The autograph plant, or Clusia rosea, is a tropical plant native to the Caribbean. It has thick, dark green, leathery leaves that grow from horizontal branches attached to its stem. It gets its name from the fact that its leaves are so thick and tough that words or symbols can be carved into them.
Where the plant grows freely outside of its native area, it is considered an invasive species because of its propensity to grow on top of other plants and strangle them. However, because it is native to tropical climates, the autograph plant does not do well in cold weather, so it is mainly grown as an indoor plant in North America.
This is quite inexpensive to buy, but even so, you may enjoy the satisfaction of propagating it if you want to give one as a gift to a loved one or produce more of the same plant for yourself.
In this article, we will go into more detail about why and how to propagate this interesting plant. Read on to learn more!
Why should I propagate my autograph plant?
One reason to propagate your autograph plant is if it is growing asymmetrically and you need to prune it back into shape. It may have become leggy due to insufficient light, it might be growing sideways, or perhaps it has simply got too large for the available space in your home. In these cases, pruning is the most effective method of maintaining the plant’s desired shape – and rather than discarding the cuttings, you can use them to grow yourself more autograph plants.
Alternatively, if your autograph plant is dying, you may find yourself with no choice but to propagate it or lose it completely. Try to diagnose and remedy the cause of the plant’s poor health first, but if things continue to deteriorate, you may need to propagate it in order to keep even a small portion of it alive.
In the latter case, you must ensure that you only propagate the healthy parts of the plant, because any problems or pests that are afflicting the unhealthy parts of your old plant will be transferred to your new plant, resulting in a failed propagation attempt.
Finally, the best reason to propagate your autograph plant is that you will get free new plants as a result of your efforts. Propagation is the most effective way to increase the number of plants in your home without having to spend any additional money. If you already have a large collection of plants, you can give the new plants as gifts to friends and family.
When is the best time to propagate my autograph plant?
When propagating plants through stem cuttings, the best time to take the cuttings is in the spring. This is because it takes time for your cutting to establish a completely new root system and new leaves. By starting in the spring or early summer, your plant will have a good few months of sunny, warm weather to support its new growth.
Propagating in the springtime also ensures that your mother plant has the best possible conditions in which to recover, as propagation can be a stressful experience.
How to propagate an autograph plant
Before starting the propagation process, gather the materials you will be using and make sure that your parent autograph plant is mature and healthy. Prepare a pair of sterile, sharp shears, new pots, fresh potting mix and water.
The most effective method of propagating your autograph plant is by taking stem cuttings. Although new plants can be grown from seeds, the success rate is extremely low if not done by professionals. Stem cuttings will work best if you have a mature autograph plant on your property from which to take the cuttings.
It is important to take the cuttings correctly. Select only healthy stems from the parent plant, because if you choose a part that is wilted, yellow, or dry, your chances of success are significantly lower.
Your plant’s maturity and your personal preference will determine whether you take one or more stem cuttings from it. This decision will have no effect on the propagation process.
Once you have selected a section of healthy stem, make a diagonal cut across the stem with shears or a knife. The diagonal orientation increases the surface area of the cut and encourages the growth of more roots.
The simplest method of propagation is to grow the cuttings directly in potting mix, as their roots grow fairly quickly once established. However, if you want to increase your success rate, you can let the cuttings root in a glass of water first.
To do this, carefully remove any leaves from the lower part of the cutting that may end up submerged in the water. Any leaves that come into contact with the water in the glass will begin to rot and spread bacteria, which will be detrimental to the development of your cutting’s roots.
Fill a glass halfway with fresh, room-temperature water and place the cutting in it. It is important not to use very cold or hot water, as this will shock the cutting and may affect your results.
A transparent container is preferred because it allows you to see the roots growing and identify any problems early on. Also avoid putting too much water in the glass, because that will increase the chances of stem rot.
