Rex Begonias

When I read the thread about propagating trees from leaves, I had to LOL. Then Alfred Falk mentioned that only certain plants can be propagated from leaf, and it reminded me of my Rex Begonias.
I adore them, and have tried to propagate them twice. I researched them on rex sites and read about a method where you slashed the veins on the leaf, and laid it on soil. It said to weigh it down with a pebble. I tried that with several leaves, in a terrarium, in indirect light. Nada. All the leaves shrivelled up and died. Then I read another article, by Martha Stewart this time, about how she and her grandma used to propagate dozens of rex begonias in the early spring for planting in the garden. So I was inspired to try again.
I took two juicy, perfect, youngish leaves, laid them on moistened soil, pegged with down with floral pins, slashed their roots, put a drop of liquid rooting compound on each cut and covered the tops of the china pots with stretch wrap.
Martha described another method, where you cut the leaf into triangular bits, each with a portion of vein, dipped it in rooting compound and inserted the dipped vein end into the ground. I split another leaf three ways and covered the pots with stretch wrap. These cuttings died within a few weeks.
The leaves that were pegged down, looked good, but nothing was happening ... and nothing happened for over 2 months. I gave up on them when the vegetable seed starts, and the garden beds, needed my attention. I shoved the plastic covered begonia pots aside to deal with later ... and promptly forgot about them for the entire season.
At the end of September, I decided to collect all the soil in pots from failed plants, and repottings, scattered hither and yon for recycling outside. I pulled the plastic off the first of the two begonia leaf attempts, and there was a dry leaf and bone dry soil. I dumped it. I popped the plastic off the second pot expecting to see the same thing ... but instead there were two little plants, close together. I totally freaked. They hadn't been watered in 5 months! The soil in their pot was very dry, but not quite as dry as the other pot, but the little plants looked pretty juicy. I have no idea at what point in those 5 months they'd started to grow, or how they managed to survive without water. Perhaps the plastic had deteriorated enough in that time to allow air in and out. But still, I'm amazed that they could grow under those conditions.
I find Rex Begonias to be fussy plants, and prone to 'wearing out' in a few years. They're hard to come by, so that's why I'm keen on propagating them. Maybe the next time I attempt propagation, I'll prep them, cover them in plastic, and then just ignore them for half a year. ;)
Flora
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FWIW, I used to get about a 95% "take" of rex begonia leaf cuttings (the segmented cuttings, in sphagnum and sand) in sbout a month on mist benches with bottom heat.
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I'm able to root rex begonias and african violets with leaf cuttings very easily. I just slash the leaf with a sharp knife or a razor, stuff it into a light potting soil and keep it watered. (Vermiculite would be good.)
I usually keep leaf cuttings like that on top of the Monitor oil stove, so they'll stay warm. My fridge has bottom coils, so it's not warm on top.
I don't use Rootone or any other rooting hormones, just because I don't have any. When I need cuttings to root in a hurry, I go out in the yard, cut a twig off a willow bush and stick it in a jar with water with the cuttings. Willows have something or other that helps things grow roots.
My mom had a PhD in botany. I know how to grow stuff and have absolutely no idea why it works, but it's what I learned as a small child, working in my mom's greenhouses.
Jan Flora Zone 3, Alaska
--
Bedouin proverb: If you have no troubles, buy a goat.

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Jan Flora wrote:

I've tried that, but perhaps not with a fluffy enough growing medium.

Interesting. What is a willow bush? Do you mean pussy willow?

Neat.
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Kay Lancaster wrote:

Hi there, Did you heat the cuttings 24/7, or only during the day? What temp? I tried this with some of them - a heating pad under the terrarium base. It was about 80F inside, ambient temp. 16 hours a day. I had a moisture source, but not a mist bench. Maybe I'll try it again with peat moss and sand. What ratio did you mix?
Thanks, Flora
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24/7, ca. 85oF, about 50-50 sand and sphagnum.

Standing air (with no movement) tends to let fungi grow more easily than the moving air in a mist bench. That may be part of your problem.
There's an old set of books called "Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture", by LH Bailey. It's often useful for home growers to check his propagation techniques because it was written in the low-tech era. :-)
Kay
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Flora wrote:

Flora-
I see you are using a pretty old version of Netscape on Mac OS9. You might want to update to 4.8, which is more stable than 4.74.
But the real reason I write is your post is very hard for me to read. I think you must have your line wrap set to a low number, or perhaps you hit return when at the edge of the Window?
I used to do nothing but help Netscape users a long time ago, but I have forgotten just where certain settings are located.
Cordially,
John McWilliams
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Hi John,
Sorry about the formatting. Long story. I'm doing the best that I can.
Flora
John McWilliams wrote:

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Flora wrote:

Not at all. Thanks for cordial reply; I somehow figured you'd be that way. It looks like you fixed it, anyhow.
If I can help, I've been on Macs a long time, and am familiar with all Netscape stuff.... or was....
--
John McWilliams

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