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In Brugmansia


Brug Blog 08.2013

                      Starting Bauhinia divaricata from seed

Ahhh, it's August. Down here that means no change of the leaves, but it does mean that what we Floridians consider 'fall' is just around the corner. By the middle of next month, I should be able to catch a wasp of a cool breeze, be it ever so brief, but oh so promising.

I bring this up because just this morning I saw my first flying V of birds in the sky, heading towards the Yucatan, the Keys, or perhaps even Cuba. They were too high up for me to identify them, but it brought a sure smile to my face. Birds migrating means the seasons are moving forward. Soon I will be able to take cuttings, and relax outside under the canopies that shade me and the brugmansia from the intense heat and sun our summers bring.

I'll sip on some homemade tea and smell the blooms in all their empyrean glory. The days will begin to shorten, and nightfall will bring with it the cooler temperatures I love so much. I won't have to get up before sunrise to begin my watering routine, brought upon by the same high calefaction...

But before I digress into more wishful daydreaming, let's talk of some gardening we can do in the throes of summer's Dog Days.

Seeds! We can plant seeds right now! Not annuals, but lovely tree seeds, that will one day have tall canopies that will shade us from those hot sultry days. Since my bauhinia divaricata had flowered in late spring, I have seeds that are now dry, and quite fresh. This bauhinia, like so many others, will 'spit' the seeds from the pod when ripe. It twists open in a second, spilling the seeds to diverse locations on the ground, and away from the mother tree. When the temperature is just right, they will do this. It is good to prepare ahead of time by tying an organza bag over the ripening pods, so you will be able to get the seeds before they fall to the ground.

Bauhina divaricata is one of those Orchid Trees that I think everyone should have. The wide spreading canopy of the tree is filled with misty looking miniature 'orchid' flowers that give a soft, very appealing look to it. It's almost mystical. Since this particular species of Orchid tree is fairly easy to manage size∼wise, it can be trained to grow in a large patio pot for those who live north of it's agricultural growing zone.

Fresh seed of the Butterfly Orchid tree (which bauhinia divaricata is sometimes called) is very easy to germinate. So plant them up I go, into a seed flat with some of my own seed starting mix to begin their long lives in. Make sure to compress the soil mixture into the flats with the underside of your hands, and then level it off so no seeds fall into the corners and become too overwhelmed with soil that they cannot sprout.

Wet the soil mixture by placing the flat into a seed tray that has no holes poked in the bottom. If you have rainwater, it is best. It should take it a half and hour or so to completely soak up the moisture. When you see the top of the mixture is damp, remove the flat from the tray.

Now place one seed in the center of each flat's 'pot' and then place in a warm, sunny location that is protected from insects and birds. I have a screen room that is perfect for this. You don't need to cover the seeds with soil, just lightly press them into the dampened mixture until you only see just a tiny bit of the seed on the soil surface.

Make yourself a plant tag with the name and date you started out your seeds. Make sure you keep the soil mixture evenly moist now, until germination begins. This is anywhere from 7 to 14 days, depending upon your outdoor temps, light exposure, and how fresh the seeds are.

Depending upon your later use of the Butterfly Orchid trees, will depend upon how soon after they are 'born' that you want to repot them. Since mine are meant to be full sized trees, I will repot them after about 1 month in the flats, so the taproot that will develop soon will have more room to grow. If yours are intended for patio life, leave them in the flats until you see roots on the underneath side of the flat. Cut these roots loose before turning the flat back over and gently lifting each soil cube and potting up in a 1 quart pot.

Continue giving them full sun to part shade in strong afternoon sun. Allow the top 1/2 inch of soil to slightly dry before rewatering. Fertilize them with half strength regular instant fertilizer when repotting, and if you have some Superthrive, add it to the fertilizing water. Superthrive is really excellent when transplanting out young plants.

After a couple of months, the young bauhinia divaricata should have their roots beginning to peek out of the 1 quart pots. Repot them again, into a 1 gallon container. After their roots fill the 1 gallon containers, move up to a 3 gallon pot, and so on.

If you are planning on bringing the Pata de Vaca tree into a warm greenhouse or even inside your home come cooler months, plan to trim the roots to keep the plant to a managable height. You can learn how to do this Here.

There is much more information on the Pata de Vaca, or Butterfly Orchid tree, on the page: Care and grow Bauhinia.


This entry was posted on August 22nd, 2013, 2013 and is filed under Brugmansia Blog.