Crazy plant stories
Aroid talk #5 – @daj.badyla 
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Aroid talk #5 – @daj.badyla 

My today’s guest is a hydroponics geek. Magda from @daj.badyla is a total nerd not only when it comes to plants. She has been playing computer games since the 80s and was a co-creator of many websites about games. As she told me, she could play nights and days to this point that as a teenager she would deceive her parents that she was going on ski camp from school, when in fact, she was staying with her boyfriend and playing Diablo.

We talk about hydroponics as a solution for people who can’t keep their plants alive in the classic medium. Growing and propagating Aroids can be fun, especially when you have a proper propagation station. It is good when you have one that….looks like a space ship ;). Magda describes herself as a Star Trek (psycho?)fan and an outer space lover.

Meet a person that once was terrified of dogs and now have two (sic!) and treats knitting as a form of meditation.

Interview

@leafy_jungle: Is plant cultivation an old hobby of yours, or are you new to this? Did you notice plants when you were a little girl?

@daj.badyla: Plant were always present in my family home. We also had a garden full of fruit trees, vegetables and of course, flowers.

Apparently, when I was completely small, during trips to the ZOO I did not pay attention to animals and instead I watched plants. After leaving my family home I had no plants for several years. I returned to this hobby a few years ago, but the real passion came when I moved to a house in the middle of the forest.

In the future I would like to add a greenhouse to my house. Heated in winter and shaded in summer … Can you imagine breakfast among Philodendrons and Anthuriums? For me it is a pure poetry.

@leafy_jungle: This is my true dream, to have a sort of winter garden attached to my house, so I know what you mean. For now, I’m still learning how to keep the plants alive ;). Tell me about your beginnings, did many plants die on your watch?

@daj.badyla: My cactus, which I had from my teenage years, died last year. And this winter – a cactus (I don’t know what was wrong with me!) which I sowed when I was 8, that was 31 years old (but at the same time it definitely did not look impressive).

I have a strong feeling that every “plant freak” goes through the initial, unpleasant phase of hoarding plants. He or she wants to buy literally everything, regardless of preferences (which didn’t form yet), conditions that can be provided for plants or the growing difficulty. Fortunately, I left this stage quite quickly. I don’t have any plants from that period… no, I didn’t give them away, they all hmmm…passed away. The last one of them I killed personally and deliberately by putting it in front of the house at -10 (14 F) degrees Celsius. It was Zamioculcas. What was in my head…to buy such a plant?

Apart from the complete beginnings, I’m still able to kill literally everything that grows in traditional medium. I think I killed five of Ceropegia woodii seedlings and a Senecio before I thought about transferring these plants to hydroponics.

@leafy_jungle: But now you grow almost only Aroids – am I correct? Why is that? 

@daj.badyla: Although I do have some trailing succulents, which do great in hydroponics, yes, I grow mainly Aroids. Apart from them, there are also a Dioscorea Discolor and Aristolochia Leuconeura in my collection. They captivated me with their beauty, so I turned a blind eye on their origin. 

Coming back to the question, this year I would like to focus on expanding my Anthurium collection. I’ve been delighted by them for years and now more and more collectors are selling their own seeds and hybrids. Velvet Anthuriums melt my cold heart like no other plants ;). 

@leafy_jungle: Why have you chosen to grow your plants in hydroponic? How much faster do they grow in your opinion vs. soil-grown plants?

@daj.badyla: Hydroponics was my last resort and I really regret not having found out about it sooner. My problem with the Aroid mix was a trivial matter really: I wasn’t able to create a sufficiently light substrate and, at the same time, water the plants rarely. So I overwatered them systematically, the roots rotted, then they dried up, rotted again, the root system was dying and the next plant went to trash.

The moment my beautiful, huge Anthurium metallicum died, I plunged into despair. I stopped listening to the “good advice” from the plant groups on Facebook, started looking for a solution – and found it.

For me, hydroponics is “it”. Throughout the entire period of hydroponic cultivation (over 2 years), plant losses are minimal. The growth rate of each plant that I have moved into hydroponics is much faster than the regular medium. I see it most in the succulent growth e.g. Senecio, which could only vegetate in the ground without sprouting new stalks about…ever…and in hydroponics he can grow up to a few centimeters per month. Not to mention Ceropegia woodii, which I shorten by a meter every few months!

@leafy_jungle: Is transferring plants to a hydro cultivation from the soil difficult? What are the crucial steps? Where do mistakes happen? 

@daj.badyla: First of all, moving plants to hydroponic is tedious and boring. I always try to clean the roots as thoroughly as possible. If the root system is vast, some of the roots – the smallest – I just cut off. For cleaning I use a toothbrush and patience ;).

