Tropicals forum: Ensete experimentation

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Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
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psa
Sep 26, 2015 4:15 PM CST
I acquired this Ensete 'Maurelii' late last summer for the purpose of propagation. It came in with bugs on it, as so many things I get from unknown sources do, and by the time I was sure that it was free of them and safe to put in my organic greenhouse, the plant was too small and I had missed my window for getting it done during the winter.
After a sufficient soak in the aquaponic bed it became the predictably fast growing monster this plant has a reputation for being. I have large hands, and you can see how fat the base had become:
Thumb of 2015-09-26/psa/11284d Thumb of 2015-09-26/psa/47c4b2

The downside of these plants is that, unlike Musa bananas, they produce no pups, or offsets to take their place once they bloom and die. The purpose of the gruesome pictures to follow was to force it to produce these offsets by taking away the central growth point. To this end, and after allowing the plant to get well established in its new pot, I chopped it off at 12" above the soil line. I then cut straight down through the center in two perpendicular cuts so that the stump was divided in four parts. There are no pictures of this stump–it was a hard thing to do to such a magnificent plant. Crying

Now, a month after the surgery, I noticed that one of the four sections had reestablished a central plant, so I removed it and potted it up separately. You can see the portions of the original stalk on the left, the new plant growing out of the callous on the right, and the wedge of basal corm that feeds the whole thing below it.
Thumb of 2015-09-26/psa/33c132

The remaining three pieces were forming what looks to me like an undifferentiated callous in the center. It is from this tissue that I hope to harvest multiple baby plants.
Thumb of 2015-09-26/psa/258818

I'm curious as to how these will develop if left on their own, so I left two in the pot. The third I pulled out to plant on its own.
Thumb of 2015-09-26/psa/8e4e62

This one I laid back on its side in a pot so that the new growth was on top. I added good nursery potting mix up to the tops of the roots. Then I added high grade propagation mix of the type I use for cuttings and seedlings up to where it just covered this growth. The old leaf stalks still stick out the side, and the propagation mix breathes well and doesn't contain any pathogens. We'll see what pops up.

Name: Carol
Santa Ana,Ca. (Zone 10b)
Sunset zone 22
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
Sep 26, 2015 6:33 PM CST
I do hope you follow up this post. I don't much care for that type of plant, but I do find the propagation methods interesting. Many of us gardeners just either buy starts or plant seeds, and I always chuckle when someone wants to save orchid seeds. We tend to revert back to biology1, without ever knowing how these plants increase for public consumption.
Looks like you have some nice starts there.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Sep 26, 2015 7:49 PM CST
I agree please update what happens. My local nursery is getting ready to give these away and your results may make me it a try. It can be a winter project for me.
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
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psa
Sep 26, 2015 8:11 PM CST
I hope to follow up on it. Big Grin
It will probably be a couple weeks before there's much to see, though.

I have grown orchids from "seed" before, but my flasking days are long ago. Most varieties are hard to keep in my current dry climate, and I don't think I'd want to propagate them again without a proper clean room. Still, I hope to set up for mushrooms in the next year or two, and I might be tempted to put down some petri dishes with something more colorful.

I did a few cultures of bananas and ferns, too, until a much more experienced propagator showed me that she could reliably produce thousands of ferns from spore using nothing more than sterile sand and peat. Some experimentation showed that bits of banana corm would grow and differentiate on any sterile media with the right nutrition, and didn't need the rigors of classic tissue culture. And then I moved, and gave up much of my ability to grow these things.

Ensetes make great annuals around here because they grow so quickly and dramatically, and there's nothing like them that will overwinter (some of the non-edible musa and musella will pop back up from a well-protected corm/mat, but they're unreliable, much slower growing, and less dramatic). If we were in zone 10, I'm sure we wouldn't think so much of them. Sticking tongue out

The hope is to come up with a low-effort, inexpensive method of propagation that can give me lots of starts each spring. Also, to play around with the plant and better understand how it works. nodding
Name: Carol
Santa Ana,Ca. (Zone 10b)
Sunset zone 22
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
Sep 26, 2015 8:28 PM CST
I'm past the age, and the room to experiment, but not to stop learning from others. I came here from south eastern Wa. , and still miss the plants I grew up with there.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Sep 26, 2015 8:49 PM CST
Carol we always want what we cannot have.

