Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A tale of two cuttings

My friend Leland has sent me many wonderful plants over the last couple of years.  In April I received some very large cuttings of Philodendron warscewiczii.  The cuttings were about 12-15 inches long and 2-3 inches in diameter.  Seriously, they were like logs.  I wasn't sure what the best method would be for getting new growth from the cuttings, so I tried putting one cutting in a vase of water and the other directly into a chunky, loose mix of soil, bark, and charcoal and kept it pretty well watered.

Cuttings started in water (left) and soil (right), back in early June.
The cutting which was started in water was the first one out of the gate, sprouting leaves and roots from two growth points.  After a couple of weeks of growth in water, I decided to go ahead and plant this cutting in soil as well.  The cutting that was started in soil did not show any progress for several more weeks.  Finally I noticed a root emerging from one of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot (see image above).  At this point there were still not any leaves.  A month or two down the road and my potted cutting began to sprout a new leaf from the tip.  When the leaf finally unfurled I noticed this leaf was a mature warscewiczii leaf, while the leaves on my other cuttings were the juvenile form, with less divisions in the leaf.  It seemed counter-intuitive, at first, that this cutting which had just produced it's first leaf had a more mature leaf than my cutting which had two growth points with several leaves already.

Mature leaf of tip cutting started in soil
Juvenile leaves of center cutting started in water
The more I thought about this, I realized that my "late bloomer" cutting had a key difference that was most likely the reason for this difference.  This cutting was a tip cutting and the leaf was emerging from the end, where new leaves were developing prior to the plant being dissected and sent across the ocean to me.  The cutting which sprouted the two new growths and lots of leaves was, in a sense, starting from scratch, while this other cutting was continuing growth that had been going on for many years.

Tip cutting started in soil (left). Center cutting started in water (right).
Now my slower cutting is about to unfurl a fourth leaf and my fast cutting has unfurled something like its 12th.  Both are pretty plants, but the tip cutting has produced beautiful mature leaves that are much more appealing and more warscewiczii-ish than the many leaves of the other cutting.

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