Growing the Winch Collection from Tuber
& Tuber Propagation Illustrated

by Craig Presnell - Click images to enlarge

Nymphaea 'Charlie's Pride'
During 2005, Charles Winch's daughters Noelene and Margaret, and Australian Roger Bagley, generously sent many superb Winch hybrids to the US. Although they rival the best works of George H. Pring and Martin E. Randig, these outstanding cultivars are rarely, if ever, available outside of Australia.Growing and propagating these precious plants is an “impossible dream” come true.
At the same time, it also presents a huge challenge -- to grow and propagate the imported tubers versus the strong urge to grow them to their prime and quickly enjoy their incredible beauty. Remembering my father's words, “Do not allow today's greed to get in the way of tomorrow's gain,” I rightly decided to propagate them first and to enjoy them with other watergardening enthusiasts at the summer 2006 display of the Charles Winch Collection at the New Orleans Botanical Garden..  

'Margaret' plant at proximal end of the tuber

'Margaret' separated
When propagating a tuber, never assume anything about the growing points; they can appear anywhere! The most common appearance of sprouts is at the proximal end of a growing tuber. Often only a single sprout appears ('Margaret' series), but you may find a cluster of sprouts ('Verena', 'Senorita') in the meristem around the "wound" that remains after removing the main plant.

At proximal end


'Margaret' planted

If you find no sprout there, float the tuber in warm water until it rots away. Given warmth and time, sprout(s) may emerge at the distal end of the tuber or from dormant buds anywhere along the main. By waiting and watching an apparently defunct tuber, new plantlets may be your reward. Then the question becomes what to do with sprouts once they appear. What works for me in sunny Florida follows.

Distal tuber and plantlet

A triple tuber ^,
broken to reveal two potential growing points >


Tiny sprouts from buds along the tuber
Add enough ground peat to cover the bottom holes in a quart (liter) pot. The peat keeps the primary medium from spilling out the holes and acts as a buffer for my hard, alkaline water. On top of that, place about 12 grams (0.4 ounces) of 14-14-14 Osmocote time-release fertilizer (the basic rate is 25 grams/4 liters or 1 ounce/gallon). Pack damp masonry sand into the pot to fill it. Dampness aids compacting to reduce the likelihood of 'floaters'. Now plant your waterlily.  
For tubers with a sprout at the proximal end, simply stick the tuber in the planting material to a depth equal to the growing point. Even with a cluster, do the same and then separate individual plants once they produce roots and floating leaves.  
Some tubers sprout in such a way that you can neither separate nor plant them in the prescribed method; they have rooted at an angle. Plant these horizontally rather than vertically. > >>    

For sprouts at the distal end of the tuber, give them time. They normally form a small propagation tuber; then their planting procedure follows the standard vertical mode. 

How do you deal with sprouts that form on dormant buds along the length of the tuber? Float them until roots form. Subsequently plant them in the standard vertical method after you separate a small chunk from the main tuber.

Sprouts like 'Apricot Delight', below, form obviously healthy, vigorous plantlets. However, they possess potential beyond the obvious! For these, use a sharp blade to pry the small tuber off the main. That way you secure the plantlet to start normally and the potential for more sprouts around the separation point.

'Apricot Delight' ^ > >>




"Crown" tuber
What do you do with the “cluster” or "crown" tubers you plant as if they were a single sprout? Again, time provides the answer. When distinct, individual plantlets develop, you can easily remove them and plant them individually.  

Exclusive Charles Winch Waterlily Collection at
New Orleans Botanical Garden Creates a
Summer Spectacular!

Kit Knotts' Web Journal of Building the Collection
& Repotting Illustrated

NOBG Before Katrina, Soon After, and Spring 2006
by NOBG photographers and Rich Sacher

WGI ONLINE Journal Table of Contents

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