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Created: February 24, 2005
Latest Update: February 24, 2005
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GARDEN Q & A
The Bromeliad Bunch
By LESLIE LAND
My bromeliad, species unknown, has two little offshoots, each about two inches long, growing on either side of the plant. Can I use them to start new plants, and if so, how?
A. Your bromeliad (probably some species of Guzmania) is ahead of you. Those offshoots, called pups, are already on their way to becoming new plants. Mother bromeliad will die after flowering, no matter what you do, and the kids will take over.
But that could take a year or more, the plant death part would not be pretty, and of course you would get just one new plant. To speed things up, let the pups grow until about a third as tall as their parent. Choose new pots that will hold them snugly. Giving them a lot of room is likely to lead to rot.
Fill the pots with dampened Cymbidium orchid mix (available at garden stores) or homemade bromeliad mix: two parts peat moss or coconut fiber, one part coarse sand and one part leaf mold or regular potting soil.
Take the plant out of the pot and brush away enough soil to show the points of attachment. Twist or cut away the pups, wounding them as little as possible. If they have roots, fine. If not, also fine.
Press the pups into the prepared soil, burying no more than was buried when they were attached. If they wobble, prop them up. Twigs and chopsticks make good stakes.
Put the pots in a warm, shady place. Keep the soil barely moist, not wet. New roots should form in about six weeks, and the new plants should bloom in two or three years.
If the mother plant is still healthy and you want additional pups, put it back in its pot. Otherwise say thanks and goodbye, it's all downhill from here.
More on Mechanical Stress
This column recently described a technique called mechanical stress, used to help keep paperwhite plants short. (All you do is stroke them briefly once or twice a day.) This prompted a great many queries, in answer to which: no, it is not a joke, and yes, you can use it for other plants, although not all of them.
Mechanical stress has been tested mostly on greenhouse-grown seedlings and seems to work best on very young annuals with pliable stems. Tomatoes benefit the most, but brushing can also shorten and strengthen eggplants, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuces and squash, as well as flowers including chrysanthemums, asters, pansies, petunias and marigolds.
Plants with stiff stems or sensitive growing points and plants already in flower can sometimes be harmed, however. Results with pepper seedlings have been mixed, and brushing is not a good idea for blooming impatiens or for geraniums at any stage. Be sure to experiment on a few samples before stressing your whole collection of anything not listed above.
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Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company