when to repot a cutting from perlite to "adult" mix

greentoe357July 27, 2013

I picked up this broken-off little guy (ficus benjamina?) off the floor of Home Depot two months ago and put it into perlite. When is the optimal time to move it to a normal mix - which will most likely be gritty mix unless you guys tell me the 511 mix is better - I have both. Probably both the size of the rooted cutting and the season should be factors. Shall I do it now or wait till spring/summer or wait till it reaches a certain height or number of leaves?

This is how it looks now.

This post was edited by greentoe357 on Sat, Jul 27, 13 at 1:35

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This is how it looked two months ago when just potted. Three nodes are in the ground - is that too many? I can snip one or two when repotting.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 1:31AM
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don't snip off extra nodes - they're generating more roots. and the plant will be more stable as it grows taller. and grows it will. since you already see new growth - you need to xplant now. it will still have good summer season left to grow. they slow down in the fall. so you want to put it in soil and feed it before winter. perlite has no nutes at all.
I use 'jungle mix' recommended by exoticrainforest :
4 parts potting soil,2 parts peat, 2 parts orchid bark mix, 1part perlite, 1 part chopped sphagnum moss.
except I use 4 parts perlite, since I need more wicking - I keep ficus on water-wicks, especially younger plants.
and I use African violet miracle-grow mix (with perlite in it, so my total perlite is close to 5 parts) as 'potting soil' ingredient - it's acidic and rich and well draining.
I do not do gritty or 511, 'cause I need more wicking action.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 1:00PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

GT - you should pot up before the root/perlite mass can be lifted from the pot intact. If you're going to bare-root and repot, you should do it asap, or wait until next Jun or Jul.

When you repot, you can evaluate the roots that occur at each node. It would be easier to repot in the future if you reduced the amount of vertical growth that supports roots. Ideally, you would want all your main roots to emerge from the trunk at the same ht, and grow horizontally from that point. As you prune roots in the future, keep that in mind as the eventual goal. It is far easier to maintain a root system that's well behaved than one that's been left to its own devices while having been potted up repeatedly. Also, repotting ensures the plant has at least a shot at realizing its potential - only repotting ensures a plant can never realize its potential.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 7:22PM
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Thanks, Petrushka and Al. I repotted it into the gritty mix without cutting off any roots/nodes. This is how it looks 9.5 weeks after I stuck the cutting into perlite.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:26AM
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four(9B (near 9a))

> Posted by tapla
> reduced the amount of vertical growth that supports roots.
> all your main roots to emerge from the trunk at the same ht

I want to understand it correctly.
I take it to mean that cutting should be inserted such that
one leaf node is below surface.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 7:17PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Sorry, but I don't understand what that means at all. Reduce the vertical growth, how? Trim, prune?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 7:32PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

In the cutting above, there are roots growing from 3 nodes. It's much easier to repot and keep roots pruned properly if the vertical growth (below the soil line) that supports roots is limited to one node, instead of 3. If we look at the cutting above and imagine it's July, I would snip the lower 2 nodes off by cutting through the stem just below the upper cluster of roots. To balance the loss of the lower roots, I would remove the two large lower leaves and pot the cutting, placing it in open shade until I saw evidence of new growth, then move it to sun.

This will set the cutting back a week or so until it gets its feet back under it, but that's a small price to pay for an easy to manage root system. It's much easier to maintain a root system if you start working at it immediately, than it is if you wait and are forced to do remedial work down the road.

Four - when working with fresh woody cuttings, it's usually better to have at least 2-3 leaf nodes buried below the surface. This helps to ensure that even if the top inch or so of soil dries out, the cutting can still move water from deeper in the container to support the top of the cutting. Then, when you do the first repot, or better yet when you move it into it's first real pot, you can eliminate roots on all but 1 node. There's no rule that says you have to follow that formula, but it will make things much easier for you down the road.

Tip: If you're using a soil that supports quite a bit of perched water (soggy layer at the bottom), it's important that the bottom of the cutting is always above that layer. Cuttings need lots of oxygen to turn their stored photosynthate into the fuel that drives root growth. If roots don't grow and form a vascular connection to the top, rot will "plug the plumbing" and spoil your efforts.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 10:52PM
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four(9B (near 9a))

Thanks Al, it helped.

With regard to
> when working with fresh woody cuttings... at least 2-3 leaf nodes buried
does it differ for tender cuttings?

> (soggy layer)... cutting is always above that layer.

Good tip, pertinent to the discussion.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 11:33AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Not particularly - just trying to be specific, I guess. ;-) For more herbaceous plants like coleus or impatiens, I'll often lay the cuttings almost horizontally in a shallow trough with only the leaves sticking up above (but not touching) the soil. When I pot up peppers or tomatoes, I remove all but the top few leaves & plant them very deep (if in pots) or in that shallow trench and almost horizontal if in the ground.

Some pics:

Ficus benjamina "Too Little" ^

Mexican petunia ^

I grow so many plants from cuttings I think it's a compulsion. I'm always starting apples, maples, junipers, yews, figs, serissa, and on and on to share with fellow bonsai enthusiasts. I don't know how many different tropical and temperate trees I've propagated and sent to Laura in VA, but I know it's a lot. The herbaceous stuff is relatively easy compared to most woody material, though some of the woody stuff comes easy, too.

Propagation chamber

The cutting

I think this little ficus (salicifolia) ^ ended up in VA with Laura, but I don't remember for sure ....


    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 4:40PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Gosh Al,

Even your stem cuttings & tip cuttings are beautiful, geez, I don't know why I'm surprised. Each little Ficus plantlet looks happier & healthier than the last.

Thanks for the explanation too, it was me (I ?) who asked. That did clarify things considerably & the explanation about number of nodes as well.

I never stopped to consider root management so specifically. Not only interesting, but seems to make so much sense really. I'm thinking this might come in extra handy w/ some of my Hoyas, my Euph. miliis & really, on reflection, lots of other stuff too.

Thanks again & Happy Holidays to you too!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 5:33PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Thanks, Karen! I knew it was you asking. It feels good when people are making connections on their own and are able to see how A is related to B and B to C and maybe how C is related to A and D. In a discussion about one thing, we might discover that in chasing that topic, 2 or 3 other related considerations might need to be explored in order to justify (similar to justifying columns of figures to see they all add up to the same number) how everything fits. For me, whenever I have one of those 'oohhh, now I get it' moments, at least for that moment I feel as though I wasn't just plodding along trying to learn something, because the new info seems to present itself in sort of a flurry in the 'aha!' moment. Often too, I'm already thinking of a past thread where the newly acquired info might have been used to make things clearer for whomever it might have been I was talking to, or I'm excited because I know I'll be able to use it in the future as a tool to enhance someone else's understanding. As much as you post, I'm sure you understand how gratifying it is when you see 'the light' go on, or when you know others are with you and have made a connection that helps them fill in one or more of the blanks in the puzzle we call 'growing'. As we learn more & more, the new information we learn is easier to categorize and the connections become a lot easier to make. Knowledge has a way of making the growing experience soo much more rewarding and exciting .... partly because the more we know, the more we CAN know. Anyway, I have lots of fun. ;-)


    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 9:56PM
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