By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Many of the plants you brought in to save for next year have gotten a bit lanky. They need to be cut down and allowed to bush out before they go outside in the spring. This leaves you with plant parts.

Why not use them to multiply your original plants. After all, you liked them enough to overwinter them. Or you may have house plants that have gotten a bit too big for their pots or are attempting to take over the room. Give that one to your bank or other office that needs cheering up and start a new plant. 

Now is the time to get those slips started. For easy plant starting, make a potting pot.

Start with one of last year’s hanging pots, or any pot with a wide top. It must have a saucer under it. If there is no soil guard covering the drain hole, put a coffee filter over it. You want the medium in the potnot all over your kitchen.  Scrub the pot well to get all the old soil off. Rinse with a few drops of bleach in the water to kill any organisms still hanging on. You will also need a 3-to-4-inch clay pot with a cork or other plug in the drain hole. Scrub the clay pot well too and give it the bleach rinse. 

Now add your medium. It can be vermiculite, perlite, clean sand, or seed starting soil.

The reason to root a plant in a medium rather than water is that the water rooted plant has different roots in water than in soil and will need extra time to become well-rooted as the roots will need to change to grow in a solid.

Dampen your medium and fill the large pot. Push the small clay pot into the middle of the medium until only the rim is above the soil line. Now, fill the clay pot with water. The water will seep through the porous clay and keep your medium properly damp. Do keep it full at all times. This technique will keep the potting medium from getting too wet and rotting your slips.

Now to the plants. Cut the bottom of your slip with a sharp knife. A scissors will just crush the stem.

Strip off any leaves that will be below the soil line. Now, look at that stem. You may see rings of thicker tissue or knobs on the stem. They are called nodes and will develop roots too if given a chance. This is why you bury tomato stems as they have those stem nodes. More roots mean more fruit. 

Dampen the cut end and dip in rooting hormone. It will take some time for your slips to be well-rooted. To tell if they are ready to re-pot, give the slip a tug. If it resists, it has roots. The more time in the rooting pot the bigger the roots.

Repot in a good potting mix. Some plants that you may want to bring in again can be planted right in their pots. Just be sure that the rim of a clay pot is below the soil line as it will wick the moisture out of the pot and kill your plant if it is exposed. Plants potted in peat pots also need to be buried as they too will wick away any moisture in the pot if exposed to the air.

Perhaps playing with plants will make you forget we have 4 feet of snow on the ground and the snowing season isn’t over yet.