Thursday, April 15, 2010

SoftGenesis: Salvia divinorum

Last year in August (2009) I bought and received by USPS Priority Mail,one Salvia divinorum plant from Mazatec Garden. Total cost for the rooted cutting with shipping and handling was about $35.00. The plant was ingeniously packed into a 4" x 4" x 12" box and took 3-4 days to arrive, but was no worse for the wear.

The plant was 8" high and consisted of one stock with three identical stems coming out and about 6 (3" long) leaves, with several tiny leaves that were also just sprouting off the stems. I didn't realize it yet, but I had just received the entire (potential) inventory of a new business.

Here is the host plant, Alpha, about a month after receiving it. Notice the cuttings - Beta and Gamma - that I had already rooted and planted on each side. The tiny leaves that had originally been only about a half inch long were now three and four inches long; the 6 large leaves having been trimmed off a couple weeks before...

Alpha with 2 babies in September 2009

I theorized at the time much about how many cuttings could realistically be rooted and how quickly. I had rooted 2 cuttings in one month. What I didn't count on at the time was that it would really take another month to be able to harvest more cuttings. In my haste I taxed the plant by taking of a few more cuttings while still in September. As the months rolled by and I learned more about Salvia's strengths and weaknesses were, I found I could recognize when it was safe to take cuttings.

Many factors went in to my estimations. I made a spreadsheet and kept changing variables to get a sense of how many plants I could produce under different circumstances. Now I have a better idea but at the time I was overly optimistic.

Here are some basic things I've learned...

* The smaller the cutting, the more quickly it will root, as long as it can be kept alive in a warm moist environment (optimal: 70 degrees F, with 100% humidity). This takes about 9-14 days.

* The bigger the plant is after it roots, the faster it will grow. In an 8" diameter, round, pot, growth is exponential from about 8" to 24" and then slows as the plant reaches about 36". A larger pot will give more.

* The plant should be 12+" tall and healthy enough to yield proper cuttings. This takes about 3 months after it has rooted.

* The plant will replace growth that has been removed for rooting in about 4-6 weeks. Taking more cuttings from the plant taxes it proportionally.

* Large leaves of cuttings should be cut laterally in half or the rooting process can't keep up with maintaining leaf maintenance. I have seen a whole plant grown from one fallen 1" leaf that rooted under ideal circumstances. But I have never seen just a stem, with out any leaves, root, nor produce more leaves.

* The single most important thing about growing Salvia indoors during non-summer months is to have plenty of drainage. People know that Salvia loves water, but it doesn't like old, still, dirty water. The roots need air as much as they need water.

It has been 7 months since I began rooting Salvia divinorum cuttings and here is a video of what I have now. This was taken this afternoon...

The Salvia Windhouse April 2010

From one 8" plant I now have 30 plants, as follows...

HOST IN 12" POT (> 24")

Alpha ~ Triple Stem: 30" + 28" +27" = Estimated Value: $180.00


Beta ~ Single Stem: 33" = Estimated Value: $85.00

Gamma ~ Single Stem: 28" = Estimated Value: $75.00

Delta ~ Single Stem: 30" = Estimated Value: $70.00

Epsilon ~ Single Stem: 30" = Estimated Value:$70.00


Zeta ~ Double Stem: 12" + 12" = Estimated Value: $50.00

Five Plants ~ Single Stems: 10" = Estimated Values: $30.00 each ($150.00 Total)

One Plant ~ Double Stem: 10" = Estimated Value: $40.00


Five Plants ~ Single Stems: 3" = Estimated Values: $10.00 each ($50.00 Total)

One Plant ~ Double Stem: 3" = Estimated Value: $12.00

Twelve Plants ~ Single Stems: 1" = Estimated Values: $5.00 each ($60.00 Total)

Total Value of plants: $842.00

[These plants are not yet for sale in Maine, but they will be in June. I'm developing a way to ship cuttings. I still need to build up more inventory and be able to replace what I sell. Stay tuned for more information on all of that in future posts.]

So with some potting soil, watering, good drainage, patience and care, anyone could turn a $35.00 Salvia divinorum plant into a family of them worth $842.00 or more. I had many problems and encountered many mysterious issues along the way. Still, that is $120 of value gained (on average) each month. Where else can you invest $35 and make over 342% interest each month on it?

It's not a complete walk in the park, but it is certainly easy enough to do as a part-time job (watering for ten minutes a day and some new planting every couple weeks). And there is real potential there to turn professional as the inventory increases.

Of course, it helps to understand quite a bit about the plant before you ever decide to propagate it for money.

I will talk a lot about the nature of the plant itself in future posts along with growing tips, under the heading, "GROWING SALVIA DIVINORUM IN MAINE," plus links, pictures, videos and other products that I will soon have for sale.

As an introduction, and to give an example of a challenge northern regions encounter, next time we'll look at environment. The environment of any place where plants grow is ruled by these four things: temperature, humidity, rainfall and light. We'll see where Salvia is sensitive and where it is forgiving.

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