Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pruning and Propagating Jade Plants

With spring coming around the corner, I need to get some house plant duties done.

Three years ago, I rescued a Jade plant which was abandoned in an office corner - covered in mealy bug. (Here's the post on it: Taking care of Mealy Bug). The plant's habit was quite distorted and funky looking when it was brought home. Once the mealy bugs were gone, I just let it rest and recover first before pruning hard.

Now that it has fully recovered, too many stems are meandering and jutting out here and there. I would prefer to get it back on track.

Tiny buds started to emerge from the stem about 5 months ago - now growing upright, towards the light. Yes!  I was patiently waiting for these to grow.

A little pruning and staking will give a better shape and tighter habit. I prefer using a budding knife, or like in this case - a sharp kitchen knife to make the cuts. I just cleaned the blade with rubbing alcohol first (to prevent bacteria or pathogens entering in the stem). Leaving about 1 cm of the main stem to the right of the new green shoot (as seen above). What ever you do, don't cut too close to the shoot.

Even if you only have tiny shoots standing straight up, you can cut off the main stalk to your desired shape.
Finished first step of pruning. I left that wonky stem on the left side, planning to cut and root it once I get better growth, so it remains for now.

With Jade plants - they tend to be slow growing in our environment at home. Patience is key. Pruning will have to take on several stages before the final desired shape will be achieved. But, I love plants and will wait for proper pruning results. Now I can adjust the stake and wait until those new shoots develop into sturdy stems.

But wait - what about all the cut off bits?  Don't chuck them in the compost. Save and restart the process by making new plant-lets. You can give them as gifts - it's so easy to do!

Jade plants have to be one of the easiest to propagate. As seen all over the main stems, little aerial roots are developing at bud axils. These are what you want to reserve.

The trick with propagating succulents, when you take cuttings, you MUST callouss them off first.
This just means, you make and take cuttings and allow the fresh cut ends to seal off and dry completely.

This prevents pathogens and bacteria entering in those cuts when you root them on in potting soil.

Freshly cut.

Here I've placed them by the window, so the light and air movement from the radiator and window will help to dry them out. They've been drying out for about 15 days.

2 weeks old.

Two weeks later, the leaves and stems are still plump and are not shrivelled. Tells you what reserves these amazing Jade plants have built in! And as you can see, the cut off blunt end is all callused. Sealed over. Roots are still white and firm. Good sample.

Now, don't throw out any leaves that have fallen off, until you have a good look at their base.

The right side are the kinds of leaves you want to save. 

Here's why:

Jade plant leaves are great to start new plants with. But you need to know a trick. Don't tear off the leaves by damaging the basal part of the leaf that was attached to the stem. They must have wings as shown above. New buds and leaves will emerge from these undamaged ends. So be careful removing them from the stem.

With propagating cuttings and leaves, you need to use succulent or cactus soil. The soil must be porous and loose.

Or make your own:

Make sure the pot you use is not too large. Or too much moisture will dominate and mould and rot will take over.

On this cutting sample, I removed many leaves so that the cutting won't suffer from lack of root development. You see, when propagating, roots should equal the amount leaves. When there aren't any roots, reducing the amount of leaves - the cutting is less stressed. 

In removing the leaves, sometimes little leaf axil bits still stick on the stem. Use a clean spoon to scrape any bits from the bud. They flick off easily from the stem, now that they were calloused over. Leaving these green bits attached would attract decay. And we need to make sure that roots develop with ease. You can use rooting hormone if you wish, but since I have small rootlets already, this isn't necessary.

This pot is about 3 inches high, slightly taller than the length of the cutting. I just used a metal prong to pre-dig a hole and then...

...inserted the cuttings, without firming the soil around. I placed two cuttings in each pot and used a larger pot with a shallow insert to root on the leaves. Here I situated them next to the window, close to a radiator beneath. Perfect spot. Warm base, sunny top.

I only gave a 1/4 cup or so of water for each pot and lightly watered each leaf separately. DO NOT OVER WATER at this stage. Let the little bit of moisture from the damp soil and the air pockets help draw out new roots.

Some folks add grit/course sand to the top. You can, but I find I can't tell how wet the soil is at this stage. In a month or so, I may go ahead and add grit to help trap in moisture, that way I don't need to water as often. Until then, I can easily see damp soil and know when to prevent overwatering.

