Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


(above, my faithful houseplant, Stapelia gigantea with fly pollinator)
Winter seems endless in New York City, and to keep my fingernails properly dirty when I have no gardening chores, I’ve made a few wintertime propagation experiments. First I dug up, re-potted, and brought indoors the tender lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’. I also took four, five-inch cuttings from the mother plant, stripped the bottoms of leaves, dipped them in a rooting hormone and stuck them in a soil-less mix. Mother and daughters stayed on my office windowsill through winter ‘08, grew and bloomed summer '08 in my rooftop garden.(above , lavender cuttings on left, lavender mother plant far right, in green bottle, Ming Aralia cutting)

House Plant Dividend
At the same time I took a cutting from the five foot Ming Aralia that resides in a corner of my living room. The cutting, about eight inches long, stood in a bottle of water for three months; when fully rooted I potted it in it’s own container. The baby is promised to Diane and Gary the next time they come for a visit. (She had the chutzpah to ask for it.)
The mother plant was a cast-off, offered by a family in my building who was selling their apartment. Their realtor laid down the law. Get rid of that thing because it takes up too much space and makes the living room look minuscule. The offer was made with full disclosure; the plant looked like it was dying and maybe the building “Plant Lady” could resurrect it. I did, merely by deep watering once a week.(above, Ming Aralia mother and daughter)

Got Spit?
My Stapelia gigantea (Carrion Plant) was getting long and ungainly, so three weeks ago, I whacked a piece off,
let the end heal for a week, while
warning Ben not to throw it in the
garbage.This succulent would
probably root perfectly well in
potting soil without any special
treatment, but a friend who seeks
out heritage roses in unusual
places swears by the rooting
properties of saliva. She says she
carefully puts the end of a rose
cutting in her mouth and slathers
it with spit before placing it in
potting mix. Talk about organic,
free, and ever-handy, I couldn’t
resist the spit treatment. Since I
don’t know the taste and health-
fulness of the plant, I spit in my
hand and rolled the end of the cutting in it. I’ll spare you the sight of that, but I experienced the smug feeling that comes from getting away with something. Of course there’s no control group so the fact that the cutting is doing fine is absolutely no proof of the efficacy of the spit treatment.

A perfect project for a kid’s science experiment, does spit encourage rooting and in which plants? What enzymes or growth hormones are in saliva that would encourage rooting? Anyone out there have any knowledge or a reference? Best answer gets the cutting in a hand thrown stoneware pot; see mother plant in bud above, then in bloom below.

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