Today’s post concerns a mystery plant rescue job that I have been undertaking for around six weeks so far. Before I get into the mission itself, I just wanted to say a few words that concern persevering with plants. Patience is key here!
As nice as it is to bring new plants into our homes, I am a keen advocate of appreciating the plants we have, and making sure we take the time to get to know them well, and how to care for them properly. I don’t like the idea of seeing a ‘houseplant hobby’ as some kind of living stamp collection, with the emphasis being on accumulating a collection that cannot be maintained. Social media often has the potential problem of whipping up a frenzied, fast paced environment that, to my mind, doesn’t suit the SLOW process of gardening and tending to plants well at all. I feel it’s important to take on this role of ‘plant parent’ more seriously, by appreciating it as something that should be sustained in the long term. Done in this way, it will bring a lot more satisfaction as a gradual process, rather than getting caught up in the maelstrom and ‘panic’ of simply accumulating plants, with limited means or experience of looking after them properly.
I will be writing about the issue ‘how many is too many plants?’ in a later post, so sign up to receive post notifications and follow HOUSEPLANTHOUSE if this topic interests you.
Of course, one of the main reasons for this website is to share my houseplants with other enthusiasts, whilst documenting their progress over time through photographs and writing. I love the idea that in a few years I’ll be able to look back and chart the progress of my plants. Also, I think that’s why I’m so interested in peoples ‘plant stories’ (there’s another post coming up soon on this topic) – as it champions taking care of plants over an extended period of time – hopefully years and years if they are cared for correctly!
The plant in question in this post belongs to my nan and is pretty old, it usually sits on top of her fridge under a glass roof. It was in a pretty bad state and currently resembles a collection of dried out twigs, but every year without fail it bears some purple and orange leaves that open up like flowers! The first question then, was what is this plant?! (…The second being – do you think I can save it?) After asking a few plant friends, we narrowed it down to a type of kalanchoe, and the variety that looked most similar to the photographs below was the kalanchoe fedtschenkoi. More on this later.
Despite the state of it, there were still some white roots exposed, which made me think I might be able to do something to try and save this old plant! After seeking some more advice from the plant community of Instagram, one of the options was to place the plant in a steamy environment to help stimulate the production of amino acids. Another option was to try and place the exposed roots in soil whilst still attached to the main plant, or to cut off and try to root in soil or water propagate some cuttings.
As the photographs show, this was a pretty fiddly process, though I find the challenge of caring for unhappy plants so satisfying. Furthermore, because of it’s sentimental attachment, I was even more determined to try and save it!
I managed to just about support the cutting with some washi tape over some water to see if I could get the roots growing. I repotted the ‘bunch of twigs’ in fresh soil and cut back the plant a bit to give it a bit of a boost. At the same time, I also took another cutting that had tiny roots present and placed this directly in soil. Finally, I bagged up the plant to increase humidity and warmth to encourage new growth.
After three weeks, I was extremely pleased to see that there were a few centimetres of roots that had formed in the water propagated cutting. Also, after being severely dried out, the leaves were looking rejuvenated and a lot healthier, they were green for a start! The cutting that I placed directly in soil however, was not making as much progress, which I expected (see photograph above). I decided at this point to water propagate this cutting rather than leaving it struggle in soil. During this time, I also got myself a small propagating tray that I wanted to use for my cuttings over the winter, so placed the more successful rooted cutting in soil and into here.
ABOVE LEFT: 13th December 2017 / ABOVE RIGHT: 28th November 2017
Here’s where it gets interesting… as the cutting in soil began to grow, some doubt was forming in my mind about it being a fedtschenkoi. The leaves of this type of kalanchoe are generally more fleshy, which got me thinking that it could be the most common type of kalanchoe – the blosfeldiana ‘flaming katy’. I already have one of these, so have included a photograph (below) for reference. I was a bit disappointed at this prospect, as it’s not one of my favourites in my collection, but it’s so low maintenance I wouldn’t get rid of it. I’ve had it for around three years and it’s going strong …that being said, I don’t really want a second (and potentially third) duplicate of this plant!
There was something about the leaf shape of the new leaves that still made me unable to confidently pin down this elusive plant! After chatting to my plant friend Gareth, we agreed that it might actually be a ‘mother of thousands’ – kalanchoe daigremontiana. He’s been growing some babies and comparing photos showed great similarities.
I think the colouration issue with the leaves in the first photograph might be sunburn. It lives in the same spot in my nan’s bungalow as the other strange plant, a bleached schlumbergera that is pink in colour from years of bright sunlight from a sky light above.
Finally, here is the most up-to-date photograph of the rooted cutting:
Whilst it is not the most aesthetically pleasing image, I used flash to show up the leaf shape and pattern as clearly as possible. I will be sure to update you all on it’s ID once it gets more established.
Thanks for reading!