Meet my Philodendron Splendid (Philodendron Verrucosum x Melanochrysum.) It was one vine planted in the pot and was growing nice and tall with beautiful big velvet leaves which you’d think would be a good thing – but it just wasn’t looking it’s best. It was gangly and odd looking, which, don’t get me wrong, is often a characteristic I love in plants. But in this instance, the plant wasn’t looking as splendid as it could. Ha. The best way to fix this was to propagate and plant more vines into the pot. This was scary. I’ve tried propagating velvety philodendrons before (looking at you micans) with quite a bit of failure. I wasn’t ok with failing this plant. It’s not an easy one to replace and it is one of my all time favourites. I decided air laying might be the answer and it absolutely was. Here’s what I did:
The process of air layering is a fairly simple one. You’re just encouraging the plant to do what it wants to do; find a suitable place to root and…root. In the photo above you can see those little brown bumps around the nodes. Those are aerial roots. In very humid places, aerial roots will grow long and soak up moisture from the air. These roots will also allow the plant to grab onto things and climb. In the case of vining plants especially, climbing is advantageous because if they are anchored to something, they can grow larger leaves and therefore take in more sun.
In order to give those aerial roots a suitable place to grow, I had to get a bit creative. It was the perfect opportunity to reuse a bit of plastic packaging. This container came from a drill bit package. I filled it full of damp sphagnum moss but before I could place it around the node, I had to cut a space to accommodate the top part of the stem. To dampen the moss, I just held a handful under the stream of water from the sink and squeezed out the excess.
I clamped my propagation box around the stem, making sure the node was somewhat centered and used a strap to secure it to the pole. I didn’t want the weight of it to stress the stem. I did this on Dec 20th. By Christmas I could see root growth but I did my very best to be patient and wait. I moistened the moss every couple of days by pouring water into the opening in the top of the container. When I removed it Jan 19th, I was so pleased! The roots had grown and curled around and around in the container.
I wish you could see the roots better in this photo but the moss had adhered and I didn’t want to damage the new roots by pulling on them too much. I grabbed my snippers and cleaned them well with rubbing alcohol before cutting through the stem. Was I nervous? Yes. But it was all ok.
Here’s a better look at this beautiful root system! Isn’t it amazing what plants can do? Thick, white fuzzy roots are hidden under the remnants of moss that remained stuck to them. I didn’t fuss to much about pulling it all off but I did try to remove as much as I could easily. I planted this new baby up in soil amended with perlite and a bit of bark but I used a small 4″ pot. I figured it would give me an opportunity to look at the roots again in a few weeks and see if it needed a larger pot. I didn’t want any chance of risking these new roots to rot which is what happened to my failed micans cuttings.
I was so pleased I popped that moss container right back onto the mother plant’s stem to try again. The goal is to have a plant with several stems so it’s nice and full and less lanky. I also hate the look of the pole so hiding that as much as possible is ideal. More of these gorgeous velvety philodendron leaves will do the trick! If you’re also looking for a less risky way to propagate a precious plant, give air layering a shot. I think you’ll be surprised. Of course, it won’t be the answer for every plant propagation attempt but for viney aroids, it’s a good bet.