Issue: August 27, 2005

Begonias from leaf cuttings | Black balls at base of leaves of tiger lilies

Begonias from leaf cuttings


I have been growing begonias in shady areas near my patio and have developed a great fondness for them. I love their waxy leaves and bright red, pink, and white flowers. I recently read that begonias can be propagated by leaf cuttings, but I have failed each time I tried. What is the trick?


It is true that some begonias may be propagated by leaf cuttings. The wax begonia that you described (often used as annual bedding plants for shady areas) is one type that is not usually propagated by leaf cuttings. The wax begonia may be propagated by seed but is most often propagated by stem cuttings. It is very easily grown from stem cuttings placed in moist potting soil or even in water.

The Rex begonias, angel wing begonias, and other large-leafed begonias with large veins may indeed be propagated by leaf cuttings. They may be treated like African violet leaf cuttings in which the cutting is prepared as a leaf-petiole cutting. In this form of cutting, the cut end of the petiole is placed in water or into potting soil. This leaf-petiole cutting forms roots and then forms a small plant bud that grows into a new plant. If the petiole is induced to form roots in water, the new plant may be potted once the new plant has become large enough to handle safely. There may be several new plants formed at the cut end of the petiole and each may be potted separately.

It is also possible to increase the number of some begonias produced from leaf cuttings by cutting through the large midrib and other major veins before placing the leaf cutting flat on the surface of potting soil or sphagnum moss. If the petiole is left attached, it may be placed into or on the surface of the potting soil as well. New plants will often be produced from the cut end of the petiole and from each place that a vein was cut. It is important to provide sufficient humidity and to keep the potting slightly damp at all times. Once the new plants are large enough to handle safely, they may be separated from the parent leaf, separated from each other, and potted independently.

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Black balls at base of leaves of tiger lilies


I grew tiger lilies this year and have noticed some dark colored objects growing at the place where the leaves meet the stem. They don't look like insects. What are they? What can I do to keep them from harming my lilies?


The tiger lily produces small bulbils at the leaf axils along the stem. These small pea-sized bulbs can be removed from the plant and planted to grow into additional lilies which should flower a few years after they are planted. They will not harm the plant and are not a cause for concern. Enjoy your lilies and their unique means of increasing themselves.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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