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!


Four weeks later.....success!  Here are the tell-tale signs that the cuttings have taken root.

Before: just placed on the window sill. No visible leaves or buds at the terminal axil.

Up Close After:  New Leaves! Yay!

Shiny new leaves emerging from the leaf joint.

Now you go and try it yourself!
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