I have a begonia called ‘Lalomie’ bequeathed to me by an amazing horticulturalist when she moved to the sunny shores of Florida… probably so these pesky New England winters wouldn’t stand in the way of her perennially green thumb.
This plant had won a handful of blue ribbons under her meticulous care and attention.
In my home, it has been languishing in a window, looking south like it was pining for its old caregiver, Holly.
I decided it was high time I showed a little love, and gave it some offspring.
Jim’s favorite take-out food comes in these horrible plastic containers that make perfect propagation vehicles for begonia leaves.
Fill the tray 2/3 full of vermiculite, then moisten it enough that the particles cling together without any excess.
If you’ve poured water on too liberally, drain it away, and pat the vermiculite into a nice smooth mat.
It should be the picture of health: proper size, color and vigor.
Everything you use, whether working in your kitchen or in a greenhouse should be meticulously clean.
I used a kitchen knife swabbed with rubbing alcohol (and air dried) to remove the leaf from the mother plant.
Next I lay the leaf, bottom side up to expose its beautiful veins.
With your clean knife, make small slices through the main leaf arteries.
It is the closest I ever get to being a surgeon, and makes me feel kind of like I have a degree from med school…
The leaf needs to remain in close contact with the growing medium to germinate, so I pin it down.
From a spool of fine horticulture wire cut short U-shaped pins.
Then place the leaf right side up on top of the propagation tray with the vermiculite. Press the pins down on either side of the main leaf arteries.
Secure the top on the container, and place it in a warm bright spot out of direct sunlight.
And wait patiently for new, miraculous life to slowly incubate right before your eyes.
It is an amazing process.
But, like all good things, you have to wait patiently.
If the mother is very fertile, and you have been a good surgeon, you can expect lots of offspring.
I’ll show off her babies when the time is ripe.
(A wonderful book that demonstrates lots of propagation techniques is called Making More Plants by Ken Druse)