Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ghost plant babies

A couple of months ago I bought a ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) on sale. Also known as “mother-of-pearl plant,” this succulent from Mexico is a vigorous grower with woody trailing stems topped with fleshy rosettes that range in color from pale gray to pink. Its leaves break off very easily, which is why it’s best to put this plant in a permanent location and refrain from moving it around.

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Graptopetalum paraguayense
Although supposedly hardy to zone 7b (5°F), mine has developed some brown spots from the cold, damp weather, and yet at the same time it produced flower stalks that are about to open up.

Since I haven’t decided yet where I will ultimately put it, I have had to move mine around a fair amount, and even though I tried to be careful, I still knocked off a few leaves. Knowing that many succulents can be propagated from leaf cuttings, I decided to put a few of the leaves in a dry place to see what happens.

I expected to see roots developing at the end that was attached to the plant, much like what happened with my Graptopetalum amethystinum, a related species also from Mexico:

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Graptopetalum amethystinum leaf forming new roots

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t roots that formed at the end of the leaves, it was miniature rosettes, i.e. babies!

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Babies forming at the end of the leaves,
which are resting on top of some soil but are completely uncovered
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Close up

The other end of the leaves is beginning to shrivel because the newly forming rosettes are “consuming” the leaves in order to grow. I’ve found many references to leaf cuttings resulting in babies, but nobody ever talks about what to do with these new plantlets. Do you plant them now, or do you leave them until the old leaves have shriveled up and roots are beginning to form? I will leave mine in peace for a while longer in hopes of finding out what the proper procedure is. If you know, please leave a comment below.

Interesting side note: Although Graptopetalum paraguayense is very common in cultivation, its habitat, according to UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, “was unknown until quite recently. It turns out that G. paraguayense is a highly endemic species, restricted in nature to a single mountain in northeast Mexico that rises abruptly out of a low plain covered with tick- and snake-infested scrub forest.”

2 comments:

  1. I had the same thing happen with sedum dasyphyllum except on an even smaller scale since its leaves are really small. I don't think it matters what you do: bury them and they'll grow, or leave them alone and they'll put down roots when ready and grow.

    Love the macro shots btw.

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  2. They're such delicate plants but incredibly easy to prop, almost 100% success rate. It's actually fun to see the leaves sprout and develop new plants themselves :-)

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