How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

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Marlon Machado
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How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Marlon Machado » Tue Jan 01, 2008 3:28 pm

The picture below is of a specimen of Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana that I bought as a small plant from Specks at the stand of Exotica nursery at ELK, in September of 2005. When I got it the plant was small, with only six or seven leaves. It had caught my attention because of the very nice pattern in the leaves - of all the clones of Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana that I have, this one has the most vivid pattern in the leaves, with the light green reticulation pattern contrasting very well with the dark background of the leaves. It has the field number JDV 90/8. This plant has grown very well in the past two years, and has increased in size to almost fill the 6 inches (15 cm) pot in which it is planted. In December of 2007 it had about 23 leaves.
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
I am very happy with this plant, but there is one thing that bothers me: I only have this one specimen of this form. This plant has not produced any offsets (and Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana is a plant that usually stays solitary), and thus I do not have any replacements - if something happens to this plant and I lose it, then that is it, the plant is gone. For this reason I decided to propagate this specimen from its leaves.

Species of Haworthia can be propagated from leaf cuttings, but the leaves must be whole - the meristematic cells that can produce new plantlets are located at the base of the leaf where it is attached to the stem of the plant. Thus, the leaves must be taken with some stem tissue in order to ensure that the base of the leaves contains the meristematic cells necessary for regeneration of a new plant. In order to do that, you basically has to chop up your plant. It takes some courage to chop up a nice specimen like the one in the picture above, but with time and experience you will find that the procedure I explain below gives very good results.

However, if you are willing to try it, avoid making your first trials with your prized specimen plants, but rather try the technique first with a plant of less value, perhaps with a rosette of that clump of Haworthia cymbiformis that you have somewhere under the stage of the greenhouse. Once you have gained experience and confidence in the technique, then you can move on to apply it to your more prized specimen plants.

The first you need to do is to unpot the plant. Below is a picture of the specimen of Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana unpoted, showing a strong root system, even growing new young roots:
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
The next step is to cut off all the roots, and wash the plant to remove all the dirt that it may have at the base:
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
Here is a picture of the plant with the roots removed. It is a big specimen with many leaves, and almost fills my hand:
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
The next step is to cut out the stump of stem at the base, until you get to the basalmost leaves. Then you need to identify the lowermost leaf of the rosette, which is the first leaf (viewing the plant from the bottom, it will be uppermost leaf) and cut the stem just below it, as shown in the picture below:
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
The incision must be made at an oblique (slanting) angle, in order to almost cut the leaf out. This has to be done carefully, and the incision should not be very deep otherwise you can end up damaging the leaves below the one you are currently removing.
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
After you had cut the stem just below the point of attachment of the leaf as explained above, the leaf will be almost loose, attached to the stem by a little layer of tissue. Now you must carefully pull the leaf sideways - it will come out easily. If the leaf does not come out easily, it is because the stem was not cut deep enough - try to cut a little more, also from the side.
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
After you had removed the leaf, there will be a little bit of stem tissue at the base of the leaf, as shown in the picture below. The leaf removed this way has a greater chance of rooting down and producing plantlets, because the meristematic cells at the base of the leaf are intact.
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
Now you need to repeat the process for the remaining leaves, until about six to ten leaves are left in the rosette. You have to judge when to stop removing the leaves, as it will depend on each individual species. With some species you can continue removing leaves until the rosette has only a handful of leaves left, while with other species more leaves must be left in the rosette otherwise it may fall apart.

Follows a picture of the leaves I removed from the specimen of Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Fifteen leaves were removed in total, the majority of which will root and get established, and in time each leaf will produce one or more plantlets.
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
And here is the rosette after the lower leaves were removed. The plant will be allowed to dry and after the cut stem callouses the plant will be re-rooted and potted up again.
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Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana. Photo: Marlon Machado.
[hr]

I applied the same procedure to another plant of mine, a hybrid of Japanese origin named 'Kegani'. The plant in the picture below is a specimen that I have grown for over six years. I received it in 2001 as a small cutting with four or five leaves from Alan Pocock. It has grow slowly but steadily, and now in December of 2007 the plant has about 27 leaves:
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Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
Again, the first step is to unpot the plant. This specimen had a very healthy root system, with many strong roots and no dead roots at all:
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Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
The next step is to remove the roots. In the picture below it is visible the stump of old stem that the plant has:
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Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
This stump of stem must be cut out until the basalmost leaves are reached:
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Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
Now an incision is made in the stem just below the leaf, and the leaf is removed by pulling it out sideways. The process is repeated until only a few leaves are left in the rosette.
Image

Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
Here is the rosette with the leaves removed. A total of eight leaves were left in the rosette. Now the cut stem will be allowed to dry up and callous, and then the plant will be potted up again.
Image

Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
Follows a picture showing the leaves that were removed from the plant. A total of nineteen leaves were removed. The leaves will be allowed to dry, and in time the majority of these leaves will root and produce one or more plantlets.

