Pups Of A Horticultural Nature

Pups are copies of their parents.

Pups of the most familiar type are canine. Most are puppies of domestic dogs. Some are foxes or wolves. A few are seals, otters or various other animals. Garden variety pups do not get much consideration though. They develop into new progeny of plants rather than animals. Unlike animal pups, they are genetically identical clones of their single parents.

Pups of the horticultural sort generally develop from subterranean stems, such as corms, tubers or rhizomes. Most emerge from formerly dormant buds. Some grow adventitiously from roots. Pups appear as basal sideshoots against or close to their parent plants. They efficiently disperse their own roots to eventually survive as new and independent plants.

Most plants that produce pups are perennials. Some are so proficient with the technique that they grow into substantial colonies of genetically identical clones. For some, it is the primary method of replication. They actually prefer to replicate vegetatively than by seed. Some trees and woody plants do the same, but their clones lack the same classification.

For many perennials, propagation by division is merely the separation of pups from their parent plants. Most types of banana trees eventually generate a few surplus pups. Some types generate an abundance of pups to share with anyone who wants them. Separation of their pups is very similar to division of the smaller rhizomes of canna or lily of the Nile.

Individual rosettes of various species of Agave and a few terrestrial species of Yucca are monocarpic. In other words, they die after blooming only once. However, instead of dying completely, most generate several pups prior to bloom. Some produce pups excessively! Such pups can be difficult and hazardous to separate, but can replace their own parents.

Mediterranean fan palm is one of only a few palms here that generates pups. That is why it develops multiple trunks. Surplus pups can survive separation to grow as distinct trees. However, because of their densely fibrous roots, separation of intact pups can be difficult or impossible. Sago palms, which are not actually palms, are more compliant to division, even for rootless pups that develop on their stout trunks.

Six on Saturday: Rhody’s Roady

Rhody’s Roady is a topic that I wanted to brag about a while ago, but postponed because of Brent’s pointless pictures. Now, there are other more interesting subjects. Well, it was not exactly a horticultural topic anyway. Rhody’s Roady is merely his Buick Roadmaster. It is not actually described within the context of this Six on Saturday, and is only slightly visible in the first picture. However, it did take us on a road trip to the Pacific Northwest where we finally got to Tangly Cottage Gardening. I was supposed to deliver some canna there months ago! Half of these pictures show gifts that I received while there, including two very important items taken directly from their landscapes in town!

1. Cedar Lodge, surrounded by various cedars, pines, firs and oaks, is where Rhody and I stayed initially. Rhody is to the lower left of this picture. His Roady is to the lower right.

2. Western white pine and incense cedar seedlings were too compelling to ignore. These eventually would have needed to be grubbed out from a roadside berm, so came with us.

3. Ilwaco, in Washington, was our next destination. Tangly Cottage Gardening presented me with this potted ‘Coral and Hardy’ Watsonia, and the bagged red and orange cultivar.

4. Allium christophii and schubertii, which were grown for plant sales, were gifts as well! These are my first Alliums! I had postponed trying any for too long, so this is fortuitous!

5. White grape hyacinth may look like the dinkiest component of these gifts from Tangly Cottage Gardening, but happen to be something that I had been wanting for a long time!

6. Nickel the kitty reminded me that I should have taken more pictures. I met both Fairy and Skooter but somehow neglected to get pictures! More can be seen at Tangly Cottage.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Six on Saturday: More Bad Recycling (Even More)

This is the season for digging and relocating crowded or redundant plants. Most of them get recycled directly back into other landscapes, so that there is no need for the extra work of canning and storing them. Most of the daylily (#1) were simply relocated with only a few leftovers for canning. Bamboo (#2) and perennial pea (#4) were actually canned earlier in the year. Ponderosa lemon (#5) is a rooted cutting (which is ungrafted and therefore ‘on its own roots’) that I grew from a pruning scrap. I have no idea of what to do with it. I really should limit all these recycling projects to plant material that is actually useful.

1. Hemerocallis, daylily, migrated too aggressively, so needed to be removed from under benches and other perennials. More of another cultivar got dug where an old sewer pipe was replaced.

2. Phyllostachys aurea, golden bamboo, appeared within an unrefined landscape, and wasted no time migrating. It should have been killed and discarded rather than canned live for recycling.

3. Salvia mellifera, black sage, layered a few copies from an original specimen that was planted intentionally. It is native here, but unpopular. Some find the foliar aroma to be a bit too strong.

4. Lathyrus latifolia, perennial pea, is a persistently and invasively naturalized exotic species. In other words, it is a weed. I canned this and three copies of another, because they bloom white.

5. Citrus x pyriformis, ‘Ponderosa’ lemon, is not really a lemon, but is a weird hybrid of pomelo and citron. The fruit might weigh five pounds. What can I do with just one five pound ‘lemon’?!