Water quality is critical, so we recommend that you change the water every couple of days to ensure it remains fresh. This will keep it free of bacteria and help prevent it from becoming stagnant and smelly.
Now that your autograph plant cutting is happily submerged in the water, there is nothing to do except continue switching out the water when it becomes murky or smelly, and wait for the roots to start growing over the next few weeks.
Do not be concerned if it takes several weeks before you see roots, and keep your cutting submerged until the roots reach a length of one to two inches. At this point, the cutting is ready to be planted in a pot with soil.
Use a high-quality potting mix to ensure that your plant receives the proper balance of nutrients. For autograph plants, it is best to use a well-draining mix that contains perlite, which helps prevent any issues caused by accidental overwatering.
Once potted, you can continue to care for your new autograph plant in the same way as you care for the mother plant. Soon enough, it will be big enough for you to start the process all over again.
Autograph plant care
The best light for this plant is direct sunlight, but it can also tolerate partial shade. When grown indoors as a houseplant, it will thrive in medium light levels with a little bit of shade on occasion.
It should not be kept in low light conditions for extended periods, because this can cause it to become leggy and stretched out due to etiolation. An etiolated plant is so desperate for light that it will literally start stretching toward the nearest light source. If the issue is not resolved in time, there is a risk that the plant will die.
If you live in a place where sunlight is scarce for a few months of the year, you might have to get a grow light to make sure that the plant gets the light that it needs every day.
The best soil for this plant is sandy, soft, loose, and well-draining. It should be fertile and packed with organic material. When growing autograph plants in pots, mix the potting mix with a small amount of orchid-specific growing medium before planting.
The pot you use for the plant should also have drainage holes at the bottom so that any excess water in the soil can simply flow out, thus reducing the chances of overwatering and root rot.
In order for a young autograph plant to become fully established, it will need to be watered regularly for the first year or so. After that, you can reduce the watering frequency, though regular watering will help it grow more full. Although this species is fairly drought-tolerant, it is important not to allow the soil to become completely dry around it.
When grown as a houseplant, it will typically require watering once a week in the summer and around twice a month in the winter.
The easiest way to determine whether the plant needs to be watered is by poking your finger into the top two inches of soil. If the soil is dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still a bit damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
Temperature and humidity
Because it cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, this plant should only be kept outdoors if you live in a tropical climate. Indoors, the ideal temperature for the plant is between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The autograph plant also prefers environments with high humidity, so try placing your indoor plant on a shallow gravel tray filled with water and mist it on a regular basis.
You can also keep the plant in your bathroom or kitchen, because these are two of the most humid rooms in a house. If you have other humidity-loving plants, group them together with your autograph plant so that they can all create a microclimate around each other.
Finally, if you have the means, you can also buy a humidifier to regulate the humidity in the room where you keep your plant
Use three applications of fertilizer per year: in the spring, summer, and fall. Organic granular fertilizer is best. Alternatively, if you prefer to fertilize more frequently, use a diluted liquid fertilizer that is evenly balanced.
Be careful not to overfertilize your autograph plant; this can lead to soil toxicity and root burn which can considerably damage the roots and may even kill the plant.
If you think you have overfertilized your plant, flush the soil with rain water or distilled water to remove any buildup of salts that has formed. In chronic cases, you might be better off changing the plant’s soil entirely.
The autograph plant is a low-maintenance houseplant that is native to the Caribbean. It prefers tropical conditions, even when grown indoors.
The plant has thick, leathery, dark green leaves that can be carved into, hence the plant’s name.
Although it is possible to grow new autograph plants from seed, that method takes a very long time, while using stem cuttings for propagation is much faster and easier.
Take a few cuttings from your parent plant using a sterile pair of shears. You can plant the cutting directly in fresh potting mix or let it root in water first.
After a few weeks, the cutting should have roots that are several inches long and is then ready to be planted in soil. You can then start caring for the new plant as you would a mature autograph plant.
Image: istockphoto.com / passion4nature