How I Start Leaves

This article will deal with how I start leaves of African violets and their cousins. First, let me get the usual disclaimer out of the way. This is the way that works for me and might work for you. Hopefully at least it will give you a starting point to experiment. The main thing with plants is to experiment and find a way that works for you. There are many ways to start leaves and I have tried a lot of them but keep returning to the way that I will describe in the following paragraphs with a few pictures thrown in for visual interest. To see the visual part of the article just place your mouse over the word (usually underlined and in blue type) a small window will appear with the photo and tip in it.

One of the first things to consider is what container you will use to place your "soil" and leaf in. I have used my standard potting soil, vermiculite seed starting mix and a few other mediums but keep returning to the soil mixture that I use for everything else. I have seen a variety of different methods used. Some of the methods that I have seen range from little 1 ounce cups to the more standard 3 ounce cups 3 ounce cups. I have seen leaves sealed in labeled snack or sandwich zip lock bags. These little bags are hung on the edge of the plant shelves like laundry. Since the bags are sealed they should not need any moisture added but be sure to check and be sure that moisture is not needed. I had a friend that used styro or plastic cups that she cut down leaving a narrow strip extending to what was the top of the cup. She used the narrow strip to record which variety it was. She generally kept this is sealed baggies in order to cut down on the watering, to much messing for me.

What I finally settled on and works for me is the following. I use the 3 ounce "solo" cups. I use the cups regardless of what size leaf I might be starting. I have used them for some rather large leaves and some very tiny leaves, anything else is to time consuming. Everything I own is wicked, except for a few cactus. You might want to hope on over to my wick watering article and see how I set my cups up for wick watering. When starting leaves I like to fill the cups to within about half an inch of the top and then circle my wicking material around in a circle before filling the cup the rest of the way to the top.

The next big item is to select the leaf that we will be rooting. I like to select leaves from young plants they have a lot of growing left in them. If I do not have a young plant then I like to take the leaves from the middle of the plant. Sometimes when you are repotting you need to trim a few rows of leaves off and then repot the plant. Some of the smaller younger leaves may be used. I like to cut the leaf stem next to the plant stem for several reasons but mainly it gives you more leaf to work with. Once the leaf is selected I like to trim the stem on rather steep angle and my favorite tool for this is an X-acto knife. Trimming the stem on an angle exposes more of the stem to the rotting medium and I believe helps the leaf to root a little faster. I then dip the leaf in SUPERthrive mixed with a little water. SUPERthrive is another way of giving your leaf an extra little boost. After the leaf has received its little drink of SUPERthrive it goes into the container of rooting medium that we prepared earlier. Please be sure that you labled your cup as to what leaf is going in it. I would like to write on the cup rather than to use a plant label that you stick into the soil, they have a tendency of falling out. These cups are cheap enough that after the leaves have sprouted and you have planted the young throw them away. Do not run the risk of spreading something. I like to put no more than half an inch of the stem in the potting medium. You can put more of the stem in the medium but remember the farther in the stem goes the further the new plants will have to travel to get to the surface. There are some growers that like to cut the last third of the leaf off (the tip), I might if it is a very large leaf. I have some chiritas (Chirita sinesis'Hisako') that produce very large leaves and I have cut them way down and they do just fine. Remember a large leaf probably is an older leaf and the new plants will probably take longer to start.

Are you still with me. We now have our leaf situated in our rooting container, now what? I usually put the leaf container in a tray of water that is always on my potting bench. The leaf and container usually stays in this tray for 24 hours. I keep my soil mixture on the rather dry side so that is the reason for the tray of water. From there the leaf will go into a sweater box that I have set up with egg crate and mat. Since Kansas and my house is on the rather dry side I keep the sweater box covered with a piece of glass. Hopefully in no time at all your leaf will reward you with little plantlets.

This just about does it for this article. Stay tuned for the next installment, what to do next now that your leaf has produced little plants.

I hope to cover various aspects of African violet culture with these articles if you have a suggestion for an article or information to add just drop me an email and I will see what I can do.


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