Ficus elastica cultivars, such as 'Burgundy', 'Decora' and 'Robusta' are very popular plants for interior use. Growers continue to search for ways to reduce propagation time, labor costs, and bench space used during propagation. These plants are propagated primarily by air layering and tissue culture. The European system of propagation by single eye cuttings shows promise for the production of single stem plants because it provides many more cuttings per stem than layering. We conducted several experiments to examine methods of propagating ficus by single eye cuttings with portions of the leaf removed or with leaf rolled, and also to determine potential benefits of fertilizer and various soil mixes.
The two most common methods used to reduce propagation bench space, taken up by large-leaved ficus cuttings, involve removing portions of the leaf or rolling the leaf longitudinally and securing it with a rubber band.
Experiment 1 used single eye cuttings of Ficus elastica 'Decora' placed in 4 inch pots containing Canadian sphagnum peat. Treatments included removal of 50% of the leaf or no removal, rolling or not rolling leaves, and 0 or 3 g/pot 14-14-14 Osmocote fertilizer applied to soil medium surface. Osmocote is a slow-release fertilizer manufactured by Sierra Chemical Co., Milpitas, CA. Dolomitic lime at 10 lb/yd3 was added to soil prior to potting. Cuttings were placed under mist in a glasshouse with 1000 ft-c maximum light and temperatures from 68 to 95°F. Shoot lengths were measured after one month and roots graded on a scale of 0 to 5 with 0 = no roots, 1 = 1-20%, 2 = 21-40%, 3 = 41-60%, 4 = 61-80% and 5 = 81-100% root ball coverage.
Applying fertilizer to propagation pots did not affect root grade or shoot length one month after initiation of the experiment (Table 1). Rolling the leaf reduced both shoot length and root grade, but removal of 50% of the leaf had no effect.
Experiment 2, initiated Sept 14, utilized single eye cuttings of five cultivars of Ficus elastica, 'Robusta', Burgundy', 'Honduras', 'Decora' ' Denmark' and Ficus lyrata (fiddleleaf fig). Treatments included leaving 2, 4 or 6 inch leaf segments or the entire leaf. Cuttings were placed in 3 inch pots containing Florida sedge peat amended with 10 lb/yd3 dolomitic lime and received surface fertilizer applications of 3 g/pot 14-14-14 Osmocote. Cuttings were rooted under mist in a glasshouse under conditions identical to experiment 1. Root grade, as in experiment 1, was determined after 2 months.
Experiment 3 was initiated Mar 17, using two Ficus elastica cultivars, 'Decora' and 'Burgundy', and Ficus lyrata potted in 4-Inch pots containing 2 Florida sedge peat:l cypress shavings:1 pine bark. Soil medium was amended with 5 lbs/yd3 dolomitic lime and 14-14-14 Osmocote fertilizer was surface applied, 2/g pot. Cuttings were placed in cultural conditions similar to experiment 1. Treatments included leaving 3, 5 or 7 inch leaf segments or the entire leaf. All rooted plants were repotted into 6 inch pots containing 3 Florida sedge peat:1 sand after two months. Plant height, root grade, shoot growth, number of leaves, and leaf size were determined on June 15.
Removing a large portion of the leaf resulted in lower root grades (Tables 2 and 3). However, there does appear to be some possibility for removing a portion of the leaf blade to conserve space and still obtain cuttings with a good root grade. When 4 to 6 inches of the leaf were left intact on the cultivars 'Burgundy', 'Denmark', and 'Decora', root grade was almost as good as root grade on cuttings with the entire leaf remaining (Table 2).
Propagation medium had variable effects on plant growth (Table 3). Growth measurements of 'Burgundy' plants were greater from plants grown in the 2:1:1 medium, but only root grade of 'Decora' was better, and 'Lyrata' was not affected. The 2:1:1 medium has more aeration, probably accounting for the improved plant response. Reviewing the results obtained from these experiments, we can make the following suggestions....
1. Leaves of ficus single eye cuttings should not be rolled during propagation. This European practice reduces both shoot and root growth of the cuttings. Removal of one half of the terminal portion of the leaf is much easier and quicker than leaf rolling. It saves bench space and labor.
2. Fertilizer is not needed in the propagating mix of ficus because it has no effect on root initiation of cuttings.
3. When a portion of the leaf is removed during propagation, a soil mix with good aeration will promote root and shoot growth.
*Adapted from HortScience 19(1):120-121.
**Professor, Plant Physiology and Center Director and Professor, respectively, Central Florida Research and Education Center, 2807 Binion Road, Apopka, Florida 32703-8504.
1. Appleton, J. 1973. Getting Ficus away faster. The Grower 80(20):984-989.
2. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1970. Methods of propagating foliage plants. Florida Fol. Grow. 7(5):1-4.
3. Miller, V. J. and R. T. Poole. 1982. IBA effects on foliage plant cuttings. Univ. of Fla. IFAS, Agr. Res. Rpt. RH-82-11.
4. Morgan, J. V. and H. W. Lawlor. 1976. Influence of external factors on the rooting of leafbud cuttings of Ficus. Acta Hort. 64:39-46. 5. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1976. Propagation and growth characteristics of Ficus elastica 'Decora' in Central Florida. Proc. Trop. Reg. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 20:428-447.
|No leaf removal||.62||2.0|
|50% leaf removal||.74||1.9|
|Leaves not rolled (regular)||1.2||2.6|
|3 g 14-14-14/pot||.66||2.1|
|Leaf length (in)||Root gradez|
|Ficus lyrata||F. elastica 'Decora'||F. elastica 'Burgundy'|