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Growing succulents is seriously easy. Like almost too easy. When I was first reading up on how to grow succulents I almost thought I wasn’t reading the right articles. How could it be THAT easy? But once I started I learned pretty quickly that growing succulents from existing plants really is THAT EASY! Succulents are extremely hardy plants and they can grow roots in pretty extreme environments.
There are three popular ways to propagate succulents – 1. from leaves; 2. from cuttings; and 3. from pups. I will go over each of these techniques in detail in this blog post. Hopefully this will provide the knowledge you will need to get your hands dirty, give it a go and see what happens!
1. Growing Succulents from Leaves
You can easily grow new succulent babies from leaves taken from the “mother” plant. Look for healthy, plump leaves near the base of the flower. Gently twist off the leaf from the base. It should snap off clean and the end should be in a “U” shape.
Once you have removed the leaf from the mother plant it is time to move them to a propagation tray, or as I like to call it, your baby making factory. This tray/factory can be something as simple as a paper plate with some dirt on top to a fancy tray filled with cactus soil. The tray does not need to be deep, in fact, a shallow tray is best because you won’t need much soil. Once you find a proper vessel you can turn your attention to what kind of growing medium to use.
Succulents can tolerate most types of soil, but they prefer a light mixture with a lot of drainage. You can use an all purpose potting soil, a specially blended cactus soil or even sand. Just avoid a growing medium that will retain too much moisture (like a clay based soil) or a soil that is nutrient rich.
OK, so now you know what type of prop tray and soil you need. Find a shaded area either outside or inside near a window to place your succulent baby making factory. In general, succulents prefer filtered sunlight. Direct sunlight is way to harsh on the plants and can actually burn them. You don’t want to burn your babies!
Now, all you have to do that your tray is all set up is set your leaves on top of the soil….and leave them there for a while. I like to keep a spray bottle handy and give them a super light misting once a day. After about two weeks you will start to see little pink nubs grow out of the end of some of the leaves. This means your new baby is starting to form – congratulations!
Once your babies make it to this stage, keep an eye on them and keep up with the light misting daily. Soon, you will start to see roots and leaves forming from the pink buds. Like this…
The new babies will stay attached to the “mother” leaf until it has used up all the moisture – at which point the original leaf will dry up and fall off.
Now it is probably best if you plant the newly formed plant in its own small container since the new baby will need to get its nourishment from the soil. I like to use 2″-3″ pots at this stage in order to conserve soil (as opposed to planting a little baby in a big container).
Keep the babies in a spot with plenty of filtered sunlight and only water the containers once the soil has completely dried out. In a few months you should should have happy, healthy baby plants that will be ready to be transplanted into bigger containers or arrangements or wreaths OH my!
2. Growing Succulents from Cuttings
So this method of growing succulents is SUPER easy. Here are the steps: 1. Locate a succulent. 2. Cut off a stem. 3. Stick the stem in dirt. Done. And it really is pretty much that easy. But here are a few pointers to help you out!
- It is best practice to let the fresh cuttings sit in a shaded area for a couple days and allow the ends to callous over.
- You only need about a inch of stem for the cutting to take root. Leaving too much of a stem on a cutting can lead to rot.
- It is best to take a cutting from a newer growth.
3. Growing Succulents from Pups
Succulent Pups refer to when new “pup” plants sprout from the main succulent plant. This can happen in a variety of ways. Sometimes a pups start to grow from places where leaves have been removed or fallen off. Other times pups will shoot out from the base of the mother plant.
Just make sure that the pups are not too small small before you remove them from the mother plant. Carefully remove a pup and plant in soil. Roots will start to form after a couple weeks.
Hydroponics 101: Rockwool
Rockwool has long been one of the most popular hydroponic growing mediums. The vast majority of Rockwool used in the world is used for insulation purposes (much like fiberglass). However, adjusting the mineral content can substantially change the properties of Rockwool. In the early 1960s it was found that following several modifications to the manufacturing process Rockwool would support and, under the right handling practices, promote plant growth. This produced horticultural rockwool, which is what is sold as a hydroponic substrate.
Grodan, the leading distributer of Rockwool, produces Rockwool by melting basaltic rock and limestone to temperatures as high as 3000°F (1600°C), at which point they become lava. They are then put into a spinning chamber and are spun together into fibers, much like cotton candy. Immediately following spinning, a binder is added to the fibers and they are compressed and cured into large slabs. By adjusting the amount of pressure, the density of the media is adjusted. The large slabs can be cut into smaller slabs and propagation blocks for easy handling. The spun fibers are also formed into a granulated product, which can be handled in a manner similar to bales of peat.
Rockwool is an inorganic substrate; therefore it maintains its structure over a long period of time. In general, Rockwool holds more water per unit volume than the other inorganic substrates and therefore has a greater buffering capacity. Rockwool is inert, so it has no built in nutrition and does not add or take anything away from plants. It can be used in either recirculating or drain to waste systems, and with either synthetic or organic nutrients.
Advantages of Rockwool:
- Retains Water – Since rockwool will easily give up water to the roots, even when it is almost dry, growers can allow more of the pore space in rockwool for air, while still maintaining a satisfactory supply of nutrient solution to the roots.
