Slice-n-Dice Hostas, aka 'Rossizing'
Something we did for the first time in '06 is 'Rossizing' some Hostas. In 'Rossizing', the plant is cut vertically through the basal plate; this results in two half-plants -or four if you quarter the original- which will grow and produce new shoots from adventitious buds at the leaf axils. It would appear to be a very effective method of increasing the number of Hostas. This method is attributed to Henry Ross of Gardenview Horticultural Park in Strongsville, Ohio. There was an interesting article on the practice and its successes in the Ontario Hosta Society's Winter '99 newsletter, but that site has been completely redone and only 2007 newsletters are shown at this point. The article said that:
"....from the results of the experiments it would appear that it is possible to easily Rossize small (about 4 mm minimum diameter) seedlings or 'plugs' of most hosta varieties. The parts must have at least one large root each, and the cut plants must be planted in a sterile growing medium, such as Promix, and treated with a dilute 10-52-10 fertilizer solution. It appears to be possible to multiply the number of plants by a factor of two and a half to three in a period of about three months. Thus, starting from a single plant one can have from 39 plants (two and a half to the power of four) to as many as 81 plants (three to the power of four) in one year. Peter Ruh suggests that 64 plants are required to maintain a self-perpetuating nursery stock. It would appear that this number can likely be achieved from a single plant in one year. Perhaps the Rossizing of small hosta plants is a simple alternative to meristemming in the propagation of new hosta varieties. "
The experiment had its ups and downs, but overall I now have a good handle on the process and look forward to doing it with more varieties in 2007 and beyond. Gotta build-up that inventory to allow me to swap/trade you know......
As said, this year (2006) would be the first time I was going to give this a whirl. Well, I had planted a bare root in our 'Hosta nursery' in April '06 that was supposed to be a 'Revolution' but surprise, surprise, it was anything but. Matter of fact I haven't the foggiest what it is, but I rather suspect it is 'Bright Lights'. There is ample proof that this technique works best on the more vigorous growers, so I made the decision after seeing how well it was actually growing that this would be a suitable subject for my first hand at 'Slice-n-Dice' as I call it. That would be 'Rossizing' to others.
So, on May 27 '06 I dug it up, washed off all the soil, cleared and cleaned an area of the potting bench, cleaned four 5 inch pots, loaded them with Promix BX and moistened them with a good dunking in a weak 10-52-10 fertilizer solution.
Out comes a clean, sharp utility knife and with a couple of quick strokes the deed is done.
Here's the end result: one has become four and hopefully within the next month we will see evidence of not just new leaves but also new shoots! We'll post additional pictures as they are taken.
Three weeks later to the day, and there already is evidence of new growth on one of the cuttings. The pots are sitting sheltered, out of the direct sun and wind to keep them from drying out and have been watered weekly with a 1/3 strength solution of 10-52-10 fertilizer. The Promix holds water very well and once a week is all they need.
Five weeks have passed since 'the procedure' and three of the four cuttings are showing new growth with one of them even showing leaves from two shoots. Nothing showing yet on the one top right, but I'm not loosing hope. Or sleep for that matter. Going from one to at least three is pretty good for my first try at this; even if I don't have the foggiest notion of what it is I'm dealing with here, though as said previously, I suspect it may well prove to be 'Bright Lights', which is already reasonably plentiful in our garden. Likely because it is such a late one to start completing its variegation transformation -which I suspect may perhaps be a maturity issue- 'Bright Lights' did not do particularly well in our plant sales this spring. However, the object of the exercise was to see how well 'Rossizing' would do for me and if it didn't work out well then I wouldn't have lost too much. It looks though as if I have gained, both in terms of number of plants, as well as a valuable experience. Matter of fact, since it became clear this would be successful I have done the 'slice-n-dice' routine on a couple of bare roots purchased late in the season -they're a lot cheaper then- : a 'June' which was cut in two and is sprouting leaves on both halves with two sets of leaves on one of them, as well as a 'Francis Williams' which was purchased and divided into three the day I originally posted this, July 4th, 2006. Certainly this has all been a worthwhile experiment and experience for me and no doubt come next spring many more will 'go under the knife'. This is not just fun, it is also a great, inexpensive way of increasing the Hosta numbers for our plant sales in years to come!
