Well, this is certainly the time of year that a person might start to see that the "summer" collection is looking a little worn and "tired". It just might be time to think of ordering something new or trading some plant material with a friend.
The gesneriphiles list recently had a very thorough discussion about the best ways to get slips and cuttings transported or mailed to their destination in the freshest and best shape possible. There was a fairly consistent consensus that "dry shipping" was definitely preferable to sending the material wet, or with moisture around the base of the stem. For those that are not already on the email@example.com I suggest that you sign up. They have a wealth of information and very helpful ideas for the gesneriad/AV enthusiast. Some of the comments from the list tell the story themselves....
K. C. said "I had mixed results with the cuttings/leaves I purchased or received at convention. It appears those that were just placed in their baggies without anything wet around them faired much better than those that did. I even removed some of the wetter paper towels that were on some while still at convention, but the damage was already done. I have also found that some plants (Chirita, Petrocosmea) actually do better it the stems have had time to dry off before potting them up."
J. R. had this to say "I agree that wilt is better than rot. I've had a number of things sent to me over the years that looked like they were too dried out to try to save, and almost always they'd root and grow. And not just succulent material.
J. B. says "I would concur with the "pack dry" ideas being set forth. I received several cuttings from this year's convention, courtesy of J. and her sharp eyes on the lookout for a few things, and the courtesy of several fellow growers responding to one of my earlier posts. One was dry, nothing but the plant, and it has now been stuck into some perlite and is ready to root, no wilting involved. But another that she picked up for me was a cutting of Drymonia variegata - as most of you know somewhat hard to come by. Sad to say, not only had the leaves dissolved into mush but the entire stem right down to the kleenex (?) wrapped end was a thin tube of soggy fluid and barely contained mush, no chance of rescue.
And S. G. said "One thing I have found personally helpful in preserving plant specimens, especially cuttings and leaves which I won't have an opportunity to put down right away (eg. at Convention) is to have a small supply of the New Zealand Sphagnum moss pellets on hand. One pellet can be reconstituted in a larger plastic baggie. The excess water can be squeezed out and the moss fluffed. I then use a small amount of this slightly dampened moss to surround just the tip of some thin-leaved leaf or delicate stem cuttings or humidity-loving small plants which might not be fleshy enough to survive in just a baggie until I arrive home. I also wonder if this moss might have some of the anti-fungal properties of the milled moss sometimes sold under the name of "no damp off". Once plant material begins to decay, the process can be pretty rapid. The process releases hormones and gases which can accelerate the decay of the remaining material. If one immedidiately gets rid of any dead or decaying leaves and stems and rinses off the remaining good material, sometimes the process can be slowed down. Also opening the baggie periodically to release the gas build up will also help. I have noticed that certain material has a tendency to decay at a faster rate in a plastic bag while other material can live without decaying for some time. Certain columnea and nematanthus cuttings can lose leaves very quickly in sealed plastic bags. Sometimes just leaving the plastic bags open a bit can release these gases which accelerate the decaying process. Temperature also accelerates the decay process so keeping plants at cooler room temperatures is better."
And finally, here is yet another way to prepare the cuttings A. B. wrote "I purchased a number of leaves and cuttings that Marcia Belisle (commercial vendor) brought to the sale. They made it home in perfect condition. Here is how she prepared them:
She planted the leaf or cutting in a small plastic bag (about 1.5 by 2 inches) filled with soilless mix. I suppose you could use vermiculite or 1:1 vermiculite:perlite, too. The bag had a small cut in the bottom to allow water to drain. Then the smaller bag + its leaf or cutting was placed into a larger zip bag. This was about 3 by 4 or 5 inches (the sizes that are available at craft stores such as Michael's or Hobby Lobby by the 100). This larger bag had an address label printed with the full description from her catalog.
Marcia told B. that she and J. prepared the bags well ahead, placed them upright in trays, and kept them moist. Every leaf or cutting had roots when I unpacked them from their little plastic 'pots' and were in perfect condition. And, I had much more information on the label than fits on a stake. Other unrooted items I purchased prepared in other ways were not so lucky!"
Also, for those mailing plant material, padded paper envelopes worked much better than the plastic padded ones. What do YOU think about this???? Leave comments.