One of my very early posts on this blog was about starting a bunch of plant cuttings in fall/winter, including my first attempt to propagate a snake plant. Sansevieria are not overly expensive house plants to buy as full adult pots, and they’re pretty resistant to whatever bad behaviors you throw at them — plus they’re near the top of NASA’s list of “air purifying house plants” so they’re good to have around. But these cuttings are taken from a family heirloom plant of my partner that has somewhat sentimental value, and it’s always good to have a backup of a plant in case disaster strikes. And if your experiment goes better than expected, well…. then you have little personally made gifts!
This experiment is a little over a year in, developing quite nicely, but lately I’ve had an itch to repot them. I had to consult a gardening friend to see if he agreed it was a good idea, and that I wasn’t just inventing a weekend project. (When I get stressed, I tend to go on a repotting spree, ripping things out of pots on some flimsy excuse.) What bothered me most about this pot is how shallow the soil was and how low the plants were sitting in the pot, which decreased the amount of light they receive. I originally planted them shallow so there was better drainage while the leaves rooted and they wouldn’t be sitting quite so long in damp soil, but now that it’s winter the original leaf cuttings are below the edge of the pot and it won’t be receiving as much light. Now, given that it’s winter they are likely mostly dormant, so maybe that won’t matter so much – but the original leaf cuttings were also starting to look a little funky to me, and the new sprouts are dwarfing the original cuttings enough I figured they could stand to be separated.
From a side view, the original cuttings are barely even visible:
You can see them a bit better from above.
One nice thing about succulents planted in a loose, gritty mix is that it’s relatively easy to get them out of a pot. Especially if they are planted a bit shallow. Minimal digging was required to pop them out, and they stayed together in a fairly nice tight clump, which meant the roots were surprisingly strong.
They were also ringing the bottom of the pot quite a bit, which meant to me I was probably spot on and they could really do with more depth of soil. This was probably a decent time to attempt this, and my insticts were right… whew!
Being a plant nerd, I love when I see a mass of healthy looking roots – no desiccation, no rot. Lovely orange color, and tight enough it’s even holding in a pile of perlite.
Some gentle rocking back and forth, poking and prodding, and eventually swirling it around in a bowl of warm water to separate the root ball and the individual cuttings gave me a good view of what the rooted cuttings look like. You can pretty easily see the main tuber growing off each of the original cuttings and growing into the new plantlets. This cluster of two cuttings was a bit harder to separate, because I had to figure out which one of them was the one that generated two pups.
You can see where the original leaves were starting to look a bit “Gross” by the soil line, but to my surprise they didn’t feel soft or rotted. They may have been damaged by potting or grit in the soil there, but apparently I kept the watering cycle decent enough that whatever happened to them, they did callous over or dry out the wound enough that they seem okay.
From there, it was time to try to snip off the tubers with surgical precision. (Surprising anecdote: once the roots are wet, and you start cutting them, they release a smell that’s shockingly similar to carrots.) Most of the plantlets had a decent set of their own roots, although one or two smaller ones are pretty bare. A lot of the original root ball still belongs back with the original cutting. I had recently read an article where someone had mentioned that they had luck repotting the original leaves a few times, generating new plantlets in a few waves, so since these still look somewhat healthy I may shove them back into a pot after the cut edge of root callouses over a bit to see if they’ll reward me a second time.
In the meantime, I have three pretty well established pups and two smaller, slightly more bare rooted pups to repot. I’m debating how much to space them out, given that I think they will do well to be tight enough to provide some support for each other, especially if they are sitting higher in the pot in loose soil for a while. Without the original leaf cuttings, it will undoubtedly be a bit more attractive, at least. So I’ll call this one a success!
More pictures of the before and after, once they get happily repotted.