Some plants—mostly house plants that belong to Begoniaceae, Crassulaceae and Cesneriaceae—have the capacity to develop plantlets on their leaves. This is a simple and efficient means of propagation, and it can occur in either of two ways: by naturally

Asplenium bulbiferum (Chicken fern)

Asplenium bulbiferum (Chicken fern)

Asplenium Bulbiferum

Tiarella cordifolia (Foam flower)

growing foliar embryos, or by artificially induced plantlets from leaf cuttings.

Foliar embryos are the result of a highly specialized process that occurs in certain plants, such as the mother-of-thousands and pig-a-back plant. In this process the plant isolates simple plant cells in small areas of its leaves during the course of its growth; these cells are subsequently capable of developing into new plants.

The range of plants that can be propagated from leaf cuttings is relatively small, and the success of this technique is subject to various environmental factors that are to some extent open to manipulation by the gardener.

Leaf cuttings should be made only from leaves that have recently expanded fully. If the leaf is still less than full size and immature, all its energy will first go towards developing and maturing. This will delay the generation of new plant life and, since a leaf cut off from its parent is unsupported, the longer the propagation process takes the more likely it is that problems, such as rotting, will arise.

When a leaf has recently expanded to its maximum leaf area it is efficient in food production and still has a full life expectancy in case regeneration should be slow. At this time the leaf is still young enough to have a high capacity to propagate—a capacity that will lessen as the leaf ages.

The selected leaf should be complete, normal and undamaged so that it will not be

Saintpaulia Ionantha

Saintpaulia ionantha (African violet)

Tiarella cordifolia (Foam flower)

Saintpaulia ionantha (African violet)

subject to rots and will produce typical offspring. It should also be free from pests and diseases.

Since most plants suitable for propagation by leaf cuttings are grown indoors or under glass, it is possible to take cuttings all year round, as long as there is a fresh, fully expanded leaf available. All that will alter is the speed at which the plantlets develop; in winter, temperatures and light intensity will be lower and, as a consequence, food production and the rate of propagation will be slower.

The leaf, when separated from its parent plant, will be highly susceptible to desiccation and it is necessary to minimize this by controlling the environment. Therefore always propagate leaf cuttings in a closed case, propagator, or under a glass sheet or polythene tent.

The most common cause of failure in leaf propagation is the leaf rotting before it has a chance to produce a self-supporting plant. Thus it is important that all materials, containers, composts and leaves should be clean and undamaged.

Although many plants have leaves that are capable of rooting, they do not all have the capacity to propagate from leaf cuttings. Those that do not can only be successfully propagated from leaf-bud cuttings (see page 62). Other specialized kinds of leaf cuttings are bulb scaling (see page 48), and scooping and scoring bulbs (see page 49).

Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-in-law's tongue)

Streptocarpus x hybridus (Cape primrose) Begonia rex

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Organic Gardeners Composting

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