Friday, May 23, 2014

A cautionary tale

You've heard it time and again: "Be careful what you wish for." Since planting Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant' in the spring of 2011, I've been obsessively watching and hoping for it to sucker and make babies.

Well, this is the year that I have babies! Lots of babies.


Some of these "babies" have larger leaves than the mother plant that died back during our harsh winter.




So far, I have counted 14 babies, though several perished when I tried to pot them up earlier this spring. I checked with Burl Mostel, of Rare Plant Research, who told me he has his best luck digging and potting the youngsters in winter.

I had one apparent success at potting, probably because I dug a sizable baby and took a lot of soil with it.


As we know, volunteers rarely locate themselves in the spot you'd have chosen for them, and I have already removed a few Tetra babies that were too close to other plants. A few more of them will need to go, like the one below one snuggling into Camellia 'April Kiss' and the other menacing a young Camaecyparis thyoides 'Iceberg'.

But this is definitely the year for reproduction success. From little sprouts to robust adolescents, I have plenty of volunteers.



It looks like even if I decide to leave or move some around in the garden, I'm going to have lots of Tetrapanax offspring to share with locals next spring. But be warned: this could be the beginning of what will be your own Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant' nursery in a just few years!

All material © 2009-2014 by Jane Finch-Howell for MulchMaid. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

20 comments:

  1. Wow! So many healthy babies! While I'm sure it's a pain to try and carefully remove/move them around, it's pretty neat that the mother plant was so healthy last year to produce such a lovely crop of infants for you :)

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    1. You're right, Jenni. I am actually thrilled with this crop in spite of the work involved in managing it.

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  2. Yikes. With my luck I'd have 20 different plants multiplying at that rate. Glad you've got the situation under control and congratulations.

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    1. Ann, I'm sure you're up to the challenge!

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  3. Your last photo belongs in a magazine! Gorgeous, gorgeous. Okay, I know Tetrapanax travels but mine is always soooo late getting going that I think it must be dead. I won't WISH mine looked as nice as yours. Instead, I'll just be patient.

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    1. Patience is a virtue I lack any quantity of, Grace. It's interesting that the offspring of mine are far more energetic and advanced than the parent plant. I'm sure yours will "blossom".

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  4. Wow! Some of those babies are gorgeous. Were they easy to dig up? I'm wondering how hard they'll be to weed out when the time comes. I don't normally like plants that run like this, but I'm willing to wait and see with Steroidal Giant.

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    1. They are very easy to dig. In an attempt to save the ones I dug, I severed the runner fairly far out, but it seemed that the bigger ones with better developed roots are more likely to survive.

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  5. I've now got three separate Steroidal families going , so far I've haven't found it a problem pulling out the wayward ones ,but I've been giving them plenty of space.

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    1. I WAS hoping they'd sprout a little closer to the mother plant, but I'm glad to have them, wherever.

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    2. Wiped the smugness off my face…I've just been pulling out Eryngiums !

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    3. Oh, Linda, I have that little problem, too!

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  6. Wow, that's an impressive crop! As for energy levels of the offspring - mine are also far more energetic and advanced than the parent. I think that's universally true! ;)

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    1. Funny, Anna, about adolescent energy. I think you hit on a truth, for sure!

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  7. Dan Hinkley did a very funny video about tracking down all the SG volunteers. I, on the other hand, am still striving to pamper one into life. I've killed two already, so I'm not sure you will want to entrust one of your babies into my care. There will no doubt be a lineup of takers at the next spring swap.

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    1. Must find that video! And, Ricki, I would be happy to add to your chances for overwintering success next year!

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  8. 'Steroidal Giant' is a very funny name for a cultivar. Well, it's better to have too many than too few, worst case you can throw the extra on the compost pile.

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    1. Here's my guess: The plant already has big leaves, and the leaves on 'Steroidal Giant' are so huge they appear to be, well, on steroids. Waddaya think?

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  9. That's a happy Tetrapanax! I'd love to plant 'Steroidal Giant' at my parents' house. They have enough room that it could spread into a sizable stand. Regarding your reply to Jason, I read somewhere (another blog, I think) that the leaves of 'Steroidal Giant' don't differ that much in size compared to the regular species, but the leaves are much more deeply lobed.

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  10. The "most invasive new plant in the PNW" in about 5 years? Careful!

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