Updated: Apr 7, 2021
We wrote a "How to Condition Your New Plant" article in our April 2021 Newsletter that detailed what to do when you receive your new plant. While we particularized how to condition a full grown plant with a healthy root system, we did not touch on what you should do after acquiring unrooted plant material. In light of unrooted cuttings (whether they are of the Rhipsalis variety or succulents in general) being one of our most popular products, we thought we should detail what to do when you are the recipient of said unrooted plant material.
So, lets begin ...
Unrooted Cuttings packs come with a clearly different set of instructions than plants that come with a healthy root system.
There are 2 different ways to propagate Rhipsalis.
The first way is removing the seeds located in the seed pods & going from there. While this is possible, it is not our first choice, nor is it the easiest way to create your own starter plants. Not only does the process take much longer, it requires close to perfect environmental conditions for success. The second way to propagate Rhipsalis is to use unrooted plant material or cuttings. If you have ordered our package, you've acquired quite a large amount of plant material! The first order of business when propagating Rhipsalis stems is to let the cut ends of the stem callus over. This could take anywhere from a few hours to, in very extreme cases, a few months, but usually (especially for Rhipsalis stems) it will only take between one and three days -- so once you receive your order they have probably already callused over during transit, which means you are ready to go!
What does it mean to callus?
When a cutting has callused this means a layer of harder, protective tissue has formed. You want your cuttings to have a hard, dry “crust” at the base of the cutting, so the plant material does not rot. This isn't the case with all plants, but with succulents it's a different ball game. Succulents retain water longer than other, softer-stemmed, plants. This water retention is why it is so easy to send Rhipsalis (or other succulent) cuttings in the mail without fear they may die during their travels. While this is a bonus, it can lead to rotting instead of the production of new roots if potted too quickly. Allowing the stems to callus will keep this from happening.
The time it takes for your cuttings to callus depends on the type of plant & it's size. In general, the thicker the stem, the longer it will take to seal off. Moderately thick stemmed plants, such as Sansevierias, Echeverias, & Crassulas are ready and callused in just a few days. This goes the same for Rhipsalis. For all of these types of plants, only a small wound is made during the cutting process, called the leaf wound, found where the cutting was once attached to the original stem. Because it is so small, it is easy for the plant to heal quickly.
If your stem has not callused at the time of arrival, leave the cuttings lying on a flat, dry surface such as a tray. Once the area of the stem that has been cut no longer looks moist, you are ready to pot them up! Place your callused cutting in light, well draining soil (or a cactus mix) with the callused side under the soil. Your soil or medium should be lightly moistened & the container you are planting in should have a drainage hole to ensure proper water draining. Stagnant, or standing, water at the bottom of your pot could be detrimental to this entire process, so you want to make sure your soil is drying out completely before watering again.
Usually, with succulents, no rooting hormone is needed.
Layering: Another Method of Propagation that Works Well with Rhipsalis.
Unfortunately, this method of propagation will not work with our Rhipsalis Unrooted Cuttings Variety Set in its definitive way. For this method to be successful you will need stems that are still attached to a living plant. These stems will produce roots from contact with organic material (i.e. your soil). The touching of stem to organic material will encourage your living plant to put out new roots in order to produce alternate areas for nutrient & water reception.
With that being said, even though you cannot start the layering process with the plant material we have sent you, some of the stems you receive may have already begun this process & you can easily use the random roots found along the stems as a jumping off point when beginning your own propagation.
But let's get back to layering. When you get into the details of this propagation method there are many different ways to accomplish this. We have found, at Horticult, this method works well with Rhipsalis (also String of Pearls -- just so you know 😉) because, as previously mentioned, this succulent will release roots in any area of the stem that is touching organic material to create as many areas as possible to gain nutrients. It is likely, even if you are unfamiliar with this method of propagation, you have noticed random root pieces popping up in unexpected areas of a stem. This is your plant naturally layering, or using a type of vegetative propagation where water stress is minimized & carbohydrate & mineral nutrient levels are high.
