Rooting in Perlite

Over the last several years, more and more epiphyllum growers in the SDES have been rooting their epi cuttings in pure perlite rather than in the more traditional potting soils. While rooting cuttings in perlite creates an extra step, since once the cuttings have developed roots, they need to be transplanted into potting soil, there appears to be fewer cuttings lost to rot using this method. This is probably due to the fact that the perlite is more open and porous than our usual potting soils and whatever moisture it contains evaporates more quickly, discouraging rot. You can root epiphyllum cuttings in perlite in individual containers OR you can do it in a community pot. Both methods are described below:

The following four photos show how to pot up individual cuttings in perlite in 4″ pots:

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Fill the 4″ pots about half full with perlite. The perlite can be slightly moist but no wetter. If the perlite is bone dry out of the bag, you can slightly moisten it using the mist setting on your hose nozzle. Remember that until your cuttings have developed some roots, soaking wet perlite will only cause them to rot. Without compressing too much, firm up the perlite lightly with your fingers.

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Pot up a single cutting in each 4″ pot. Fill in more perlite with one hand while you hold the cutting in place with the other hand. Firm the perlite lightly as you go. Plant deep enough so that the cutting will stay upright while it is rooting. You may have to plant slightly deeper than you would if you were planting in potting soil since the perlite is lighter and does not compact as much.

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Continue untill all of your cuttings are in their 4″ pots. Make sure you are planting them right side up. Areoles should be pointing up.

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Finished! Locate your newly planted cuttings in a place that receives little direct sunlight. These cuttings may not have roots for several weeks. So, they cannot yet absorb moisture from the perlite. Too much sunlight and heat before they have rooted will only cause the cuttings to dry out and begin to shrivel. Since the perlite is so much lighter and full of air spaces than potting soil, it dries out very quickly. To prevent the cuttings from drying, you may have to LIGHTLY mist them a few times while they are rooting, especially if the weather is hot and the humidity remains low. Don’t mist them to the point where the perlite is soaking wet. What you want here is a slight moistening.

The next three pictures show how to pot up multiple cuttings in perlite in a community container:

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Using the perlite-only method, once the cuttings have rooted, they must be transplanted into potting soil. This is because the perlite by itself contains almost no nutrients and will not sustain the plants indefinitely. Because of this, if you are planting a lot of cuttings, they can be rooted in a “community pot” to save space. As long as your cuttings are properly labeled, multiple varieties can be rooted together in a community pot since they are going to be transplanted anyway. Any container that is several inches deep can be used. If the container has no drainage holes, make sure to drill at least several of them in the bottom. Fill the container about half full with perlite and firm it up lightly with your fingers. Again, this perlite can be slightly moistened.

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Start placing cuttings in the container, filling in with more perlite and firming it up as you go. Epiphyllum cuttings in a community pot can be planted quite close together, so you can fit quite a few in a container of this size. They really only need to be about an inch apart. Again, plant deep enough so they don’t fall over and make sure they are right side up.

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Success! Place your new cuttings in a shady location. Don’t expose them to much heat or sunlight until they have rooted. You don’t want them to dry out and begin to shrivel before they have roots! If the weather gets hot and dry, LIGHTLY mist them from time to time to prevent them from drying out too much. In several weeks, these cuttings will be ready to be transplanted.

Using this method, transplanting is easy. The cuttings are simple to remove from the perlite since it is loose and does not compact around the roots.

More to come…