Friday, January 31, 2014

An Uncharacteristically Upbeat Post


Anybody remember that Euphorbia fungus I've been having trouble with since forever? The one that makes the fuzzy white patches on Euphorbia, Pedilanthus, and Synadenium but not on anything else, and that doesn't go away after being sprayed with rubbing alcohol, peroxide, copper sulfate, or chlorothalonil? This stuff?

I think I may have figured out how to get rid of it. The secret might be strong sprays of tap water. Damaged leaves stay damaged, of course, but they don't grow new patches of fungus. I hadn't tried this previously, because usually the equation is fungus + water = more fungus. In fact, I'd been taking extra care not to get water on the affected plants. The only reason I ever tried spraying the plants with water was because I'd gotten so discouraged that I gave up on ever stopping it, so I figured I may as well make it worse so I could justify throwing the plants out.

Rain doesn't work, though: the fungus got worse on the plants that were outside last summer. Must be the chlorine?

The only plants that washing doesn't seem to be adequate for are the Pedilanthuses. Of the three I still have (P. tithymaloides, P. 'Silver Star,' and P. 'Jurassic Park 2'), 'Jurassic Park 2' seems to be cured, 'Silver Star' might or might not be -- it's hard to tell, because there was a lot of leaf damage, and the leaf damage is the same color as the fungus itself -- and P. tithymaloides is still having problems.


The Hippeastrum seedling I got three years ago from Kenneth Moore is 1) going to bloom, and 2) offsetting. I'm not sure I even knew that Hippeastrums made offsets before this; I never paid that much attention to the genus because I never thought I was going to have one.

The flower won't be anything terribly exotic; it's either 'Red Lion' x self or 'Red Lion' x 'Apple Blossom.' But it'll still be my first, which is special enough. And amaryllis blooms are pretty, even when they're ordinary.


The rumors about Clivia are true. I'd started to think all the talk about Clivia offsets was some kind of elaborate prank aimed at me, to make me feel bad because mine weren't making any. But behold! (And it only took five and a half years!)

So this is a thing that can happen as well.


But the fun doesn't stop there! I also have an Araucaria seedling! (It's less blurry in person.)

Is it an interesting Araucaria seedling? Well no, not yet. But someday. The story is, I bought three seeds of A. bidwillii from last September.1

I started them on 17 September 2013. I got a clear plastic jar (formerly a Costco bulk pretzel container), put in about 2 or 3 inches of damp soil, then set the seeds on top, then added another inch of soil and sealed the top.

In retrospect, I wish I had used vermiculite, because there's a raging fungus gnat problem in the container now. Washing the seeds first might have been a good idea as well, since I've had bugs come in with previous purchases. (Only springtails, but if washing might have prevented that, then washing would have been a good idea.) But in any case. They usually take 1-2 months to germinate, but can take up to 18 months to germinate, I've heard, so this may be a long-term dirt-filled pretzel jar.

And here's a bonus picture of my first Araucaria bidwillii, from last September:

In that photo, it's about six and a half years old, plus however old it was when I bought it.2

The advice I see on-line says I should move the seedling to its own pot as soon as it's large enough to be handled.3 I'm not sure how large that is, but the current plan is to give it its own pot once it starts growing some true leaves: currently it's just a short, bumpy stick. If that sounds wrong to anybody, please leave a comment. For that matter, leave a comment if it sounds right, too.


Finally, I've seen the first germination from this year's round of Coffea seedlings:

That took a little less than two months to sprout. For this one, I used soil instead of vermiculite, and I didn't soak it in water for 24 hours after harvest, so I hadn't been sure it would do anything. But it seems the pre-drying soak is optional, and it doesn't matter tremendously what you try to germinate them in. For the moment, it's just this one pot, the six seedlings from last year's batch, and the parent plant (which is doing terribly and I don't know why4) but I started a pretzel container full of vermiculite and seeds5 on January 15, and have two more batches of seeds to sow (95 seeds next week, and 205 seeds in early March), so this is just a harbinger of the coming Coffea stampede.