UPDATE: it's starting to look as if the 'June' mentioned above will be a loss, with neither of the two 'slices' showing any new growth while the initial growth has all wilted, and the 'Frances Williams' would appear to be taking on just one of the three by August 22nd, a good 6 weeks after the division. It's a fair question as to whether this is due to the time of year, the condition of the roots when planted/divided or, as I suspect, it is much better to 'slice-n-dice' a crown with leaves than using a bare crown the way it was done with this two. That is what was suggested in the article found on the Ontario Hosta Society's newsletter article as well: much better success with plants than with bare roots.
One day shy of 2 months to the day from the original 'slice-n-dice' these are the four divisions. Yes, they vary in size of course since they would not all have started out with the same size root system or crown, but they have all come through the procedure, with a couple of them developing two offsets. All the original leaves have dried up and wilted and the size of the leaves is now in line with the size of the newly developed root system. I'm a little concerned about the appearance of a couple of these divisions. While it doesn't show up that well in this small-sized picture, the one at the top left as well as the one below it, have a bit of a disconcerting gnarlyness to their leaves, rather reminiscent of the kind of distortion you sometimes see with HVX. There is however none of the bleeding you would expect to see with HVX, so all we can do is keep a close eye on them and see how they fare next year.
Well, it looks as if the one in the bottom right didn't make it, quite possibly killed with kindness and just a little too wet for its liking. By August 16th this what the remaining three looked like, healthy, plenty of new leaves continue to show from the center and if it doesn't get too cold too soon, who knows, perhaps we'll even see a flower scape in another month or so.
BTW, behind the pots you see, from L-R, 'Revolution', 'Guacamole' and 'Golden Tiara' on the far right.
With the success this experiment yielded, there is no doubt the same procedure will be done in '07 with several other varieties we have. As this seems to work best with the more rapid growing ones, the most likely candidates will be 'Striptease', 'Revolution', 'Minute Man', 'Gold Standard', 'Guacamole', 'So Sweet', 'Blue Mouse Ears' and 'Wide Brim'. If all are done, that would be anywhere from 21 to 28 divisions if only one offshoot per variety was used and you get 3 or 4 per. I'm not sure I have room for that many, so we'll have to whittle that list down. It will be guided by what comes up how. If something doesn't come up quite as well as expected, like more or less double what is was last year, it'll drop off the list. And while I earlier had this feeling BME might be the first one to drop off, a closer inspection of the three BME divisions in early January 2007 revealed that at least two of them have three apical buds swelling on them. That to me indicates a good, strong grower that certainly should be sliced-n-diced in May, even if only on one shoot. I'm eagerly looking forward to doing this with 'Striptease', 'Revolution', 'Gold Standard', 'Guacamole' and 'So Sweet'. And that will give us PLENTY of new material for the next year's plant sales. Hopefully some interesting seedlings, both from 2006 and 2007, will provide additional material for future breedings and divisions.
Propagation focus in 2007 was on using a different technique, following in the steps of a recent thread on Hallson's Hosta forum where there was a brief posting on a new propagation technique that was tried this year. Having done a few leaves now using this new technique and taken and posted the first few pictures, I thought it appropriate to create a new page for it. Keeps things better organized and less cluttered.
There was of course the usual straight forward dividing done in 2007, a lot down to single shoots, but none were 'sliced'. With the expansion of varieties in 2007, largely due to trades, I have no doubt I will resort to Rossizing a number of newer ones in 2008.
Problem is I have so little space, I want a wider variety and more of each through Rossizing and/or dividing and something will have to give. In 2008 that was Rossizing, there just was no spare room and we added more cultivars and even though we tend to focus on the smaller varieties, they all take up more room and leave less room for the fruits of our propagation efforts. For me the choice between Rossizing and Rostonizing is an easy one, even though I only have limited experience with both of them: Rossizing works for me and Rostonizing leaves a lot to be desired!