Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Propagate Ficus Benjamina: Part 3

This is it, putting the cutting in soil. After this it's just maintenance, water, food, all that.

So here's the cutting that I took about three months ago. Good roots, it's ready to go. Just fill a starter pot ~1/3 full of soil. Put the cutting down carefully, try to get the roots as evenly spread out as possible. Now carefully cover it with more soil, water it well and put it in bright indirect sun. You won't need to water it much for the first few months (over watering leads to root rot, repeat as needed for emphasis), it takes a while to get a good root system, but keep an eye on it and don't let it dry out all the way.

And that's that. Now bear in mind, ficus benjamina doesn't grow very quickly indoors. I have a small tree that I started a couple years ago that is still only ~1 1/2 feet high, so don't expect anything too drastic. I've found they tend to grow in spurts, putting out a few new branches/leaves all at once, then going dormant for a couple weeks, then doing it again.

Here are the other ficus benjamina propagation post:

How to Propagate Ficus Benjamina: Part 1

How to Propagate Ficus Benjamina: Part 2

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Propagate Ficus Benjamina: Part 2

Just a quick update: Roots! Yes, it took a long time to get this far, but if I had kept it in a warmer, more humid environment it would have gone much faster. Probably about half the time. Putting cuttings in a humidity tent isn't a bad idea, although you have to keep an eye on them to make sure it's not too humid and they get moldy.

But, we're halfway to getting the cutting in a pot, so that's good. This is what it looks like when they first start coming out. At this point you need to be very careful when you change the water, the roots are very delicate and can be broken off even by pouring water over them.

See part one in How to Propagate Ficus Benjamina.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

How to Propagate Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum)

Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are possibly the easiest plants to propagate. There are two really easy ways to do it, but both require a full grown plant that is putting out babies/nodes. Baby spider plants look like the large ones only they are coming off the main plant on a stalk and hanging down. What they are trying to do is reach the ground, at which point they would shoot off roots and become a separate plant.

The easiest way of all is to just take a small pot full of dirt and put a node on top of it, still attached to the main plant. After a few days it will start to put out roots and eventually be it's own plant. I'll cover that in more depth when the plant I'm growing now puts out nodes.

My sister in law has a large spider plant and my brother gave me one of it's nodes. You can root them in water with ease, so that's what I did. This is what a node looks like. Pretty Cthulhuian, huh? You just submerge that in some water, changing it every week or so, and after a couple weeks it puts out roots. You can let them get several inches long if you like, it helps the plant get started. But part of spider plants popularity is their cockroach-like survivability and I've found that an inch or two of root is plenty. Then you just take a small pot half full of dirt and put the rooted node gently on top. Cover it with more dirt, water it thoroughly and put it in a sunny, but not too direct, spot.That's it, pretty soon this one will be putting out babies of it's own.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to Make a Starter Pot for Cuttings

I like to make my own starter pots. Mostly because I always have little plastic cups around since I use them to freeze chicken stock in when I make that. But they are also good for rooting and starting cuttings. I like that you can see how the roots are doing without having to pull the plant out, possibly damaging them.

All you have to do is take one of these 8oz (or so) cups and cut holes in the bottom. You do however need to make sure that they go up the sides a bit, if they are all on the bottom they won't get proper drainage and you'll get root rot. But that's it, nice and easy and inexpensive.Now it's ready to be used.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Mother Tree

This is the Mother Tree. She's about 9" tall and 16" across the long way. My sister in law gave her to me, she had her at work but she just didn't have the environment to let it thrive. That happens sometimes, in offices particularly. She looks like a savanna tree because of the way she's been pruned, it's pretty cool.

She was really pot bound when I got her. When I repotted her I scraped away some of the top soil exposing these awesome nebari (nebari is a bonsai term for exposed roots, in case you didn't know). They look like frog legs.I've taken about eight cuttings from her, all of them were rooting in water as I mentioned in my first post about propagation. Except for one that met with a falling mishap all have been doing fine. At least so far as the people who have them tell me. Heh. The ones I have are growing quite well. One is ~14" high and one of the cups has two cuttings one of them ~10" and the other growing off at all kinds of weird angles. I'll do a post about them some other time. But, here is proof that propagating ficuses in water works. Well, internet proof anyway.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to Care for Ficus Benjamina

Alright, kids, this is going to be a constantly updated post. I'm going to be putting not only what I know in here (or suspect at least, heh), but also any reader tips I get. Eventually I'm going to go through my books and bookmarked websites and put some actual numbers up here, but for now I'm just going to run down the basics. If you have any tips you want to share just leave them in the comment section and I will add them, with attribution of course.

Ficus benjamina is a tropical, but it's very popular as a house plant since it can thrive year round indoors. It's also often used for bonsai. So, here's what I know off the top of my head.

