The pencils' progress

About a month ago and a half ago, after the middle of December, I took some cuttings from that Fuchsia regia ssp. reitzii I’ve had growing out in the garden for the last several years. If you remember, this Brazilian native had just been blasted by a 26° F (-3.3° C) freeze that had withered most of its leaves. But still it held on. Noticing that lots of samba seemed to be left in the stems, I decided I’d try an uncommonly used, but highly effective, form of fuchsia propagation: Bare sticks! ( Of pencils and plants) It's now time to check on the pencils' progress.

The pencils had simply been cleaned off and shoved deep into a pot filled with my regular fuchsia mix. Then covered with a clear plastic bag to help maintain a moist atmosphere around them. A rubber band held the bottom closed. They were set under the warmth and glow of my winter “greenhouse”, my plant lights. For a few days there was nothing but, seemingly as if by magic, the dormant axial buds started stirring. Slowly at first, those buds finally opened and began expanding fairly quickly. As you can see from the pictures, by a couple of weeks they had progressed so rapidly that some were at least an inch long or more. Pretty cool how seemingly lifeless fuchsia sticks can just spring to life like that.

At this point I wanted to see what they were up to directly and not have to squint at them through the haze of condensation on the inside of the bag. I undid the elastic band and carefully lifted the bag straight up. One thing I wanted to check was that none of them were failing to strike. Like a bad apple, rotting can affect the other cuttings so I wanted to remove any out that might obviously not be taking. Also, this was a good time to check for any insect hitchhikers. Since there were no leaves left on the pencils, this was much less of a concern, but it always pays to be careful and thorough. Things can stick to the bare stems as well as leaves. Except for a happily sprouting weed seed that came along in the compost, everything seemed to be in order. I didn't even need to do any watering as the bag had done a fine job of keeping the soil from drying out, too. I plucked that wayward weed and carefully resettled the bag back over the cuttings. Finally, I returned the pot to its place under the lights.

Now, a few weeks later, it's time to check up on their progress again. Looking through the plastic, there's obviously been a big spurt in growth from that last time I checked out the cuttings. The greenhouse cover is filling nicely with shoots coming off those once-barren sticks. At this point, I want to check the plants out directly again so I lifted the bag off the cuttings for a closer inspection. Unfortunately, one of the dozen-plus pencils has failed. It had evidently had enough in it to sprout, but that was about it. Its leaves have collapsed. I slowly wiggled the stick from the soil and saw that it evidently hadn't started pushing out any roots
yet. I've cleaned up leaves from the top of the soil to minimize the chance of any decay getting onto the other cuttings. Again, I went looking for signs of bugs or any other problems. Nothing? Good. And again, I checked the moisture level and re-watering is still not needed. Everything's fine and clean, so I returned the cover over the cuttings and put the pot back under the lights.

Since there are so many shoots coming off the pencils, I could easily take this opportunity
to do some additional propagating. Each of those shoots could be removed and then rooted individually. If they're long enough, even divided for two cuttings. If I need more plants to fill pots and baskets for the coming season, this is one way of expanding a dozen or so sticks into several dozen plants. And the sticks themselves don't necessarily get sacrificed in the re-propagation at this point. Often enough, I've just clipped the pencils off and they've re-sprouted from above, or even below, if their roots had developed strongly enough. Believe what you've heard; fuchsias are really that easily propagated.