I had planned to move to a much warmer climate when I retired. Had my plans down to the minute. At 55 I was out by 56 house sole by 57 move to Arizona. Life took over and I ended up staying put and buying a house with a couple of acres to play out the rest of my life. At least I got to say good by to work at 55 and sold the house. I got half of my dream.

Well Paul if you are not finished by the time the nursery is ready to give up the plants I will get one and experiment with you.
Name: charles
Anderson, S.C (Zone 8b)
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papa
Jan 6, 2016 7:55 AM CST
@psa hi Paul, just curious about your progress with the Ensete.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Jan 6, 2016 9:16 AM CST
@PSA - Hi Paul

psa said:I hope to follow up on it. Big Grin


Please do. I too would be interested - for knowledge sake.

I had a couple of questions....

You talk about flasking, tissue culture etc. Were you doing this on your own or as a job? That is some pretty heady stuff.

psa said:

I did a few cultures of bananas and ferns, too, until a much more experienced propagator showed me that she could reliably produce thousands of ferns from spore using nothing more than sterile sand and peat.


This sounds interesting. Is there a web site or blog that elaborates?

psa said:Some experimentation showed that bits of banana corm would grow and differentiate on any sterile media with the right nutrition, and didn't need the rigors of classic tissue culture.


That I also find fascinating. Again - is there a place I can learn more?

Don't worry about me stealing yer sekrits and competing against you. Big Grin I just love to learn and the areas discussed above are certainly fascinating.

David
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tomato Heads Organic Gardener Greenhouse Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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psa
Jan 6, 2016 7:00 PM CST
Winter and other things happened, and the bananas went into the greenhouse (45F at night) rather than the warm grow areas. They're mostly in stasis there--I'll try to find time and space to pull them out see if there's something that looks worth warming up.

Judith at Fancy Fronds in Gold Bar is one of my favorite fern experts. Her collection is amazing and she produces both tropical and temperate ferns in her cold climate. I haven't spoken with her in fifteen years or so, but at that time she did her propagation on sterile organic media flats open to the greenhouse. My first visit to her operation was very inspirational.

I don't recall who encouraged me to experiment with bananas, but there are lots of resources on the web. I used to propagate and sell exotic plants on eBay, before 9/11 made shipping far more unreliable and expensive. It only took a couple months of smashed, opened, and greatly delayed packages to drive me out of business.

Back when I played with tissue culture I did it in a homemade glove box with a spray bottle of alcohol inside to constantly re-sterilize things. This was before digital cameras, and I never thought to take film pictures of anything I was doing. Agar, petri dishes, and basic nutrients are cheap, so it was an inexpensive hobby, if time-consuming. It was the drive for new orchids that got expensive.

I will say that with good technique and attention you can reliably produce hundreds of verifiably disease-free banana plants from a bit of corm using tissue culture. The best I ever did with a large banana corm on regular media was 30 or so offspring, and it took far longer (calendar time) though it was a lot less effort.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
Seed Starter Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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DavidLMO
Jan 6, 2016 7:16 PM CST
Paul. Wow.

Sorry about the post 9/11 impact Crying .
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tomato Heads Organic Gardener Greenhouse Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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psa
Jan 6, 2016 7:22 PM CST
Hard to complain about it really. Despite the misguided reactionary measures that put me out of business, I was much less personally affected by 9/11 than many. And it gave me an excuse to move on to local plant sales and sustainable agriculture involvement.
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
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psa
Jan 8, 2016 7:04 PM CST
Updates:
I cut the original plant into four parts, and then after it had stabilized and calloused over I removed two of the four parts. All three pots were inadvertantly left in the cool greenhouse initially and experienced temperatures just above freezing. They were then moved into the main greenhouse (night time temperatures maintained at a minimum of 45F).

The quarter plant which had quickly established a new growth point now looks very much like a single young ensete plant, with a bit of the parent quarter leaves still sticking out the side. It wasn't convenient to dig it out of the banana collection, and it looks very typical of its type, so I didn't take a photo. I expect that as it warms up this plant will either grow very quickly on its oversized corm, or sprout some pups. I'm going to treat it like any normal young plant just to see what happens.