Bonus picture of the remaining plants from last year's crop:


1 $5.95 plus shipping. That was the same order as the Strelitzia junceas (5 seeds for $2.95; previously), and I also got seeds of Calathea lutea (10/$3.95). Both Strelitzia and Calathea are supposed to be irregular germinators, but it may be time to give up on the Calatheas: they take a lot of space that could be going to Anthurium seedlings, and so far none of the ten have done anything. I can be pretty patient when it comes to waiting for plants to do things, so I'm not planning to throw them out immediately, but . . . well, they should start thinking about germinating, if they know what's good for them.
2 There is not a lot of information available about how fast A. bidwillii grows once it's germinated, but based on this picture from Wikimedia Commons, I'm guessing mine was barely more than a year old when I bought it. My earliest photo is from October 2007, ten months after the purchase, when it looked like:

Best guess: the plant is now between 7 1/2 and 8 1/2 years old.
3 For example: " As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. The plants have a rather sparse root system and are best placed in their final positions as soon as possible." (From here.) The part about the roots seems correct, at least:

4 My best guesses: cold (it's in the plant room, on the floor, and the plant room floor has been very chilly, several times, because of the periodic blasts of cold this winter), dry (it dries out a lot faster than it used to, and probably needs a larger pot), and maybe hot, dry air (the only place big enough to put it is also pretty close to the plant room heater). There's a second plant in the pot, maybe half the size of the big one, and it seems to be doing fine, though, so none of the explanations completely make sense.
5 And I do mean full: 149 seeds. The pretzel jars aren't huge -- about 8-10 inches / 20-25 cm in diameter? -- so the seeds are packed in there pretty tightly.


Ginny Burton said...

How nice to read a happy column from you! I'm glad that your Lunar New Year is starting so well.

You must eat a lot of pretzels!

Liza said...

Congrats on all the new growth/buds/excitement and joy in your casa! That's cool, it is nice to see an upbeat post.

I'm zeroing in on that pretzel jar, though, and the gnats. That's unfortunate, because what a great greenhouse. I heard from a Spanish girl here that she will add dish soap to her watering bucket, then soak the soil to get rid of the gnats. She swears by it. I haven't tried it yet but it sounds like the soap might suffocate the gnats. Or maybe I'm just romanticizing her folksy wisdom. I would still recommend the yellow sticky traps, too, and of course, you'd want to take the pretzel jar outside any time you want to open it.

I never knew you were Hippeastrum deprived - you poor thing!

Paul said...

When you mentioned tap water solving your mold prob, the first thing that came to mind was the chlorine. If you are feeling daring, you might try mixing up a 5-10% bleach solution and spraying that on one of the moldy plants. A 5% bleach solution is often used for sterilization of orchid seeds -- fragile things that they are. Since you wouldn't want the soil to get inundated, probably be best to have the plant lying horizontally over the tub so drippings don't wind up on the soil. (Btw, if I recall my readings correctly, orchid seed exposure to the bleach solution is only done for a couple minutes before rinse the bleach away. Been a while since I read that info though, so some research and experimenting on your part would be needed.)

Possible solution for your next pretzel jar attempt ... or even if you need to rewater this one -- try using mosquito dunk water.
For a new set up, start with very dry soil. Put a chunk of a mosquito dunk (available at any store like Lowes, HD et cetera) -- about a 1/4 of the donut -- in a gallon of water. Allow to steep overnight or for a couple days. Moisten the media with this water. If you need to remoisten the media later, do so with more dunk water.

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

I have tried water jet to get rid off the white fungi.... that's the best approach so far...

Paul VA said...

My Araucaria bidwillii that i got from you years ago is stil going strong. well, its looks good, at least. It doesnt really grow much. yours is much bigger, maybe twice as big. Mine has finally started growing when i started taking it outside for the summers