Why You Should - "Leave Them Alone!"
by Michele Wilcox

I have been accused of telling people to "leave them alone" - plumeria that is. I'm not trying to be vague or not give out information, but I find leaving cuttings and plants alone - works - for me. I don't neglect them, I just don't fuss over them - and they have treated me well.

I get many questions about cuttings not seeming to be rooting. My answer is leave them alone. People tend to want to dig them out, re-cut the bottom, check for roots, check for rot, and/or move them to another pot. This is too much fussing.

Below, I will show you why I say to leave them alone.

First, I have been rooting cuttings in Dollar Store clear plastic throw away drinking cups since 2003. I found that if I could see what was going on, I wouldn't need to fool with my newly rooting cuttings.

TO PLANT - I take a clear plastic cup and set in on my bench - no hole in bottom, stick the calloused cutting down into the cup (with rooting hormone or not - I'm not a fanatic about rooting hormone) then add FRESH, moist cactus soil to the cup almost to the top and press the soil down and around the cutting very tightly. Then I set it aside in a warm spot to root. I do not water the cutting after planting. The moisture in the fresh cactus soil is enough and condensation forms within the pastic cup, feeding moisture to the soil. For very large cuttings, I plant them in a larger black garden pot the same way.

Now, the reason you should leave them alone.

If you sneak a peek at the roots by lifting the cutting, or pull it out to check for rot or softness - you break off all these tiny first roots. Then when you see all is well and re-plant, you've broken the newly formed roots - and now have to start all over again.

This photo shows the new main roots forming. Using the clear cups lets you see what is happening below the soil line.

And the next photo shows a nice root growth (approx. 30 - 45 days) that is ready for transplanting into a larger pot. You'll probably have a few "true" leaves sprouting as well.

Full view of rooted cutting with several true leaves forming.

Have your new planting pot ready with soil to accept the newly rooted transplant so that you don't leave the roots exposed to air too long. Be careful when transplanting your newly rooted cutting. The roots are brittle and can break easily. You may want to slice the cup down the side and open it or roll and tap the cutting out of the cup. Gently place your transplant onto the fresh cactus soil and add soil all around. Press in firmly and water until it drains from the bottom. You may want to add a wooden stake for support.

I hope these photos help explain why you should leave your newly planted cuttings alone. I think you will be more successful with rooting if you understand why they should not be disturbed while rooting. This is what you can get in the future! Enjoy your blooms!

Photo by Michele Wilcox 2007


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