6. Felis catus, Darla, only allowed me to get this picture by zooming in from a distance. She tolerates Rhody, but hates me. She protects cuttings and seedlings from rodents and perhaps birds.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Many Perennials Want Seasonal Grooming

Where frost is not a major concern, old canna foliage can be cut back as new growth develops.

Here on the west coast, autumn and winter weather is so mild that the native coral bells are already starting to develop new foliage on top of the old foliage from this last year. Technically, they are evergreen, so the old foliage does not need to be shed; but if it is not too much to ask, some types look better with a bit of grooming.

Other perennial plants that are from climates with stronger seasons and colder winters are not quite so evergreen. Many shed all of their foliage and are completely bare for at least part of the winter. Only a few, like cyclamen, are at their best through autumn and winter.

Dried watsonia foliage should be removed now if it has not been removed already. It is not so easy to pluck off like gladiola foliage is, so it should be cut off with shears. Because new foliage for next year develops before the old foliage of this past year is completely brown, it is often necessary to cut the old a few inches above the ground in order to avoid damaging the new.

The so called ‘evergreen’ daylilies can be even messier. New foliage is rather delicate, so it is easily tattered by the removal of old foliage. The ‘deciduous’ types may seem to be less appealing because they are bare for part of autumn and winter, but are so much easier to groom by simply removing all of the deteriorating old foliage as soon as it separates easily from the roots.

Deteriorating flowers can be removed from cannas; but their lush foliage can stay until it starts to deteriorate later in winter. Even if it survives winter, it should eventually be cut to the ground as it gets replaced by new growth in spring.

The many different iris have many different personalities. Most should be groomed sometime between summer and late autumn, although Dutch iris were groomed much earlier. Bearded iris that do not get divided can be groomed simply by plucking off big old leaves to expose smaller new shoots below.

Some dahlias bloom until they get frosted. Most though, are already finished. They do not need to be cut back all at once, but can be cut back in phases as leaves and stems dry and turn brown.

Iris Blooms Almost Any Color

Such cheerful colors are too easy.

Iris got its name from the Greek word for rainbow, because all the colors are included. There are thousands of varieties of bearded iris alone, to display every color except only true red, true black, and perhaps true green. (However, some are convincingly red, black or green.) Then there are as many as three hundred other specie of iris to provide whatever colors that bearded iris lack.

Bearded iris are still the most popular for home gardening because they are so reliably and impressively colorful, and because they are so easy to grow and propagate by division of their spreading rhizomes. Siberian, Japanese and xiphium iris are less common types that spread slower with similar rhizomes. Japanese iris wants quite a bit of water, and is sometimes grown in garden ponds. The others, like most other rhizomatous iris, do not need much water once established. Dutch iris grows from bulbs that do not multiply, and may not even bloom after the first year.

Iris flowers are so distinctive because of their unique symmetry of six paired and fused ‘halves’ that form a triad  of ‘falls’ and ‘standards’. The ‘falls’ are the parts that hang downward. The ‘standards’ that stand upright above are the true flower petals. As if the range of colors were not enough, the falls and standards are very often colored very differently from each other, and adorned with stripes, margins, spots or blotches. Many specie have fragrant flowers. Each flower stalk supports multiple flowers. Some carry quite a few flowers!

Some types of iris are so resilient to neglect that they naturalize and grow wild in abandoned gardens. Bearded iris are more appealing and bloom better with somewhat regular watering, but can survive with only very minimal watering once established. Some iris multiply so freely that they get divided after bloom, and shared with any of the neighbors who will take them. Newly divided rhizomes should be planted laying flat, with the upper surfaces at the surface of the soil.

Dividing Perennials Equates To Multiplying

Yuccas can get divided after bloom.

This seems like bad algebra. Horticulturally, dividing and multiplying really are the same. Division is the separation of crowded perennials into smaller but more numerous portions. It multiplies the number of individual plants. The smaller portions perform better than they did while crowded. Division is both a method of vegetative (clonal) propagation, and a form of healthy social distancing.

Many perennials are ready for dividing about now. They finished blooming through spring or summer, and are going dormant for winter. Some defoliate. Division is not so disruptive to them while they rest. Cool and damp weather keeps them hydrated. They can disperse roots and resume growth as winter ends, as if nothing ever happened. They should bloom right on schedule next year.

The most popular perennials grow for many years before getting overgrown enough to benefit from division. Some may technically never need dividing. They manage to perform adequately even as dense thicket growth. For some, division is primarily for propagation. Only a few perennials appreciate annual division. Perennials that bloom in autumn or winter prefer division in early spring.

Pigsqueak will bloom later in winter. Dividing it now with other perennials would inhibit and retard the blooming process. It will be ready for dividing before winter ends, so can settle in with the last winter and spring rain. The same applies to Japanese anemone, which might still be blooming now. Dividing these two perennials is typically for propagation or containment, rather than crowding.