Inadequately washed roots are the most common mistake and cause rotting. Usually, after cleaning, I leave the plant for several minutes, then come back and always find something to clean.

Unfortunately, due to micro-damage, even perfectly washed roots can rot after being transferred to the hydroponic substrate. For this reason I always water the freshly transferred seedling with rooting solution, vitamins, hormones and enzymes that will strengthen the plant and decompose any dead or rotting roots.

@leafy_jungle: I still can’t master the root cleaning. Once I wanted to transfer a Maidenhair fern into hydro, but the roots are just so fine. It was a disaster. Is there anything that you wish you had known when starting hydro cultivation?

@daj.badyla: To all young hydroponics adepts: don’t worry, don’t stress! If at the beginning you don’t have a special fertiliser, pH and EC measuring devices, self-watering pots and all the unnecessary things that you have read about and thought that it is too much and hydroponics may not be for you after all – I say, it is!

Try this method of growing on a seedling that you have rooted in water, Monstera or Epipremnum, something easy. Use a simple planter and a plastic pot, or even an ordinary cup. LECA is a great substrate for beginners and really, you don’t need anything else. Emerge yourself into hydroponics slowly and see if you like it.

@leafy_jungle: What is the minimum temperature to grow plants in hydro? Do you monitor the amplitudes in your house? How sensitive are Anthuriums vs. Philodendrons to the possible fluctuations?

In my house, the temperature does not drop below 20 (68 F) degrees, while in the plant room (and at the same time – unfortunatelly – in my office) I keep 21 (70 F) degrees at night and 25 (77 F) degrees during the day. I have a large southern window there and in summer the temperature reaches 35 (95 F) degrees, so the air conditioning is indispensable.

It seems to me that growing plants indoors below 18 (64 F) degrees can be problematic as the water temperature is always a few degrees cooler. Although I know that there are people who successfully grow plants in such temperatures, I would advice against hydro in such conditions.

I don’t see any difference between Anthuriums and Philodendrons – I don’t have any specimens that prefer a cold climate and high humidity, and I certainly won’t buy one.

@leafy_jungle: Haha I’m this person ;)! But I try not to go below 19 (66 F) degrees. From my observation it is rather the large amplitude that kills the plant, not the colder environment itself. What is your most beloved plant? The one that you would be sad if it was too cold ;)?

@daj.badyla: I like Anthuriums the most theoretically. But the truth is, that whenever I think about my favourite, Splendid (note ed. Philodendron) immediately pops in my head. I call him “Splendid The Good Boy” because… he in fact is a good boy ;). He does not complain, grows quickly and is very beautiful, especially after cutting and compacting. This is a plant that I can recommend to everyone :). It’s amazing that such a trouble-free child has arose up from such capricious parents – Ph. melanochrysum and verrucosum.

@leafy_jungle: I have to admit that I regret having Philodendron melanochrysum in my collection. What was your worst plant purchase and why?

@daj.badyla: I thought about this question for a long time, but since I don’t compulsively buy anything that looks like a plant anymore, I don’t have such experiences.

To be honest, nothing has died on my watch for a long time. When unboxing plants, I give out shouts of joy rather than moans of sadness. I guess that I’m still lucky.

@leafy_jungle: Well, that means you’ve grown quickly into adult Aroid collector. Where do you look for Aroid knowledge?

@daj.badyla: I use mainly books, my own experience and exchange views on cultivation with others. Sometimes I also like to read something more scientific and I look for these publications in the Aroid Society (European or international).
I am the only person I know who has the Deni Bown book- Aroids (1988 edition) – I’m very lucky to have such a rarity. I laugh that in my collection of plants the book on plants is the most expensive.

It was a gift from a friend who thought that if this was an Aroid bible, I should have it. As for the content itself – there is nothing there that you will not find in other publications (once again I recommend joining the Aroid Society). Personally, I like the chapters on reproduction, I’ve read them several times, and I come back to them from time to time.
Recently I’ve bought a textbook for students of agricultural studies – “Ogólna uprawa roślin ozdobnych” by Mieczysław Czekalski (note ed. unfortunately not translated, the title “General cultivation of ornamental plants”) – it is, as the name suggests, a book about general plant cultivation, and it contains everything from the choice of substrate, hydroponic cultivation, fertilization, reproduction etc. I can definitely recommend it and I know it is available online (note ed. in polish).
The next two books, because I’m trying to deepen my knowledge on this topic, are about hydroponic cultivation. Unfortunately when it comes to literature, I haven’t found many positions on this subject.