Light: Ficus benjamina likes lots of bright, indirect sunlit although some direct light is ok. No more than a couple hours of direct light a day, though. I've had good luck with grow lights too.

Water: They like it moist, but not sopping wet. You should water them when the first 1/2" or so of soil is dry. I'll be putting better details up on this up eventually, since over watering is one of, if not the top killers of house plants. Now, you've probably heard this before, but don't put them (or any houseplant) on a regular watering schedule, that's wicked bad for them. Water them only when they need it.

Temperature: Ficus benjamina like it warm, being a tropical. I've always heard they need to stay above 55 degrees F, but I once had some cuttings sit in an unheated room in an apartment in Boston in December for a week and they all survived. It definitely dropped below freezing many times. I still try to keep them above 55, usually around 57-65 in the winter and who know what in the summer, maybe 75-90s. I live in New England, we get pretty thorough temperature fluctuations.

Humidity: They love humidity, freshly rooted cuttings in particular really want a humidity tent. If the humidity is high enough they will put off air roots too, which are wicked cool. Although I did once make a humidity tent that was too tightly sealed and almost killed one of them. It got all moldy, it was weird and gross. I washed the ficus off and gave the tent better air circulation and it survived just fine though.

Food: Honestly, I don't feed them that much. I've used liquid fertilizer but didn't like it. I've also used that MiracleGro constant feed potting soil. When I used that I used it cut with regular soil since I've heard that it's a bit much for ficus' on it's own. It's worked well for me so far, the tree's are all growing.

The picture up top is my first one, I call her the Mother Tree. My sister in law gave her to me, all my benjamina cuttings have come from her.

I like ficus benjamina a lot, partly because of the one in my dining room when I was a kid. My mom has always been very fond of them and our dining room had lots of windows. There was a corner that got constant, bright, indirect light, it was perfect and the tree loved it. Heh, I remember my dad complaining once that it was too big when it was hitting the ceiling, which was really pretty high. My mom said that that's the way she liked it. It was almost always touching the ceiling. One of my childhood cats liked it too, but for a litter box. We eventually had to cover it with rocks too big for her to dig at easily. She wasn't very well behaved.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How to Propagate Ficus Benjamina: Part 1

Ok, this is going to be a real time houseplant blogging extravaganza. Excited yet? Heh, it helps that it's going to take months. This afternoon I took a cutting off my largest ficus and put it in a cup of water. This, my friends, is the first step towards propagating a tree in water. Not too far fetched, I know. Heh. I am going to blog it's progress over the next several months. First though, I'm going to give a quick overview of how I do this whole thing.

Now, I've read a lot of articles, blog posts, etc on the differing ways to propagate a ficus and this is the only method I've used and had work for me. I've tried just plunking a cutting right into the dirt, with and without rooting compound, and it didn't work. I've tried air layering and it didn't work. But rooting them in water has worked every time.

All you have to do is cut off a piece of new growth from your ficus. You want it to not be completely green, but not barky yet. You can kind of tell in this picture. Heh, plant photography is a bit different than food photography. I've had the best luck with branches that have 4-5 leaves, around 5-6" long. I cut off most of the leaves, leaving the two at the top. Then you just put it cut side down into a cup full of water and put it in bright indirect light. And wait. There's a lot of waiting. But within a couple weeks you'll see little white roots. I'm keeping it in front of a south facing window, next to it's mother. They get some late afternoon direct sunlight, but not too much. Ficus benjamina don't want too much direct sun, but some isn't bad. If the leaves start looking bleached the tree is getting too much.

You want to change the water every 4-5 days, making sure to be really careful when the roots start coming out to not hurt them. Once you have good roots you just transfer them to a pot. But we'll get to that later. So, that's how you do it. Further updates as events warrant.

Other ficus benjamina propagation posts:  Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Post One: In Which I Introduce Myself and Explain My Deal

Hi, I'm Bob. I usually blog about cooking over at Cooking Stuff. This, however, is going to be a blog where I catalog my limited knowledge and continuing experiments with growing houseplants in my apartment. I've had a certain amount of success with ficus' in particular, both keeping them alive and propagating them.

Propagation is what most of my posts are going to be about since it's really my favorite part. I tend to have more cuttings than space, so most of the people I know have been pressured into taking at least one. I've rooted ficus benjamina, ficus elastica and pothos successfully, all in water. I'm focusing mostly on the benjamina because I like them best. Eventually I intend to branch out into bonsai, but first I'm learning the ins and outs of keeping plants alive in a drafty apartment in New England. I don't want to spend all that effort in shaping a tree just to have it die in the first winter.

But that's it, really. Soon I'll be putting up a post about propagating ficus benjamina.