Wait a month or two and new leaves will emerge from the base of each leaf and new terminal buds will developed on the cuttings. I can't wait! It's so easy!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Spruce Bits Falling From Above

In my travels today, I stumbled upon a strange sight. From afar, it looked like a beautiful dense green ground cover, until I heard debris falling from above.

Had a closer look and these bits were all over the ground.

Perfect cuttings of terminal and side spruce tree shoots, littering the ground.

Notice anything missing?

There are no buds on any of these shoots. Why?

No, it's not the tree aborting last year's worth of shoots, it's our lovely squirrel population munching at the base of each segment, where the dwarf shoot meets the stem. Plump buds and immature cones are usually nestled at these joints. Making them a great food source for squirrels. As I took these photos, I could hear more falling down below. Must of been 3 squirrels feeding in this area.

Looking up, you'll notice it happens only to Norway Spruce - or at least that is in my experience. I think it's because they have larger cones (makes for larger buds) and their branching habit is more airy and open (easy access).

If you're wondering: if this damage will kill the tree. No, but it certainly sets it back and "prunes" the tree - somewhat stunting them. Removing next year's buds makes the tree respond later in developing dwarf shoots. Open wounds are now also susceptible to bacterial/virus threats too.


If this happens on your property, perhaps invest in some ultrasonic squirrel deterrent device, to help them not congregate on your Norway Spruce.

It is a shame.  Like a carpet of's so sad.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

DIY Botanical Art/Decoration - Ways of Bringing the Garden Indoors

I confess to having several house plants to help me get through the winter months.

Visits to greenhouses and conservatories help, but I just love bringing elements of the garden into my home. They help me cope with the short days of Jan-Feb.

Such as:

1) In the form of wall hangings:

You can press:

  • Dried leaves
  • Flower petals
  • Seeds

Make really simple selections or use your creative side to make patterns or designs.

2) Cuttings/stems

  • Dogwoods
  • Pussy Willows
  • Alder 
  • Bulrush
  • Grasses

3) Framed garden photos:

Whether they be of flowers from your own garden or ones like this free option on - they bring warmth and a cheery reminder of the growing season to come!

4) Dried Flowers, leaves, fruits and cones arrangements:

Late summer option

Winter option

So before the garden goes to rest in Late Summer - Autumn, collect items you love. Bring them indoors overwinter and allow them to remind you of the lush growing season you'll create this up-coming year!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Creating Christmas Outdoor Designs from Plants in Your Garden

Decided this year I'd make a set of outdoor Christmas planters from evergreen plants we have in the garden. Having made so many designs over the years, it's time to reuse  the accents and items I have saved and come up with a way to make inexpensive, lovely planters for this holiday season.

If you're like me, you probably have a box just like this....stashed away in the garage.

Given I live in Ontario, we don't have the same plants like the imported boughs (oregonea, princess pine, douglas fir or western cedar) and floral grade materials (eucalyptus, salal, magnolia). But there are so many other choices we can use to have a similar effect.

In this sample, I reused all our accents from the past 3 years. I added cuttings from plants such as:

1:  Boxwood

2: Yews

3: Junipers

4: Ivy

5: Euonymus

6: Birch (also reused from past years)

7: Dogwood

Other selections you can use too:

  • Holly
  • Ilex
  • Spruce
  • Sumac
  • Hydrangea
  • Alder
  • Cedar
  • Rose-hips
  • Pussywillow

I pruned all the cuttings in ways to promote a balanced habit. Do not butcher the best parts of the plant in order to fill your planter. Think of thinning and adjusting shape. Just layer and remember your accents can hide blunt ends.

Don't forget:  the bottom branches off your live Christmas tree work great too!

Follow the directions on how to layer and place within your planter on one of my previous blog DIY posts and here...have fun designing.

Reuse and add anything that you have saved.

Use what works for you and you'll be able to make beautiful arrangements that are welcoming for this Christmas season!

Here I just added some artificial dyed magnolia stems for a punch of red!
Apart from buying these 3 red accents, designing these 3 outdoor creations didn't cost me one penny. All reused materials from years past and a few cuttings from the garden, these planters still look great!

Enjoy this Christmas season and perhaps plan for 2017's garden, by adding some plants which can carry you through designing Christmas planters for next season.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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