Free babies

If you follow me on Twitter (or run a nursery) you’ll know that I like to shop for plants, often entering the shop (on-line or otherwise) fully believing that I’m only after one thing, and then ‘accidentally’ ending up with a bulging basket.

I was about to have one of my legendary accidents at Dibleys, who sell, amongst other things, one of my favourite plants, Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose).  They are truly exquisite plants, perfect for indoors, that come in a myriad of colours and sizes and seem to flower for ever and ever on these lovely boingy thin stems that shoot up out of a thicket of thick hairy leaves.  I can’t resist buying them whenever I see them, simply because there are so many different ones and I like to collect.  Here’s one I picked up on a trip to the garden centre the other day.  Sorry, can’t remember its name and the label soon disappeared into my label bag (more of which one day soon).  Anyhow, I was about to have this massive accident but was cruelly stopped in my tracks by horrid old paypal who think i don’t have enough money…(they are right, I don’t)….I was about to turn to The Hunk with pleading eyes and then decided to be sensible and thrifty AND have fun all at the same time and take some leaf cuttings, for FREE plants and a sense of achievement all at the same time.

All you need to take leaf cuttings of streptocarpus are:

1. A sharp knife (I use my incredibly chic Leatherman Tool)

2. A clean board

3. Some cuttings compost (I use seed compost mixed with a handful of horticultural grit or, if I have it, pearlite.

4. A seed tray

5. Some sort of covering (I use a plastic seed tray lid, but a plastic bag or piece of glass is fine)

Method:

Fill your seed tray almost to the top, and firm down the contents gently.  Then Choose a nice, healthy leaf and cut it off the plant at the base.  Lay it up-side down on your board and cut along the central vein on either side.  the idea is you want to cut through all the veins that come from the central one.  Out of these, will miraculously appear new plants…amazing.

When you’ve done your cutting, this is what you should be left with:

Discard that central vein and now place your leaf halves, cut side down, into two little trenches in your seed tray.  Firm the compost around the leaf cuttings so that those cut veins are sure to be in contact with the growing medium.  Depth-wise, I put my leaf cuttings in so they’re only just buried….I’m not sure how the experts do it.

Now put the whole thing in the sink in a sort of ‘bain marie’ and leave it so that it can suck up some water.  Frightfully important not to let it get completely saturated though, otherwise your babies will rot.

And now all that’s left is to cover it with your plastic or glass to keep the moisture from evaporating, and put it somewhere near a window, out of the way.  You’ll need to be patient, and keep checking to make sure it doesn’t get too dry.  I also take the cover off once a day to get the air circulating.  You should have some babies within a couple of months.  wait till they’re about 5 cm long before you remove them from their mother.

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