The mixture I use for cuttings is 2 parts perlite or pumice, 2 parts
organic compost, 2 parts leafmold, and 1 part dry steer manure. You
may prefer a commercial plant food in place of manure. If so, leave
out the manure and use a 10-10-10 time release plant food in the amount
you would use for a small plant. the Leafmold can be difficult to obtain.
Ground bark or prepared coir can be used as a substitute. If you have
a local tree or shrub that can provide a good size non-oily leafmold
you could be in luck. Live oak works well and the wild sumac of Southern
California is really good. Don't obtain your own leafmold from distant
areas as you may bring unwelcome pests with it. Mix the soil well and
do not pack it, but just scoop it into the pot. I use 31/2 inch square
pots and the rooted cutting can be kept in a pot this size until it
has enough new growth to need the additional root space. The cutting
should not need feeding until after it is repotted. Plant the cutting
about 2 inches deep and let it stand 5 to 7 days before watering. After
that water when the roots are still moist and approaching dry. Epis
do not like to be kept wet. On the other hand the roots should never
be allowed to dry out. Most problems of withered or dying branches can
be traced directly to roots injured by drying out or by rotting from
overwatering. Desiccated cuttings may be misted between waterings.
The same potting mixture works just as well for established cuttings
and plants. As the steer manure is used up some plant food will be required.
Use a low nitrogen mixture, such as 0-10-10 after the last frost. Any
nitrogen given to the plants before blooming season will cause growth
and no blossoms. Hold the nitrogen until blooming is complete unless
you only want growth. Use 10-10-10 fertilizer after blooming and none
at all during the winter. Older
plants usually need some training or support. Some plants are natural
for hanging baskets and that is the simplest method of support where
the space is available. Bamboo stakes can be used for taller plants
and large tall plants are especially adaptable to a trellis. The trellis
plant can be very showy. A plant that has dead roots can be saved by
making cuttings and propagating new plants.
The ubiquitous bad guys are Mr. Snail and Sister Slug. There are
lots of remedies for them and it pays to watch for the telltale snail trails because
they do a lot of damage and leave the branches looking very shabby.
for the imported cabbage worm. Just one can devastate a plant overnight. Watch
for a small white butterfly, that's his mama looking for a nice tender salad to
lay the egg on. If you think snails are bad, wait'll you see this guy's work.
There are a lot of mild sprays that work on them, but if you see damage on a branch,
find that critter and do him in with your shoe heel.
Scale insects are a very
unsightly problem on epis. Insecticidal soap applied to the affected plant once
a week until the scale doesn't come back, works just fine for me.
Fungus can be a problem, and black spot fungus is the worst kind. Some
epi varieties seem more susceptible than others. Garden fungicides are
often too harsh for epis and cause as much damage as the fungus. I have
had good results with a garden fungicide in which the only active ingredient
is sulfur. Apply it to afflicted plants once a week until the black
spots are just scars on the branch and there are no new ones.
Many things can stress Epis but cold weather and excess sunlight are the most
common. A branch that has been frozen is a goner, so the only thing to do is don't
let it happen. A plant that has received too much sun usually has an excess of
red pigment. Most plants will return to a healthy green when proper shade conditions
are restored, but some will remain red. An ounce of prevention ...
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