants seem healthy, none-the-less I was able to move the one stem upwards so the leaves were out of soil. In same 4 inch nursery pot, will need water soon. Soil is light and loamy. It’s isolating in the living room, near the window, but hopefully won’t get affected by cool drafts from the vent.
  • Checked burgundy ficus elastica (bought from Facebook Marketplace seller S. M. last night) because of three leaves, one leaf’s base was in soil and the original pot has no drainage. They are all connected to a stem with a tiny root (I should have been more gentle when removing it; soil is damp, heavy, and dense, which affected how well it removed). Seems healthy. Repotted into 5 inch nursery pot with much less soil, as I have issues with soil staying damp too long. Placed into original pot as cachepot. This plant and ultra-mini string of pearls prop from same seller are isolating in my bedroom. I’ll need to lightly mist string of pearls every few days for a month before only watering when top feels dry.