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Monday, 28 November 2016

Scale Treatment on Cacti & Succulents

Introduction and Identification of Scale

Close up of Scale on Cacti
Scale is a common pest of cacti and succulents in particular those who are stressed for any number of reasons. Scale can be identified by small, commonly white, black or brown, circles on the flesh of the plant which can be "flaked" off easily and have a speck in the centre usually of a darker color (see scale close up image). Scale insects can over time leave permanent damage to the flesh and also stunt growth. This method will not kill the pests completely and the underlying sources of the infestation should be investigated, some common causes include:- Sun/Heat Stress, Under watering, Over watering, poor soil quality, nearby plants in poor health among many others.

This method should be performed later afternoon in a shaded area with no direct sunlight for the duration where possible. While not covered in this particular guide as yet, i may add it in later, potting the plants into fresh soil and utilizing this time to check the roots for root mealy bugs, scale and fungus gnats is advised.


 - Toothbrush
 - Dishsoap
 - Neem Oil (optional but advised)
 - Cup
 - Spraybottle (waterbottle with hole pricked in lid is sufficient)


The ultimate goal with this technique is to remove all the scale insects from the flesh of the cacti and to hopefully kill them through suffocation in the soap suds/neem oil. Ongoing treatment of the plants infected will be required until the pests stop re-infesting, harsher options are available but this method works well enough.


1) Quarantine

The first thing you want to do is get all plants with scale away from those which are healthy. Place these onto a table somewhere away from your collection and at an easy working height. If you find any particular cuttings or plants that are particularly sick remove them and discard or mark for ongoing quarantine and more frequent/invasive treatment. As can be seen from the below photos one of the pups planted next to this particular cacti is dying off and seems to be a source for infestation, as such it is removed and destroyed.

2) Brush Down

You want to prepare a mix of dish soap (or neem oil if there is a substantial infestation) and water and mix together well. Using an old toothbrush thoroughly brush the surface of the plant ensuring all scale is removed. Give a final brush with an excess of soapy water and sit aside while wet for later. You may wish to rinse and repeat this step to ensure you get all the scale.

It is advisable to rinse the tooth-brush between brushes to remove any excess scale that you can.

3) Clean Down

After leaving the plants to sit for an hour or so gently wash the surface giving it another quick brush and final rinse. I prefer to use a pressurized sprayer but a plastic bottle with a hole in the lid also works fine. Keep in a shaded area the following day and do a final rinse down and put the plants back out.

4) Ongoing Maintenance

Check the plants every few days over the first fortnight. Just using a brush and water you can quickly clean them off.

After the first two weeks give a full neem oil scrub down to really stamp out the pests. Continue with this for approximately two months or until you manage to nurture the plants back to health ensuring any underlying conditions are fixed.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Weed of the Week - Amaranthus viridis (Green Amaranth)

Weed of the Week - Green Amaranth

A. viridis leaves and seed spikes
Photo: Luke Bull 2016

Binomial: Amaranthus viridis
Common: Green Amaranth, Slender Amaranth
Habitat: Suburban & Disturbed areas, 


Typically growing 50cm, but often upto 1m, in height. Green Amaranth leaves are alternately aligned and flowers form in long clusters from the axils. Branches are often striped with purple and/or featuring a slightly red tinge.  Flowers are usually red in color, but may also appear green, male and female flowers are distinctly different and often seen simultaneous on the same plant. Amaranth is very easy to identify and once you have seen one you will find them everywhere.

Source: AVH 2016

Invasive Species Declarations / Distribution

In most Australian states A. viridis is not a declared species it is marked for control and investigation by many Local Governments.

The prolific nature of this plant in built up areas should give a clear indicator as to its invasive potential. As can be seen by the distribution map provided by the Australian Virtual Herbarium ( AVH 2016) amaranth are traditionally found in heavily populated areas thriving on disturbed surfaces. Care should be taken and harvest of plants prior to seed maturing is advisable for any exotic species you have in your gardens.

Culinary Uses

 Amaranth contains a broad array of essential nutrients and is particularly noted for high content of :- calcium, iron, phosphorous and carotenoids within both the seed and leaves. The grain of green amaranth is able to be processed in similar fashion to all other small grains including :- popped, flaked, extruded and ground flour. Amaranth Spp. are suspected of having high nitrate content making them not ideal for stock grazing.