Image

Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
Follows a picture of the rosette after the leaves were removed. It will reroot and slowly grow again, and in time this plant will have as many leaves as it had before.
Image

Haworthia 'Kegani'. Photo: Marlon Machado.
[hr]

You should not hurry to pot up the leaves. Place them in a cool and dry, shaded place - but mind you, they should not be left in the dark but in a bright place. After some time - it may take weeks or even months, depending on the species - you will notice root nodules starting to grow at the base of the leaves. It is only then that the leaves can be potted up. By then the rosettes from which the leaves were removed will long have rooted and will already be growing again!

The substrate in which the leaves are potted up should be very open - use coarse sand, or grit, or perlite, or vermiculite, or seramis, or cat litter, whatever you have at hand as long as the medium is open. Also, avoid having a heavy hand at watering - light waterings now and then and frequent spraying is best. The leaves will root and soon they will start to produce little plantlets. Once the plantlets are formed, you can resume a more normal watering regime.

I must really stress that the key to successfully growing new plants from leaves is avoiding potting the leaves up too soon, and avoiding watering them much. The most common reason for failure is too much water at this stage - the leaves will simply rot if watered too much. The leaves do not need much water because initially they will be producing roots and plantlets by using the reserves of water and energy that they contain in themselves. Only after the leaves are firmly rooted and have started to produce plantlets, is that normal watering can resume.

I am sorry I do not have any pictures of plantlets growing out of the leaves to show to you, but trust me, the technique I described above works very well, and it is the only way of propagating vegetatively large numbers of a plant, short of propagation by tissue culture!

As a last note, the technique works best if the plant from which the leaves are to be removed is in good healthy and turgid - nice and plump, with leaves full of water. If the plant is stressed or the leaves are shrivelled, the rate of success will not be as good. Also, not all species of Haworthia can be successfully propagated using this technique. It works best in those species whose leaves have some substance, like the retusoid Haworthia. Species whose leaves are very thin or which have very leathery leaves are less suitable, because either the leaves dry up before rooting or they stubbornly refuse to root.

Cheers,
Marlon Machado.

Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Vic » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:12 pm

Hi Marlon,

An excellent account of the procedures involved with great photos as always. You're very brave cutting up such fine specimens but obviously the end results are worth it.

I wonder if this would work with some Aloes or am I right in thinking that you can't propagate Aloes from leaf cuttings?
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Bill » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:15 pm

Very good write up Marlon, there are other ways, which can be used on even the softer leaved plants. Coring (removing the growing tip from a rosette) or halfing Haworthias can also result in new plantlets, although some these will need rooting down.

This was an example I posted on the forum a while ago

What do you when when you look like this (1)

and you should look more like this (2), or you simply want more plants.

Simple you chop the top off (3)

And 6 months later the net result should be this (4), at least 15 offsets on this one and the top is rooted down and growing nicely too.
[attachment 8431 chopped.jpg]
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Diane » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:18 pm

Marlon, what an informative and educational thread this is! thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to post it. Until now, most advice has been to remove lower leaves (but not the oldest, bottom ones)by carefully pulling sideways, or cutting them out with some stem tissue attached. You have shown an excellent method to use, but it takes a lot of courage to do this on favourite plants! Certainly will be useful to try on less favoured plants first. I have tried leaf cuttings on a few of mine, and have succesfully rooted and grown Haworthia aranaea by simply pulling off lower leaves - not an easy one to do it with, as the leaves are thin and soft, but it shows it is possible.

Some ideas for the New year!
Diane - member of Kingston branch

Growing cacti - balm to the soul!
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Haopeng L » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:22 pm

Wow, thanks very much, Marlon.

First I must say your Haworthia emelyae var. comptoniana is really beautiful and healthy which makes me envy a lot. And thanks for your vivid class of "propagating Haworthia from leaves".

I think the best way to show my appreciation is to achieve your next step of this propagation from leaves. It is my experiment of propagating from leaves of a hybrid Haworthia. I will show you the pics and the result of this propagation.

The first pic is a pitiful hybrid.
[attachment 8432 IMG_0009.jpg]
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Haopeng L » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:23 pm

The second pic is leaves cutting.
[attachment 8433 IMG_0015.jpg]
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Haopeng L » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:24 pm

The third pic is small plants have grown from the leaves.
[attachment 8434 IMG_0185.jpg]

Over

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Marlon Machado
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Marlon Machado » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:27 pm

Hi Vic,

Thanks. Unfortunately you cannot propagate Aloes from leaf cuttings - they need at least a section of the stem otherwise they will not root. You can behead an Aloe - if you leave a few leaves at the base, then the plant will grow one or more offsets, and the decapitated rosette can also be re-rooted.

Cheers,
Marlon Machado.

Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Haopeng L » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:30 pm

Hi, Bill. Judging from your pic two that I think we use the same Haworthia. What coincidence!

Happy new year!

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Re: How to propagate Haworthia from leaves

Post by Vic » Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:39 pm

Hi Marlon,

Thanks, that's what I thought but the method you have described could well be worth trying with some. Perhaps I'll pluck up the courage one day to behead one or two of mine.
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