I mentioned in previous posts that I was running a little experiment since the fall with propagating lilies by scaling the bulbs; many I placed in a sealed ziploc baggie with damp peat, and the others I tried placing in small pots that I occasionally watered on a window shelf. The bag method I can occasionally look at, and could tell they were coming along nicely. Last night I decided to compare the progress.
I opened up the lily bag and took a few out. The bulblets are noticeably bigger than the previous time I looked a few weeks ago.
The pots, once I started digging around, mysteriously had no scales in them that I could find. Apparently, the scales that I had planted had completely rotted away into nothing in the last five months. I may have kept them too moist (even though I was afraid I was actually letting them be too dry compared to the bag, even though the bag has been moist and sealed for five months). Or perhaps being in potting soil and compost introduced the bacteria and microorganisms that spelled their demise.
The established bulbs that I were keeping fared better, looking still in one piece with feeder roots. One of the small bulbs that I had propagated using the baggie method last winter was still present, but the top of the bulb had turned black at the tips; near the basal plate there was another small green/white bulblet growing. I don’t know what the black tips mean – if that bulb was damaged by cold, if that’s natural from where the prior stem was left to separate, or if that bulb is dying and started a new bulb off the bottom in an effort to save itself. It was interesting, and I kept the entire thing in one piece and replaced the soil, although now the blackened tip is left slightly poking out of the top of the soil for the time being.
As long as I was on the theme of rot, I did add something to my succulent operation recently – a small kitchen scale.
Many sites comment that you will eventually know when your succulents need water by picking up the pot and feeling the weight; I’m terrible at estimating figures, so I thought a kitchen scale could help me run a little experiment – telling me how much moisture the pots were losing daily, when they dried up, when it was time to water again – if any were drying slower than the others, etc.
After a few days, I was on alert. The brown and orange lines above are the same size pot; the cymbiformis, you will see the spike where I decided to water it – and noticed the difference in its prior weight vs post-watering weight took it almost right up to the original difference between it and the limifola. The limifola has been drying a bit each day – about 10-15 grams, which is what most of the pots are doing regardless of size – but not enough considering how long it had been since it had been watered.
The decision to water the cymbiformis came after consulting some internet forums about the fact that both of those plants are losing lower leaves, and I was concerned about rot. The cymbiformis has concerned me since I got it, which is a story I reference frequently that I know of others from the same nursery that were already starting to rot but I decided to chance it anyway with this particular one. The consensus was that it looked more like the behavior of transplant shock, where (especially with plants with not very strong root systems) it absorbs stores out of the weak leaves to fuel sustained growth. The problem was that while the cymbiformis didn’t have a strong root system (and had already been repotted once to a homemade gritty mix — I knew the limifola was originally a dense root ball and was still in my early attempts at a succulent mix which was mainly peat and gravel and perlite. This chart was telling me it wasn’t a good situation. It was probably better to repot now and see what was going on. So I gently lifted the plug out of the soil, and was happy to see a few signs of fresh root growth – but also that my fears were confirmed and several of the old roots were showing signs of rotting at the ends.
I managed to separate the root ball moreso than I had before, cleaned off a little bit more of the original peat from inside the root ball, trimmed up the soft ends, let it dry out, and repotted in dry gritty mix; but I continue to be worried about its chances.
Its the first succulent I’ve seen with confirmed root rot, and while I know the theory of what I am supposed to do, I haven’t done it before and don’t know how good it’s chances are. Wish me luck.
Also – one of my first attempts at propagation – a leaf from my echevaria nodulosa – has taken root, literally. Which is a happy surprise. One of my black prince leaves gave up and shrivelled away almost overnight one night; and a few others that I’ve started (a mix of ghost plant, pachysedum and sedum leaves collected) look like they could go either way. The only one I’m invested in are the ghost plants; I have five leaves starting, and I’d really like one of those so I’m hoping I manage to get one of them started and raised successfully.