Both the leaves and seeds are usable in a culinary context. Leaves can be cooked or used as salad much like spinach. The fresh leaves and stems are preferred for consumption and plants grown in a well  maintained spot such as a veggie garden will produce the tastiest shoots, Most commonly used in stews and other wet dishes amaranth is also eaten raw or boiled on its own and served as a healthy addition to any meal.

Source: (Alegbejo 2013)
In mexico the popped seeds of green amaranth are prepared with sugar into a sweet treat called "Allegría" which is very popular in many areas of the country.

Medicinal Uses

Commonly used in areas of India as an anti-bacterial (anti-microbial) several studies have been conducted to confirm the efficacy as a sole treatment as well as in conjunction with other medicines (Sowjanya 2014). Other traditional uses include Studies have also shown that the consumption of the seeds or oil is beneficial in reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Other Uses

Other potential uses include creation of non toxic red pigments (anthocyanin). Also used to produce aquallene an oil used in an array of industries including cosmetics, computer and phamaceutical.


A. viridis leaves and seed spikes
Photo: Luke Bull 2016
A. viridis plant, growing in grass
clippings on top of a rock surface.
Photo: Luke Bull 2016


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia

Australian Virtual Herbarium 2016. "Occurence Record Distribution Mapping".  http://avh.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?taxa=Amaranthus+viridis#tab_mapView

Sowjanya, P, Babu, PS & Narasu, ML 2014, 'Phytochemical and Pharmacological potential of Amaranthus viridis L.:-A Review', International Journal of Phytomedicine, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 322-6.

Alegbejo, JO 2013, 'Nutritional Value and Utilization of Amaranthus (Amaranthus spp.)–A Review', Bayero Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 136-43.

Note: Updates to come in the next few days.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Propagation Salvia Spp.


We have recently propagated several salvia species and have run a series of tests to find the most effective method of propagating salvia from cuttings(this is our personal opinion, not a statement of fact). We have practiced this with three Species:-
 - Salvia Elegans 'Pineapple Sage'
 - Salvia Dorisiana 'Fruit Salad Sage'
 - Salvia Officinalis 'Common Sage'
Most of the results are fairly similar throughout except we have found that Salvia officinalis should be propagated from air layering/division as opposed to cuttings for faster growth.


The theory was that we could alleviate issues such as rot and other infections through cloning inm our bubble cloner or in tubs of water. This should help to increase our success rate of cuttings. Furthermore small tests have shown that cuttings placed directly into water as opposed to soil face no wilting period and root/start growing again much faster.

The Test

Taking The Cuttings
10 cuttings were taken from the S. Elegans and S. Dorisiana.
5 of each were dipped in rooting hormone and placed in a coir rooting mix
5 of each were placed directly into clear plastic cups of water.
all misted 3 times daily

The Results
Day 1-7
The cuttings placed directly into water have shown from the start that they are the healthiest. With no noticable wilting as the roots begin to form. Whereas the soil plants droop for 3-5 days before slowly starting to perk back up.

Day 7-14
The cuttings in the water begin showing roots at day 7 which grow rapidly for the next week. The cuttings in the soil are only just starting to perk back up by this point. By day 14 the cuttings in water have roots upto 10cm long and are ready for potting out, however i find adding a small amount 'root excelurator' to this water and giving them another week can be advantageous.

Images will come soon and i will bulk out the text when i go through my notes.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Brugmansia Propagation from Cuttings


Brugmansia are one of the easiest plants to propagate that i have worked with in a long time. The process requires relatively no materials and will have around 90-100% success rates ! I know this is a short guide but i have written it to show the ease with which people can collect and grow their own brugs


1 x Bucket or Plastic tub (tall not wide)
Enough water to half fill the container
root excelurator (nutrient)

Step 1 - Prepare your materials and Cuttings.

Fill the container halfway with water. I like to add a tiny bit of nutrients to the mix but it isn't needed. You will also want to take your cuttings (enough that half will be submerged in the water of the bucket) and remove the lower leaves upto the top few and even halve these.

Pictures Coming Soon

Step 2 - Looking after the cuttings

All you will need to do is top the water up every few days and you should start to see bumps emerging around the parts of the stem in the water which will turn to roots. I like to let them get pretty decent roots in the water before i plant out and they survive fine.