Lily of the Nile and African iris do not need dividing often, but when they do, it can be a major chore. For moderate crowding, it is relatively easy to pluck many individual shoots without disturbing remaining shoots. However, it is typically more practical to dig bulky colonies, divide them into individual shoots, and then plant the shoots. African iris shoots work best in groups of five to twelve.

Lily of the Nile, with dividing earlier than later, disperses roots in winter, to bloom for summer.

Many Perennials Want Seasonal Grooming

Peacock orchid bloom late, but eventually succumbs to frost and must be groomed.

Here on the west coast, autumn and winter weather is so mild that the native coral bells are already starting to develop new foliage on top of the old foliage from this last year. Technically, they are evergreen, so the old foliage does not need to be shed; but if it is not too much to ask, some types look better with a bit of grooming.

Other perennial plants that are from climates with stronger seasons and colder winters are not quite so evergreen. Many shed all of their foliage and are completely bare for at least part of the winter. Only a few, like cyclamen, are at their best through autumn and winter.

Dried watsonia foliage should be removed now if it has not been removed already. It is not so easy to pluck off like gladiola foliage is, so it should be cut off with shears. Because new foliage for next year develops before the old foliage of this past year is completely brown, it is often necessary to cut the old a few inches above the ground in order to avoid damaging the new.

The so called ‘evergreen’ daylilies can be even messier. New foliage is rather delicate, so it is easily tattered by the removal of old foliage. The ‘deciduous’ types may seem to be less appealing because they are bare for part of autumn and winter, but are so much easier to groom by simply removing all of the deteriorating old foliage as soon as it separates easily from the roots.

Deteriorating flowers can be removed from cannas; but their lush foliage can stay until it starts to deteriorate later in winter. Even if it survives winter, it should eventually be cut to the ground as it gets replaced by new growth in spring.

The many different iris have many different personalities. Most should be groomed sometime between summer and late autumn, although Dutch iris were groomed much earlier. Bearded iris that do not get divided can be groomed simply by plucking off big old leaves to expose smaller new shoots below.

Some dahlias bloom until they get frosted. Most though, are already finished. They do not need to be cut back all at once, but can be cut back in phases as leaves and stems dry and turn brown.

Bugle Lily

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Bugle lilies are like lean gladioli.

It would be accurate to guess that bugle lily, Watsonia pyramidata, is related to gladiola. It is not as impressive as gladiola is, but it is much more reliable. The relatively simple blooms become more abundant as bulbs multiply each year. Conversely, after blooming so flamboyantly in their first year, only a few gladiola bloom for a second year.

New bugle lily bulbs (corms) that were planted early last autumn grew through winter to bloom about now, in white and pastel hues of pink, rosy pink, lavender, orange and almost red. The small flowers are neatly arranged on narrow floral spikes that stand about three or four feet tall. The upright and narrow leaves get only about two or three feet tall.

After bloom, foliage slowly browns through warming summer weather, so should be cut to the ground when it becomes unsightly. While bulbs are dormant through summer, they do not need to be watered much, and can rot if soil stays too damp. Crowded colonies of bulbs can be divided and spread around as summer ends.

Figs Are Easy To Propagate

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Some grasses can propagate by division.

The easiest way to propagate new fig trees may seem to be violent, but it works. Basal shoots that grew last year from the roots near the trunks of ungrafted trees can simply be torn out of the ground with as many attached roots as possible. These shoots can then be planted directly wherever new trees are desired, and watered in. Larger shoots may need to be dug out, and might do better if pruned down to just a foot or two tall when planted. Smaller shoots can be potted to grow through next summer, and then get planted in the ground next winter.

Tearing the shoots off in this unpleasant manner is effective for two reasons. It gets the most roots for the shoots to help the grow into new trees. It also removes more of the burl growth that produces the shoots than simply cutting the shoots neatly. Even if copies of the original tree are not desired, the basal shoots must be removed anyway. Simply pruning them away leaves more burl growth so that more shoots grow back next summer. Ideally, well maintained trees should actually not produce basal shoots.

Fig trees are innately easy to grow from basal shoots or cuttings while dormant through winter. Basal shoots, even those that get pulled without any obvious roots, will develop roots more efficiently than stem cuttings that were never in contact with the soil. However, if no basal shoots are available, stem cutting work just fine. Furthermore, grafted trees (which are quite rare) can only be copied by cuttings from above the graft. Basal shoots from below the graft will only produce copies of the understock.

Just as unwanted basal shoots and cuttings from pruning scraps can be grown into fig trees, overgrown perennials in need of thinning can be divided to propagate more of the same. Lily of the Nile, red hot poker, daylily, mondo grass, African iris, terrestrial yuccas, some ferns and some grasses are not only easy to propagate by division through winter, but many perform better if divided every few years or so, before they get too crowded. The common giant yucca develops big trunks instead of clumping shoots, but can be propagated just as easily from big cuttings.