While your plant will accomplish this propagation method naturally, propagators will encourage layering by wounding the stem where the roots are to form. It is important that the rooting medium (soil, cactus mix, or whatever the gardener's choice may be) provides aeration & a constant supply of moisture.
The many different types of layering.
There are a number of methods you can use via layering, but we are going to start with the most basic type: Simple Layering.
Simple layering can be cultivated by taking a healthy, bending, low growing stem connected to the mother plant & placing it on top of the plant medium (type of soil) you are using in your pot. Once you have found a fairly long stem that meets the aforementioned requirements, cover part of it with soil, leaving the remaining 6-12" of the stem above the soil. Bend the uncovered tip of the stem in a vertical
position & stake it, so it remains in an upright position. This sharp bend in the stem will often encourage rooting, but wounding the other side of the stem may encourage rooting further. This is the plant's natural instinct, as it has come to realize one of it's healthy stems has become injured & it is time to step up it's game so that it continues to stay healthy & proceed the growing process, ultimately becoming the largest, healthiest plant it can become.
Simple layering is best done in early spring using a dormant branch or in early summer using a mature branch.
It is imperative to check on your plant -- making sure it is receiving adequate moisture & looking for roots to make sure your process is working.
The next type of layering is called Tip Layering. This is the version I think will work best with cuttings that have been previously removed from the plant, hence working better with the material we send in our Multiple or Specific Variety packs.
Tip Layering is similar to Simple Layering. To begin you will want to dig a hole 3-4" deep. Insert the tip of the current season's shoot & cover it with soil. The tip of the stem grows downward first, then bends sharply & begins to grow upwards. Similarly to Simple Layering,
roots will form at the bend. The recurved tip becomes the new plant. Remove the tip later & plant it in late fall or early spring.
While the description of how Tip Layering works has led me to belie
ve this should be a successful way to propagate Rhipsalis, the article I am reading reports examples of plants propagated by Tip Layering including raspberries & trailing blackberries -- 2 plants very different from Rhipsalis. Alas, this does not mean it won't work & further experimentation done by us ladies at Horticult will decide if it is worth applying.
The next type of layer propagation we have researched is called Compound (serpentine) Layering.
This is the type of layering we, at Horticult, are most familiar with & use with many types of plants other than Rhipsalis.
Similar to Simple Layering, Compound Layering uses comparable techniques, yet it may yield multiple layers from a single stem. To start the Compound Layering process you begin by bending the original stem to the rooting medium, but alternatively to the Simple Layering process, you will cover & expose multiple sections of the stem instead of just one. Each section should have at least one bud exposed & one bud covered in soil. (Knowing this, you may need a more mature or in-season plant the has produced buds already -- something you didn't have to consider for the Simple Layering method)
Wound the lower side of each stem section to be covered with soil. As previously mentioned, a wounded stem will naturally put out new roots quickly.
This method works best for plants that produce vine-like growth, such as heart leaf philodendrons, pathos, wisteria, clematis, & grapes.
Our last form of layering propagation is called Natural Layering.
When it comes to Rhipsalis, this is when you see the production of roots occur naturally, with out the assistance of the propagator. Runners & offsets are specialized plant structures that facilitate propagation by layering.
A runner produces new shoots whereever it touches the growing
medium (in most cases, the growing medium is soil). Plants that produce stolons or runners are propagated by severing new plants from their parent stems. Plantlets or segments of Rhipsalis stems at the tips of runners may be rooted while still attached to the parent plant or detached & placed in a rooting medium. This would be the case when it comes to cuttings you receive from us that have roots protruding from areas of the stems. Simply lay those cuttings with the roots down in soil & once your cutting is healthy & using it's new root shoots to obtain nutrients & water from the soil, your cutting is ready to be segmented. This can be used to create smaller multiple smaller plants OR kept as a whole in a larger basket. Using the whole cutting with the natural layering method may be the easiest way to accomplish growing a large plant, as this whole cutting will eventually begin to put off new shoots, eventually growing into a larger plant.