Leaf squares

Any leaf that will regenerate vegetatively can be propagated from leaf squares, but this method is normally used only for plants with big leaves and especially for Begonia rex varieties. Its main advantage is that it produces numerous plantlets from a single leaf.

This method of propagation produces small pieces of cut leaf that are prone to rotting. Therefore clean, sterile tools and equipment should be used at all times and scrupulous, hygienic measures should be observed.

Fill a clean plastic seed tray with cuttings compost and press the compost to give a flat surface about f in below the rim. Water the compost thoroughly and allow to drain.

Remove a fully expanded, undamaged leaf from the parent plant and place it face down on a clean sheet of glass. Take a safety razor blade and ruler and cut this leaf into a series of | in squares, placing the ruler gently on the leaf to avoid crushing. Any damaged squares must be discarded.

Lay the cuttings flat on the compost with the top side facing upwards. Place in rows about £ in apart. Label the seed tray clearly. Spray the cuttings with a fungicide such as Captan or Benlate.

Cover the seed tray with a clean sheet of glass to maintain humidity. Place in a warm (18—21°C/65-70°F) environment out of direct sunlight, but make sure there is sufficient light available to allow the leaves to manufacture food. A closed case is ideal, although a window sill in a warm room facing east or west is also suitable.

If the compost was thoroughly watered initially and the seed tray is covered, little or no more watering will be needed. Should the compost dry out, rewet by standing the seed tray in a water bath.

Plantlets should appear on the cut surfaces of the larger leaf veins nearest to the leafstalk. At a temperature of 21°C/70°F, this should occur after about five or six weeks, but the new plants will not be big enough to pot on for several more weeks. When the first leaves have opened, gradually harden off by airing the seed tray. Pot up when the plants are a sufficient size to handle without damage.

3 Cut the leaf into f in squares, using a razor blade and ruler.

1 Fill a container with cuttings compost. Press to within f in of the rim. Water well; then drain.

2 Remove a fully expanded, undamaged leaf from a plant. Place it face down on a clean sheet of glass.

3 Cut the leaf into f in squares, using a razor blade and ruler.

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Wrinkled, puckered or hairy leaves such as those on Begonia masoniana (Iron Cross) will not lie flat in contact with the compost. They should, instead, be planted vertic ally in the compost, and be just deep enough to hold the leaf squares firmly erect. Ensure that the basal cut, which will eventually produce the plantlets, is in the compost.

Label. Spray with a fungicide; then place in a closed case or a polythene bag.

1 Cut a wrinkled leaf into £ in squares.

2 Plant vertically in the compost. Firm in well.

3 Spray with a fungicide. Cover with polythene.

4 Lay the cuttings face up on the compost about \ in apart. Label and spray with a fungicide.

5 Cover with some glass. Place in a warm, shaded area. Harden off once the plantlets produce leaves.

6 Pot up when the plantlets are large enough to handle without damage and label.

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