A direct stick propagation program, where the cuttings root directly in the finishing container, is definitely worth considering for stock plant producers or unrooted cutting customers. Some advantages of direct stick poinsettia programs:
- Direct sticking saves labor as you eliminate the transplanting step. Since labor is one of the largest production costs, this savings can be significant.
- Material costs are less since the cuttings root directly in the finishing pot and media.
- Direct sticking saves production time. You can typically start cuttings about a week later than when propagating cuttings for transplanting.
- A direct stick program lends itself well to pre-finished sales for licensed propagator/distributors. Propagate the cuttings pot to pot, pinch and then sell the excess production when the crop needs spacing.
- The wider space around the cuttings in a direct stick program helps minimize foliar disease problems. It may also reduce the need for chemical growth retardants during the propagation phase due to conditions less conducive to cutting stretch.
Some possible disadvantages to consider with a direct stick program:
- A direct stick program requires more propagation space than when the cuttings are rooted in small containers and later transplanted.
- The media may have a higher water holding capacity than desired for rooting. This could lead to problems with bacterial soft rot, fungus gnats or slow rooting if the media becomes water logged.
- If you plan to use a slow release fertilizer, it may be better to top dress it later rather than incorporate pre-plant as the warm, wet conditions in propagation may release the fertilizer too rapidly.
Observe the following steps for successful direct stick poinsettia production. A control plan for fungus gnats should be in place before sticking the cuttings. Otherwise, by the time the problem is evident, the damage could be severe. Monitor the media for the presence of fungus gnats before sticking. You may want to pre-treat the media with a pesticide. Provide good drainage under benches and keep this area free of algae, crop debris and weeds. Hydrated lime and/or copper sulfate has been used successfully to control algae and fungus gnats on walkways and under benches.
Grade the cuttings before sticking and keep similar sized cuttings together. This will help to maintain a uniform crop and is particularly important for products with multiple cuttings in a pot. A direct stick program works well for 2″ – 6 1/2″ pots. It is best to transplant rooted cuttings for larger pot sizes or more than 3 cuttings per pot. Some growers prefer to use a slightly longer cutting for direct stick. Ecke Ranch offers a 3” cutting that is ideal for direct sticking.
Use a well-drained medium. Thoroughly wet the medium before sticking and then wait until the cuttings callus before watering again. It is helpful to dibble a hole to allow air space around the base of the cutting, assist in callus formation and minimize stem rot. You may want to use fertilizer and/or a pesticide when watering in the cuttings. Consider an insecticide if fungus gnats are present.
Reduce mist to avoid water logging the medium. Continue to monitor for fungus gnat larvae and apply additional control measures if needed.
These steps, along with good propagation conditions, will help to ensure success with a direct stick poinsettia program. The reduced costs involved with this program and potential for pre-finished sales will help you maximize poinsettia profits.
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