Although we will be talking about psychotria viridis, the same techniques that are used for viridis can also be used for related species like p. alba, p. nervosa and p. carthagenensis. Psychotria viridis can be propagated by both seeds and cuttings. While stem cuttings work well, psychotria species are unique in that they can even be cloned from a single leaf. This allows plants to be multiplied much more rapidly. While leaf cuttings are generally the preferred method of propagation, we will discuss the various ways to start new psychotria plants.
Psychotria viridis and its relatives are notoriously hard to grow from seed. The seeds are generally only viable for a few months, and germination tends to be very slow. With such a long germination period and the presence of fruit around the seeds, psychotira viridis seeds are prone to rot. For the sake of freshness, it is ideal to have seeds in the berry, although seeds that have been removed are fine too. If you are starting out with your psychotria seeds in the fruit, you will want to remove all of the fruit from the outside of the seed.
Each psychotria berry should contain two seeds. If you allow the seeds to dry in the berry, they tend to stick together to form what looks like one round seed. If this is the case, you will want to separate the seeds. You can sometimes accomplish this by squeezing the seed pair until they split. Otherwise, you may need to locate the seam between the two with your thumbnail and press in. The dried fruit will be black on the outside and may flake off easily once the seeds are separated. If not, you should scrape off as much as you can because it will provide more of a foothold for bacterias and molds.
One you have clean psychotria seeds, you will want to soak them in a mild bleach solution. A 10% solution should work fine without harming the seed. Again, the intention is to provide as much of a sterile starting point as possible. Soak your seeds for about 15 minutes.
Once the psychotria seeds have been soaked, they are ready for planting. Some growers find that it is advantageous to use a non-organic growing medium such as sand or rock wool. By using something like this, it deprives the environment of nutrients that molds and bacterias could enjoy. The seeds need only to be planted about 1/8? deep. Keep the soil moist and be patient. You can expect to wait one or more months before you see anything.
If you are not up for the challenge of growing phychotria viridis from seed or do not want any genetic diversity in your crop, you are better off using cuttings to reproduce. Of course, you would already need to have a phychotria viridis plant to do this. Technically, stem cuttings can be taken from any stem material. But it is ideal to use thinner stems that have new growth on them. It will also improve your success to remove larger leaves because they will sap the cutting of needed moisture. While you may use something like spaghnum moss, perlite or vermiculite to root cuttings in, simple water will do the trick. You may add a bit of rooting hormone if you have some, but it is not required. Keep your plant covered with some sort of clear plastic whether it be a plastic bag or a Chinese soup container.
Stem cuttings will give you a larger plant than the other methods, but they require more starting material. With that same stem cutting, you can probably make several leaf cuttings. Leaf cuttings are also the simplest cuttings to make. Some psychotria viridis grow guides suggest to remove the leaf so that you take off with it a piece of the stem’s skin. We have not found this entirely necessary. If you can manage, then do so. But if you fail, do not panic. Since the tip of the leaf is the first to lose water, it is common to cut off the tip.
Another optional trick is to snap the leaf’s center vein in one or more places. Just take the leaf between your thumbs as if the vein was a stick you were snapping. You want to segment the central vein without breaking the leaf apart. It is then possible for shoots to come from each of these segments. Once you have prepared the viridis leaf, all that is needed is to bury about half of it in any direction. In other words, you can place it upright or on its side. Just like with a stem cutting, you want to cover it with clear plastic and give it a few weeks. It will not be long before you have your own psychotria jungle.
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