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Sunday, September 2, 2001
Garden Life

Know the medium
Satish Narula

PROPOGATION of plants, done by the gardener himself gives him immense pleasure and a sense of satisfaction. In fact, it is watching the day-to-day progress of the plant that is most exciting for amateurs. This is because those who prepare plants themselves rear them like pets or their own children.

Doing it the correct way is key to success. It is essential to thoroughly understand the rooting medium, the favourable conditions and scientific principles involved. Once you know the reason behind the rooting or even the simple botanical explanation, you are sure not to forget the minor steps that ensure success.

The simplest and the most widely-used medium for propagation is pure sand, with no additions. It is used to support cuttings and also to provide moist, but not wet, conditions. Sometimes, in the case of some very sensitive species, the sand is also heated and then cooled or treated with formalin in order to sterilise it.

Sphagnum moss, popularly called moss grass, is an excellent medium of propagation. It also has a fungicidal effect. and for this reason is very helpful in protecting the just- emerging roots.Moss grass is used in propagation by cuttings and air-layering. This is the same process as used in moss sticks to give support to the trailing vine types of indoor plants like syngonium and money plant etc. The grass has the capacity to soak moisture eight to 10 times its weight.

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In case of rubber plant, guava, litchi, croutons some difficult-to-root bougainvillaea varieties and most of the climbers the practice of air-layering is extensively used. The grass is wet overnight and at the time of use, pressed with the fist to remove excess moisture. The portion of the twig from where the ring of the bark about an inch in width, is removed is wrapped in wet moss and then covered with polythene. Both the ends are then secured with the help of strings. Take care no shred of the moss is exposed, or the moisture will escape.

There is no need to add any soil manure or sand since it may lead to rotting. After a few days you will notice profusion or root through the polythene. Another advantage of the polythene used is that it allows exchange of grass and not moisture. Use polythene of 100 gauge thickness for this purpose. Once you see the root detach itself from the plant, you can put it in the nursery.

Why plants root at the place where bark is removed ? By removing the bark completely all round the stem, we are disrupting the food conduction channels. So as to overcome this, the plant first forms a callus and then roots. If the cut ends are near to each other, the plant will reform continually and there will be no root formation. So, make sure the cut ends on the bark are at least an inch apart. You should also scratch the exposed portion with edge of the knife to remove any threads left behind.

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This feature was published on August 26, 2001
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