I have “Rośliny ozdobne w uprawie bez ziemi”(note.ed. also not available in english. The title is: “Ornamental plants in cultivation without soil”, original: “Hydrokultur. Pflanzen ohne Erde – mühelos gepflegt Hans” – August Rotter, 1988) and “Jak uprawiać rośliny bez ziemi, czyli sekrety hydroponiki” (note ed. “How to grow plants without soil, or the secrets of hydroponics”, original title: “Hydrokultur”, Renate Müller, 2007). I am not entirely satisfied with any of them, because the knowledge that they contain is quite general.
And the last book on my list I don’t have, because it has not been published yet, but I’m looking forward to “Welcome to the Jungle”, Enid Offolter from NSE Tropicals. I am counting on a great position, but whether it is so, it will not know until mid-May.

@leafyjungle: Thanks, it is definitely good to know some new titles. I have only some very general books about Aroids. I can’t deduce many things out of them. Like for example: what are the necessary nutrients needed for the optimal growth of Aroids. Anyway the the best way is always trial and error. What fertilisers and boosters do you use for your Aroids?

@daj.badyla: I’ve used Advanced Nutrients for hydroponics and many additives from the same brand throughout the whole season in 2021. I am very happy with them and although I am testing two other fertilisers at the moment, there is a good chance that I will return to AN with my tail tucked up ;).

Other than that I use the popular Rhizotonic and Superthrive. Normally, when changing the nutrient solution, I use fertilizer and 2-3 additives. I have many many fertilisers of different sort, so many, that I had to make a list.

@leafyjungle: I always wonder why do you cut and prop all year around? It seems like it is some kind of a bigger project. Humour me ;).

@daj.badyla: As I have already mentioned, my plants have a optimal temperature all year around. In addition, I use grow lights in the dark months, so nothing prevents me from pruning them.

Most of the time I cut because I don’t like the way the plant grows. A good example is Philodendron Splendid, which was over a meter long and had beautiful, adult leaves, but I didn’t like it because it was not bushy enough. When cut, it got beautiful and superb.

Some of my Anthuriums are already producing huge, adult leaves and I am very happy because I want even bigger ones! At this point, I don’t have any plant that I won’t cut in the future – near or far. Some of them are just not at this stage yet. I want to multiply and make bushy all of them.

@leafyjungle: Is propagating Aroids easy? How do you approach this?

@daj.badyla: Most Philodendrons (except the evil plant: Philodendron verrucosum)I just cut and root in my aeroponic station.

Let’s devote a moment to it, because this device changed my plant life. It is large, plastic and ugly. It is definitely not suitable as an element of interior design BUT it works wonders. Thanks to aeroponics, even the most stubborn cuttings are able to root.

It is more tricky with Anthuriums and I found out about it the hard way when I chose Anthurium warocqueanum for my first Anthurium prop. Now I know that the top of the plant had no chance of surviving the way I separated it from the rest of the seedling. This experience taught me a lot.

Currently, I make a moss compress on the growing Anthurium and wrap it with food wrap. Then I wait for the roots to reach the ground surface. In this moment the root system of the top of the plant (that is, the part I want to cut off) is large enough. This method takes a lot of patience, but the chance of losing the cutting is greatly reduced.

@leafy_jungle: Apart from the propagation station, what does your „Aroid grower” equipment contains of?

@daj.badyla: Apart from a set of good fertilisers and a 10 liter watering can 😉 (note ed. I so do agree) I cannot imagine cultivation without additional lighting. I use grow lights for most of my Aroids from October to the end of March. They are working for 12 hours per day.

Day to day I also need a good, sharp pruner, a scalpel with replaceable blades – they want to be cut, you know.

Because the plants outgrow them quickly, I like to have a supply of stakes and supports, oh and a garden wire in a soft cover for tying up. Actually, I don’t have extra stuff that I don’t use. Everything I have makes sense :).

@leafyjungle: Hah, that is impressive. I must say that I do have some stuff that I don’t use that much. I will wrap up with the classic question. What is your wishlist plant no 1?

@daj.badyla: I’ve dreamed of Anthurium luxurians for the whole last year (2021). I monitored the prices, admired, sighed … and I’am still waiting, but I think this seasonly dream will finally come true.

There are also some other Anthuriums in my head, the ones that, at this point, are beyond my financial reach. So they are not even on the wishlist, because I will not buy them. It is for example: Anthurium King of Clarinervium (it is in the first place). Oh, my heart skipped a beat when I thought about it ;).

@leafy_jungle: phew thanks! That is a lot of information, I have to digest all of that.

Planty Folks! As usual give mi your feedback in the comments via instagram, and check out the other Aroid talks on this blog.

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