Pictures Coming Soon

Friday, 8 April 2011

Catha Edulis Propagation from Cuttings and Layering


With many mixed reports into the feasibility of cloning Catha Edulis we decided to give it a go ourselves and so far have been pleasantly surprised. We have taken 4 cuttings each of which has survived easily to the 10 day mark with 1 cutting starting to throw new growth already ! The method used was also one of the most primitive cloning methods out there. We will run through the entire process used to take 4 cuttings for you below, obviously this can be scaled according to the amount of cuttings you are taking.


2 x 2L Coke Bottles (i used 1.125 so they would fit my pots but larger is better)
4 x 150mm+ Pots
1 x cup of water
Soil - We used an 80/20 mix of recycled soil/cacti and succulent mix
clonex/cloning powder - we used clonex purple as it was what we had
Razor-blade (recommended for taking cuttings but sharp scissors will do)

Our choice of soil was purely due to lack of other materials. However in saying that Catha Edulis loves rocky or regular soil anyway.

Step 1 - Prepare your materials

Cut your coke bottles in half. i prefer to give the lid side a bit more height as it wont have the width at the top like the base. Try to keep the cuts so they are straight otherwise it wont rest properly in the soil.

Make up your soil mix, or just use regular potting soil and fill the pots to a 20mm below the top of the pots. After this compress the soil softly and use a stick or something similar to poke a hole in the centre around the same size you anticipate your cuttings to be, a bit larger is better as when you water it and compress later the stem will be secured.

Step 2 - Taking your Cuttings

Catha Edulis Red Cutting
Semi-Rooted (day 5)

For this step we recommend using a sterilized razor blade as it won't crush its way through the stem but rather slice through without damaging the cells around the wound too much. However there has been no REAL noticeable difference in the effectiveness of cutting method used, these cuttings were taken with scissors.

You will want to select a semi-mature branch and cut roughly 6-8 leaf nodes from the tip. Try experimenting with variations relating to their maturity. We have found that despite everyones warnings about how hard Khat is to clone that it is infact relatively easy for the common household gardener.

Make your cut by bending the branch slightly and cutting through at a 45 degree angle for optimal root development space, straight cuts are not recommended for any plants. After this try to get them straight into the cup of water as it will keep them far more sterile. After you have your four cuttings remove the lower half of the leaves and trim the larger ones at the top in half.

Step 3 - Planting your Cuttings

Home Made Catha Edulis
 Propagation Chambers
Now you will want to gather all your pots, coke bottles, the clonex and cuttings in the one location. Check that the holes you made are far deeper than you intend to plant the cutting (all the way to the base of the pot would be good for the centre hole) as well as wider than the cuttings.

Remove a cutting from the water and dip it in the clonex trying to get a really thick coating on it, quickly move it over the pot ad allow the excess clonex to drip off into the hole you made. Re-dip the clone into the clonex planting it in the soil this time. Gently compress the soil around the clone and give it a very soft water to help the soil settle around the cutting, you want to drench the pot but do it slowly so you dont wash the clonex away too much. Finally site the coke bottle over the top and press it down while twisting slightly until it is roughly 20mm into the soil. Repeat for each cutting.

Step 4 - Keeping them alive until they root

Catha Edulis Red Cutting
 Day 10
All we have done for our cuttings is apply a small amount of water when the condensation on the coke bottle starts to get a bit thinner. We also try to take the bottles off for 5 minutes every couple of days as the air in the coke bottle would have pretty much purely cleansed oxygen. We feel that photosynthesis must be promoted to encourage the plant to survive and generate roots.

Step 5 - Around 1 Month from Propagation

a further eleven days down the track and all 4 cuttings are still surviving. Two far stronger than the rest however they all appear to have struck and i am tempted to risk losing one for the sake of checking if this is true. Wish i had used clear cups for propagation so i could see for sure as the roots would be showing through right now otherwise i will have to wait and see. But the new growth is pretty substantial so i would say they are pretty safe now as for the first bit they just sat dormant whilst developing roots much like any other clone i have taken in the past.

We have now also tried layering some of our branches and had much success with this as well. I dug a small "trench"around 5cm deep placed a branch in covered it over and sat a rock on top. Had roots enough to hold itself down within a week. At this point i will now cut them off from the main plant and carefully pull the cuttings out. I will add pictures over the next few days of this process as well.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Rivea Corymbosa (ololiuqui) (coaxihuitl)


Rivea Corymbosa is another plant we have recently attempted to germinate with limited success. For the time being this post will just be images i will update with some more information on Rivea Corymbosa in the near future. The love heart leaves remind me of a HBWR quite a bit and i think they are a very beautiful plant even whilst not flowering.

