Black Velvet Alocasia Help

pumapardusAugust 31, 2010

Hello All. I am an occasional lurker/poster here, and have always received great help and advice from the very knowledgeable members of the forum! I am wondering if you would be so kind ad to help me out one more time, with a problem I want to be very careful about how I fix.

I have a Black Velvet Alocasia than I adore in my vivarium with a Rhacodactylus ciliatus gecko. It is massive, and I am so proud of it. It was given to me as a gift, and I would be heartbroken if it were to die. Over the past year, I have noticed that it is becoming too tall in the root area- more and more leaves have grown in, lived, and dropped off, and I have trimmed it a couple of times, but never more than 30% of the leaves (one or two at a time).

This picture very well illustrates what I am seeing, and the issue I have been dreading.

You can see how far above the substrate (sphagnum moss) inches deep, and below that, an inch of hydroton balls for drainage. There is a drainage pipe in the bottom of the whole tank, so it doesn't sit in stagnant water for very long. The plant has already grown through the 6 inches of sphagnum, and is still trying to put out roots higher and higher. It seems that more roots are trying to anchor out of this part of the plant, which is above the substrate. I can't make the substrate much deeper than this, or I risk interfering with the doors of the tank. And the plant is already tucked as low as it can go into the substrate.

I am wondering if I can perform a little surgery on the plant, akin to what Mike Rowe did on Dirty Jobs on Discovery Channel with the Taro plants on the islands of Hawaii. His guide told him that if he cut off the corm of the plant below the apical meristem (where the undifferentiated and therefore still developing cells are), he could plant the top of the plant back into the substrate, and new roots, and a new corm would develop.

I can see a point, a pink line/area on my plant, above where the highest roots are attempting to grow from, and below the actual petoile-analogous parts of the plant (please excuse my unskilled botany terminology. I enjoy botany, but am rusty at plant anatomy!) Would I be able to cut just below this line (the assumed apical meristem, if similarities between this taro-derivative and the actual Taro on the tvshow persist), and expect the plant to be able to grow new roots in a place that would allow me to once again plant it deeper in the substrate and continue to enjoy it?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Why don't you ground layer it? Build a wall around the exposed roots and fill with soil. A plastic container split & then taped back together after filling would work. The adventitious roots seen in your picture will grow into the soil, as will others that will form, and you can then feel quite comfortable severing the stem at the existing soil line, your main concern being good support while the new root system establishes anchoring for the plant.

Al

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 5:44PM
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pumapardus

Hm, I get it. Sort of like building a false soil line, letting those little visible roots grow in, and then perform my surgery, all the while keeping the new soil line? So I already have established roots before I do my surgery, and I can just replant where I need to? I'll have to do some looking online to see how to rig up the plastic container, but this is a great idea, and one I never thought of! It's kind of like a "sewing machine" moment, like when the inventors of the sewing machine were trying to make the thread follow the needle, like in traditional sewing- it took a clever person to see that the eye of the needle could go in the tip, instead of the far end! :) Thanks, Al!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 6:44PM
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jane__ny(9-10)

Its done quite often. Here's one link from Google,

Jane

Here is a link that might be useful: Air-layering

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 10:22PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes, you have it. Ground or mound layering and stooling are very effective propagation techniques. They require a little more effort than cuttings, but as hobbyists we usually don't worry about that so much when the technique is sure to yield a higher % of successes. Besides, I'm thinking you want to take advantage of anything that moves you closer to a sure thing, and an established root system w/o having to wound, (as is the norm in air layering) goes a long way toward reducing the stress of separation.

Since you understand dedifferentiation and redifferentiation, you'll appreciate it's likely that tissues in the old stem will reorganize into a new apical meristem after separation & you'll end up with a twofer out of the deal.

Here is a tree that had a trunk too tall for good bonsai. I'm shortening it by several inches, using a ground-layering technique:

I cut a hole a little bigger than the trunk, then made a vertical slit up the sidewall, and then continued it across the bottom to the hole. I applied a tourniquet on the trunk (you won't need one because of the preformed adventitious roots), slipped the split pot over the trunk from the side, taped it back together, filled it with soil, and kept it moist.

Al

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 8:32PM
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pumapardus

Wonderful! The link, and the picture, were incredibly helpful! I used a deli container, cut a hole, slipped the whole thing around the plant, and added substrate. I made sure the roots were actually tucked in nicely, and watered.

How long would you estimate I wait to check? Days, weeks, months? Is it possible to wait TOO long, or will the roots just become more robust the longer you wait? I'll keep this updated if anyone cares to follow, and I assume I'll need more advice when it comes time to perform my little surgery as well. Thank you very much for your help. Man, I love this forum! :D

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 4:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

About the time you see roots curling around the inside of the plastic container is a good time to separate. I'm guessing 2-3 months, but a lot depends on how favorable cultural conditions are. If it's warm enough & the plant was growing well for you prior to the layering, it will take less time than if your plant was stressed and just limping along. Just so you're not too anxious - ground layering a plant that so readily produces adventitious roots is pretty much a slam dunk.

Al

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 6:23PM
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