Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This is what failure looks like...

The objective…propagation of my doomed (by winter) Echiums by taking (and rooting) cuttings. I began with the best of intentions, I even consulted a professional. But, I failed. I employed two methods. One based on the suggestions of the professional, the other involving a product I picked up at a local nursery called Gel2root.
It promised success in 6 steps: cut, trim, pierce, insert, root, and plant! Simple. Failure.
First the pictures of the cuttings I attempted to root in soil. Everything started off fabulous.
It was very satisfying to go out in the garden and whack of stems of my beloved Echiums before the cold could damage them. I thought it would be difficult to murder a perfectly beautiful plant but in some twisted way I enjoyed it. I was filled with the knowledge that they would live on in next seasons beautiful plants. I was a fool.
I was (I thought) careful to keep the cuttings slightly moist in their little plastic bag home. I figured too much moisture would be the kiss of death.
I opened the bags occasionally to let air circulate.
But evidently not frequently enough as the tips started to brown about 2 weeks into the experiment.
By the time another week passed this is what they looked like right before they were launched into the yard waste bin (soon to be joined in the bin by what had remained of the mother plant outside in the garden…turned to brown waste by Mother Nature, a poetic rejoining of both pieces of the doomed plant).
So what about the cuttings in the Gel2root? They started out looking swell.
Look at their happy stems tucked in the gooey gel.
But I soon realized they needed more moisture so the leaves didn’t completely wilt before the roots started forming. They went into a plastic bag too.
And they eventually looked like this:
Same problem. Same short flight into the yard waste bin.
By the way I checked before I tossed. Not a single root had formed on any of the cuttings.
The moral of the story? Professional propagators are professionals for a reason; those nursery guys are skilled craftsmen. I will be handing over more money to them in the spring as a sort of reward for their skill (in exchange for more healthy Echium plants).


  1. The Gel2Root box states that it is "Fun and Easy." Although the plants died - was it "Fun and Easy"?

  2. i wonder if you could have cut off most or all of each leaf. The plants loose moisture from the leaf surface and I've seen propagation how-to photos where they cut half of each leaf off. Those echiums had a lot of leaf surface!

  3. I would have to try again...

  4. I'm so sorry it didn't work out! I hope you don't give up on rooting cuttings forever! I've never tried rooting Echiums, so I don't know how hard they are. Some other plants (coleus, for example) are super easy.
    Also, it isn't the fact that pros are talented so much as they have access to mist benches which can keep things moist while maintaining good air movement. Some things are just hard to root with out the right tools.

  5. I'm no professional by any stretch of the imagination but I wonder if they died from too much moisture. I think taking cuttings in mid summer when it's really hot could make the difference.

    I'm sure I speak for all your readers when I say I appreciate your candor and willingness to admit defeat. We've all been there. It's just part of the "fun" of gardening.

  6. That is the picture of frustration...grrrr. I swear, I have the most random luck with rootings, sometimes the root, sometimes the don't...there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason. Things that other people say are difficult to root seem easy for me, yet the opposite is also true. Then again, sometimes things that I get to root don't make it once planted in the ground, or I don't get them planted before the rot. Deep Sigh. Hey, at least now you get to look forward to new plants...and it's an excuse to go to the nursery!!!!!

  7. I think Grace could be right about the mid summer .At least that's what my gardening books say. I too failed at my Echium Prop. I'll get another plant in the spring-keep it potted and try propagating again...in summer.

  8. Well what a damn shame Loree..I am the laziest cutting propagator on the planet -those poor things would all have been stuck into a mason jar of water - works fine for Coleus , but probably not Echiums.

  9. My first glance at your post Loree made me thing that you had wat too much leaf on your cuttings like Ryan suggested.
    I have struck echiums successfully in the past using just river sand as my medium.
    Don't give up. Try again in a different way and you will get it I'm sure.


  10. That just stinks. As others have said, for these "soft" cuttings, spring/summer is an easier time. But of course that's when you want big plants for the garden, not tiny rooted cuttings. Vicious circle, isn't it? My prop manual advises "green wood in early summer, hard wood during the dormant season." I agree, the pros are worth every penny.

  11. Don't be so hard on yourself. It didn't work this time, so you've just learned two ways not to do it. Sounds like good advice above, re: summer cuttings and less leaf surface. Try again in summer!

  12. I wonder if they didn't have enough warmth... whenever I fail at starting cuttings its usually because its too cool and they rot. Ryan also has a point about removing the lower leaves... don't beat yourself up over it! Hey, while I'm here, are you going to do a post for my 'epiphyte day'? :)

  13. No vuole tutta quella umidità...meglio lasciare che perda le foglie...poi radicherà ugualmente...io le ho fatte a fine fioritura, in primavera inoltrata!
    Pero' il mio non è variegato, il tuo è bellissimo, mi piacerebbe trovarlo, se fossi vicina mi piacerebbe una talea!

  14. D+N, are you working for these Gel2Root people? I would say that piercing the metal top and seeing the stems in the gel business was sort of fun. And it was definitely easy...so I guess there is truth in their advertising.

    Ryan, ah yes...I think you are on to something here. I even sort of realized as I was doing it that I was leaving too much leaf. They were just so pretty!

    Darla, and I probably will.

    Greensparrow, I definitely will not give up and I thank you for your excellent advice, which I will still work into my future efforts.

    Grace, now that could be difficult! Too cut perfectly wonderful stems off of a plant in the summer, I don't know.

    scott, you know me well, always looking for an excuse to go to the nursery!

    linda, thank you for the second opinion...I suppose you both are on to something.

    ks, actually I did that last year and it failed miserably (the jar of water). They pretty much immediately died, that's part of why I was so heartened by the first couple of weeks this year, they just looked so damn good I figured they had to be taking root!

    Julie, thank you for the tips!

    Denise, you nailed it...BIG plants in the summer is always the goal.

    Mulchmaid, see this is all working out...now I HAVE to buy more plants next year in the name of science!

    RFG, actually they got a bit of heat once a week when I did the laundry and I put them on the dryer...does that count? Re: your epiphyte day...I'll certainly try to pull something together.

    romitta, I think you're right less humidity would have been a good thing. Next year!

  15. OK, first I'm by no way an expert but I do love to try different ways of propagating plants. Like someone said - now you know some ways that don't work. I'd try rootone rooting hormone or some other powder type hormone (be careful when handling and DON'T breathe it in!!). I like a to use a 80% pumice 20% potting soil for rooting because it drains fast after a good watering. And if you have a good budget you can buy a heat mat to put under the pots to keep them warm which helps a bunch. And if money's no object try a grow lamp. I agree with Grace, try starting your cuttings earlier when the tops are still growing. Waiting to long and the growth tip is far less active if at all and the plant is slowing down ALL growth. I would also leave the leaves on the stem (but try both ways) because they use the suns energy to make the roots. I would also try rooting in water, like someone else talked about, just to see what happens. Also, the brown tips could mean to much water. A cutting like these can still suck up moisture through the cut tip. That's my 2 cents worth.

  16. Dang! I'm impressed by your efforts. That was a mighty fine Echium. You could send them South for the winter, but it's unlikely they'd want to go back.

  17. Hello!
    Your blog was recommended to me by a friend who fell in love with your echium varied!
    I wanted to tell you that I cultivate for years the Echium fastuosum, in the classical variety, and I can spread in the warmer months (July) because they fear dell'echium cuttings root rot, so I suggest you try again with the weather is dry.
    Hugs and good luck! ^_^


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!