The two pieces that were left in the soil with the top of the corm above the soil line are shown here, and with a close up as well:

Thumb of 2016-01-09/psa/ada8c8 Thumb of 2016-01-09/psa/8b4aaa

You can see all of the new growth points on the top and bottom in the closeup. The low humidity before they were moved into the greenhouse thickened the callous a bit, but the greenhouse itself runs 50-80% and I think that encourages the new growth points.

Finally, the piece which I buried deeper in new soil lost its parent leaves, but has much more developed growth buds. From a different angle and with some poking I count 7 separate growth points above the media so far. I expect some of these to not make it, or be absorbed by their neighbors, and new ones to show up.

Thumb of 2016-01-09/psa/9fccfd

Name: charles
Anderson, S.C (Zone 8b)
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papa
Jan 11, 2016 9:34 AM CST
Cool
Name: Kabby
Lowndesboro, AL (Zone 8a)
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Kabby
Jan 11, 2016 1:00 PM CST
Ummm parasitic twin eating it's sibling. Blinking I think I've watched too much House MD. Sticking tongue out
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
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psa
Jan 22, 2016 8:18 AM CST
At least ten separate growth points above the media now, and several of them are getting the expected red color. I've put the pot under lights in a controlled temperature environment (68F at night, 80F day) so everything's growing.
Thumb of 2016-01-22/psa/bb23bd
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Jan 22, 2016 10:40 AM CST

Moderator

That's fascinating, psa. I'm going to have to re read through this thread. I have a couple of bananas that have pups. The temp of 80 might be hard to maintain, but your instructions seem pretty clear to me!
Name: charles
Anderson, S.C (Zone 8b)
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papa
Jan 22, 2016 2:25 PM CST
Thank you for sharing psa
Name: charles
Anderson, S.C (Zone 8b)
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papa
Jan 22, 2016 7:17 PM CST
Thank you for sharing psa
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tomato Heads Organic Gardener Greenhouse Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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psa
Jan 28, 2016 5:00 PM CST
It's been just under a week and the new growth points have matured quite a bit:

Thumb of 2016-01-28/psa/9c0ec1

I now count 17 individual tips. Most of these are over two inches. For scale, the tip of the new leaf coming out on the largest one here is five inches from the media. I'm moving this pot to a different light set to give it more clearance and a bit more light.

The last two sections of the original plant have changed very little in the greenhouse. After inspecting and clearing out dead material, I decided to repot one of them, similar to what I did with the one above last fall. In these two pictures you can see the large (3") calloused tissue that has grown outward from the original corm, with little plantlets all around the edges:

Thumb of 2016-01-28/psa/e7cefe Thumb of 2016-01-28/psa/177765

This will be put under lights next to the first pot. As before, the original roots are planted in the good compost/nursery media that I usually use for bananas. Besides the delay (which I think may have enlarged the new-growth-point-producing tissue) the only differences are that the top media is a 50% coir mix that I've been experimenting with for germination tests this spring, and I've added a bit more of it so that the callous is deeper (~1 - 1.5" below the surface, as opposed to 1/2" on the other one). I'm hoping that the light-weight media will still allow enough oxygen to the growth tissue, while helping with root initiation, which will be the next challenge for the first pot.
[Last edited by psa - Jan 28, 2016 5:14 PM (+)]
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Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tomato Heads Organic Gardener Greenhouse Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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psa
Feb 4, 2016 5:08 PM CST
Another week, another update.

It's starting to look like a clump of pups. As I mentioned in passing last week, it is likely that none of these have their own roots. I will either have to cut through the material they are growing out of, or wait until they are sufficiently large to grow their own corms out the sides and initiate their own roots. Possibly both, but there's no hurry as long as everything is growing well.

Thumb of 2016-02-04/psa/acab0c Thumb of 2016-02-04/psa/a40e6c

I also noticed a set of new points coming up, so evidently we're not done producing new offsets.

Thumb of 2016-02-04/psa/04fec2

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