- Holds Air – Rockwool holds at least 18 % air at all times (unless it is sitting directly in water), which supplies the root zone with plenty of oxygen.
- Clean & Convenient – Rockwool holds together very well so it can’t spill. Rockwool also comes wrapped in plastic, which makes it easy to handle and keeps evaporation to a minimum.
- Comes In A Variety Of Sizes And Shapes – From 1″ cubes designed for use in propagation, to 3″x12″x36″ slabs capable of holding the root systems of huge plants, rockwool comes in dozens of shapes and sizes making it a versatile growing medium. Rockwool also comes “Loose” so you can fill pots or containers of any size.
Rockwool Conditioning Tips*
When rockwool is new it contains some residual lime from production. This has led to a mistaken belief that rockwool is alkaline and that one has to continuously adjust pH. In fact, once the lime is flushed out, rockwool is pH neutral.
Immediately before use, flush the rockwool with a pH 5.5 solution. This is done to flush out the dissolved lime. The lime will make the pH value rise to 6.0. From this point onwards rockwool does not change the pH in any way. Most rockwool cubes will have presoak instructions on the packaging.
How to pH condition:
- Saturate rockwool in no lower than pH 5.5 water for about half an hour to an hour, depending on the amount of rockwool you are conditioning. Higher quantities of rockwool will require longer flushing times to saturate evenly.
- Remove and let drain to waste.
- Flush through the rockwool with a normal nutrient solution at pH 5.5-6.0, just prior to planting.
There are also products such as Europonic Rockwool Conditioner that make the presoak process much easier by adjusting and stabilizing rockwool for maximum nutrient uptake. A unique blend of pH controls and minerals, use it for conditioning your rockwool before starting seed, clones or transplants. Use three ounces of Europonic Rockwool Conditioning Solution per gallon of water and mix thoroughly. Saturate dry rockwool with this mixture and let soak overnight.
It is important that you do not condition your rockwool with a solution at a pH lower than 5.5. If you do this, you can damage the actual fibers of the rockwool. If you use a pH 4.0 solution, you will find that your pH jumps all the way to 7.0. The lower the pH you use, the higher it jumps. If the fibers are damaged it can be difficult to re-establish a stable pH level, so never go below pH 5 with rockwool. To soak cubes, put them in a bucket filled with water. To soak slabs, cut a hole in the plastic bag they come in and fill it with water until totally saturated. After 24 hours, cut drainage slits in the bottom.
If handling rockwool in a dry state and working in confined spaces, always use a protective mask so that you aren’t breathing in the harmful dust. Although it is non-toxic, rockwool can cause skin irritation. Always wear a dust mask and gloves when handling dry rockwool. If skin irritation occurs, rinse the area with water.
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San Diego Hydroponics & Organics is kicking off our annual charity drive event, Season of Giving, on September 10th! We will be collecting clothing, food and toys through December 14th to donate to three outstanding local non-profit organizations – Alpha Project, San Diego Food Bank and Toys for Tots.
Bring in your clothing, food and/or toy donation anytime during our Season of Giving to a SD Hydro location. We will be donating the collected goods in time for families to enjoy them during the holiday season! Please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the donation process.
For the past three years SD Hydro has been asked to install, staff and manage the FarmScraper installation at the San Diego County Fair, located inside the CA Grown building. The purpose of the FarmScraper exhibit is to showcase the future of farming technology and focusing on environmentally friendly gardening practices. We look forward to this opportunity each year and we are always thinking up ways we can improve our systems and educational materials for the next year!
This year, the showcase of the exhibit was our vertical hydroponic system. The curved system was custom built by SD Hydro staff and is capable of growing 55 plants with a fraction of the amount of water used in traditional gardening practices. The vertical system utilizes a specific subset of hydroponics, called aeroponics, that uses mist to deliver water and nutrients to the plants roots. Aeroponic is the most water efficient out of all other hydroponic growing methods.
Our other hydroponic displays included a “floating” raft and Aeroflo system. All of the varieties of lettuce were donated by the Encinitas based commercial hydroponic farm, Go Green Agriculture.
The FarmScraper once again displayed our “living wall” with around 75 hanging planters donated by Smart Pot. The living wall demonstrates how to use available space to efficiently grow food or plants in a “future” scenario where horizontal land could be scarce, especially in urban settings. We’d like to thank Olive Hill Greenhouses for donating the indoor plants that made our living walls lush and colorful. According to Olive Hill Greenhouses, indoor plants also, “…decrease the amount of indoor air pollution by reducing concentrations of formaldehyde and other volatile organic chemicals. Interiors with plants have 50% to 60% fewer airborne microorganisms and 20% less dust than interiors without plants; moreover plants are able to adjust transpiration rates, thereby stabilizing relative humidity to levels ideal for human health and comfort.”
This year we added a weekly seed planting activity as part of our exhibit. It was a huge hit! Everyone loved planting pumpkins in the biodegradable pots donated by Jiffy! We chose to start pumpkin seeds so they would be ready to harvest in late October.
Another fun addition to our exhibit was the 20 ft. interactive mural wall! Kids and grown-ups alike had a great time “leaving their mark” at the fair. Our mural was so popular we went through 4!
Special thanks to all of our sponsors!
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