Rivea Corymbosa - Seedling Stages

The two forked "Baby Leaves" that emerge upon
the seedling breaking free of the seed.
Love heart shaped "True Leaves" starting
to form a few weeks later.

Rivea Corymbosa Plant starting to get more of its true leaves.
We are coming out of growing season so growth has slowed dramatically.
This image is taken 4 weeks after the previous.

Rivea Corymbosa - 2 months down the track

After having only had 1/8 seeds germinate immediately we have since had a further 3 seedlings pop up at 4, 5 and 7 weeks respectively. This shows that while initial germination rates were down that the plants do still perform quite well even if the seed stock is quite old. We are not having much growth at present as it is no longer the growing season however considering how cold the beginnings of winter are becoming i am extremely happy with their development.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Psychotria Propagation - Leaf Cuttings


All Psychotria ssp will take via leaf cuttings. I will list the method i have found most successful for you below. For this run i have elected to use P. carthaginensis and P. Alba as it is what i have an abundance of, however the same methods can be applied to Psychotria Viridis and "Nexus".

What you will need.

1 x roll of kitchen paper towel
 2 x full sandwich clip lock bags
 1 x Permanent Marker or pen
 20 x elastic bands (or hair ties or anything to secure the paper towel around leaves)

Step 1 - Prepare your materials

tear paper towel off two sheets at a time ready for leaf cuttings, no need to wet them yet, and stack them to the side. Check you have all the above-listed materials

Step 2 - Preparing your leaves

Freshly Picked Psychotria Alba Leaf

I generally snip my leaves with sterile scissors right at the base near the branch of the plant, people reccomend fresh growth but i find both fresh and old growth work equally as well and older growth can be cut in half to get two cuttings from each leaf, as they are larger !

I also like to cut the base of the leaf off as i find having the main vein exposed works best but it is reported that this is not necessary.
P. Alba snipped up ready for propagation
(this step is NOT compulsary)
Step 3 - Wrapping and Bagging

Psychotria Leaf Cutting Folded and Ready to go !
Fold paper towel into thirds and then place the leaf a fraction away from an edge and about half of the leaf in the towel. Fold the corner closest to your cutting over then fold the paper toweling up around the leaf and secure with elastic band. Soak this under the tap until it is soaking wet then place directly into zip lock bag.

Psychotria Alba Leaf Cutting - Ready to be folded
Step 4 - Final Prep Stages

Ready to Go P. Cartha
Propagation bag.
After placing all your cuttings into the ziplock bag close it up then slide one of the corners open just enough for you to be able to breathe into the bag. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can depleting as much of the oxygen as possible. Breathe into the clip lock bag until it is FULL of air and quickly clip the bag shut.

Place the cuttings somewhere out of direct sunlight but still reasonably well lit. I sat mine in the back corner of my verandah. You will have to re-open the bags periodically to blow some "fresh" CO2 in to help the plants along their way, i found every 3-7 days was fine depending on how many leaf cuttings are in it.

Step 5 - Potting out

Around four weeks down the track your Psychotria Leaf Cuttings should be starting to show substantial root systems, get them out and gently open the packaging. Roots will be developing directly out of the main vein in the stem and branching off from there pretty densely. I pot my cuttings out into a well draining soil mix and keep them in a larger humidity crib in 50-75mm pots for a few weeks and wait for suckers to start being thrown. If you have access to any form of rhizome development nutrients i would recommend using them at a low dose to encourage root development during this time, seasol or fish / worm emulsion would do the trick though. And i would be curious to experiment with using it in the earlier stages.
Less Developed P. Cartha
P. Cartha after 4 Weeks

A Month or so Down the Track - Pups Are Emerging !
psychotria carthaginensis With well
developed new tips

Uprooted psychotria alba
With 8 individual stems
Uprooted psychotria carthaginensis
"cross section"

psychotria carthaginensis,
Starting to throw new growth
Psychotria carthaginensis throwing
Stems from leaf cutting

Coming soon
 - Images to help explain things easier
 - - Some of the earlier steps really need them
 - Better Formatting
 - Better Wording to make it easier to understand

If you want any further assistance with propagation via leaf cuttings feel free to contact me at luke@youthgc.com or if you would rather purchase one that is already rooted and ready to go head on over to 

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