Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how my taste in plants has shifted and developed over the last few years, through owning a lot, selling plants for work and seeing plants on Instagram… all. the. time. This year, I would say that I have a newfound fascination with some plants that really didn’t bother me much 18 months ago; ‘things with fuzzy leaves’ aka begonias (thanks to my friends Sing, Julie and The Begonia Brigade) and saxifraga / mother of thousands. I’ve even found myself looking at Streptocarpus and Saintpaulia!
I’ve come to realise that perhaps the reason for this is that I love experimenting, and for me the best way to gain a deeper understanding of a particular plant is to grow it from a plantlet or cutting. Propagating is a great way to connect with your plants and to enjoy noticing their little quirks and nuances. This was the case with my saxifraga stolonifera which I had as two small plantlets off a runner of a large plant. These ‘mother of thousands’ as their name suggests, are great at producing an abundance of offsets, perhaps even more readily than the infamous spider plant!
It’s got some funny nicknames; strawberry begonia (it’s not a begonia) strawberry geranium (again, not a geranium) and wait for it…Aaron’s beard (I mean…?)!
Water vs Soil propagation
In general I’d say that at the moment I’m more in the ‘water prop’ camp than soil, though this might be (in part) due to the type of plants I like to propagate. This could definitely be something that shifts, as I know that plants such as begonias respond well to a sphagnum moss box situation. I propagated my saxifraga plantlets in propagation tubes I made that are ideal for small cuttings like this, and after two weeks, some lovely roots had formed. I planted each (separately) in the smallest pots I could find using a mixture of houseplant compost, cacti and succulent compost and perlite. I sat the pots on a drip tray and watered from below approximately once every 5 days – not allowing the soil to dry out too much.
Just look at these gorgeous fuzzy leaves…
On previous attempts, I’d tried to root an offset by placing directly on soil and pinning down the runner. It grew a little like this, but died off after 6 weeks. I think I was also a bit heavy on the watering, so it wasn’t entirely the fault of soil prop vs. water prop, but my own mistake too! Often a situation like this might put someone off trying again, but instead, it made me more curious. In my experience so far, I find the roots can develop more in water (or at least I can see them) and I feel more confident in rooting in this way.
As you can see from the photographs, both plants are still alive and well! The smaller one was a much smaller plantlet so it’s size is representative of this. The larger offset has grown into such a lovely little plant, and already started producing the cutest runners (they remind me of really thin strawberry laces)! I keep both approximately one metre away from my south facing window on a shelf that gets an hour or so of late afternoon sun and water about once a week. I have found they don’t love getting water on their fuzzy foliage at all, so I am still watering from below for now using tepid water.
Hope you liked seeing some plant propagation progress in this post, and maybe it has encouraged some plant-rooting experimentation. The next thing I’m hoping for are some blooms on my saxifraga stolonifera come Spring time, they are delicate and white and very pretty indeed! I’d love to know if there are any plants that you have come to enjoy… even if you didn’t like them initially!
Thanks for reading,