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Glass, covered Pyrex casseroles can serve as splendid leaf or seed starters. A shallow redwood box built especially for propagating, covered with a pane of glass, also makes a practical propagator, especially on a sun porch or under fluorescent lights.

 

 Select a propagating container according to the size and number of cuttings to be propagated. If the container has drainage holes in it, cover them with pieces of broken clay pot, or unmilled sphagnum moss. Add the planting medium and set the container in a tray or sink filled with tepid water. When the planting medium shows beads of moisture on the surface, set it aside to drain. When working with propagators having no drainage holes, moisten the planting material before adding it to the container. Sphagnum and peat moss need to be moist enough to form a loose ball when crushed in the hand before they are placed in any container-pot or propagator.

 

 Light, ventilation, moisture, and temperature are vital to successful plant propagation. A warm, humid atmosphere and moderate moisture induce faster rooting. The majority of house plants root well at 70-75 °F, but some tropicals such as croton (Codiaeum) and rubber plant (Ficus) prefer a range of 75-8o°F. The heating cables included in most miniature greenhouses and seed starters are preset at 72°F., but cables purchased separately can be adjusted to bring up the bottom heat of the planting medium without making the house uncomfortably warm.

 

Cuttings root best in a bright but not sunny area. This means keeping them away from the direct sun of eastern, southern, or western exposures. Too much light shining through the propagating case may burn cuttings or raise the temperature inside to the point of encouraging rot and mildew.

 

   Slip the pane of glass or plastic covering away from the case at least once a day (oftener if necessary) to keep side walls and ceiling from filling with condensed moisture. Cuttings that root in two to three weeks, such as English ivy, philodendron and wax begonia, seldom need additional water. Cuttings that remain in the propagator for a longer period may need occasional watering.

 

The gardener who needs only one more African violet, begonia, or ivy may not want to bother with the preparation of propagators and special rooting mediums. If this is your situation, root the cutting or "slip" in water. Simply stick the end of the cutting in a glass or bottle of tap water and watch it root. The crucial part of this system lies in transplanting the water rooted cutting to a pot of soil. Roots grown in water are thicker and more succulent than those produced in ordinary soil. When shifted to a soil-filled pot, this kind of cutting may take a long time to establish roots in the new growing medium.

 

   How To Make a Cutting. Take a sharp knife and sever leafy cuttings, such as those from gardenia, geranium, and Jerusalem cherry, one-fourth inch below a node, or joint. Remove only enough of the lower leaves so that the stem can be set in the planting medium. Dip the cutting base in a hormone powder like Rootone to promote new growth.

 

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