Power Tools for Technical Communication:
Instructions Formatting 1

In this lab, you add headings, lists, and illustrations to the unformatted text of a set of instructions:
  1. Copy the text below this box, and paste it into your preferred word-processing software.
  2. Study the unformatted text carefully, rearrange the paragraphs as necessary, add headings, and reformat text as numbered or bulleted lists as necessary.
  3. Copy the graphics for this text (below the unformatted text). Insert those graphics where they belong in the text, and add figure titles.
  4. For the title, use "How to Propagate a rubber Tree (Ficus Elastica)." Use these two headings: "Propagating the Ficus" and "Equipment and Supplies."
  5. Put your name, Instructions, and the date on this document, and print it out for your instructor.

The Ficus elastica is commonly known as the rubber tree, India rubber tree, or rubber fig. When dry, the ficus sap becomes firm and flexible, similar to rubber. In fact, it is a variety of the rubber trees from which latex is derived. The ficus has wide, oval leaves that are smooth and dark green in color. Its normal growth pattern is straight, and mature trees growing outdoors can reach 50 to 60 feet in height. The ficus is a hardy indoor landscape plant that is fairly easy to maintain and visually pleasing.

The following instructions show you how to propagate a ficus. You will use a technique known as air layering to grow a complete new plant from the parent plant, specifically by producing roots on the stem of the plant. The technique involves (1) wounding the stem or branch of the plant, (2) enclosing the wounded stem with moist sphagnum moss or similar rooting medium, and (3) waiting until roots develop from the wounded area. If you are a plant hobbyist with a working knowledge of horticulture and want to try something a little different, you'll have no problems following these instructions.

Be sure you have a sturdy, level surface on which to work. You'll need the following materials and tools to accomplish your air layering project: rubbing alcohol and cotton pads to sterilize the wound area and cutting blade; sharp utility knife or single-edge blade to make the wound; toothpicks or wooden matches (with the sulfur tip clipped off) to wedge into the wound area; rooting powder to apply to the wound to stimulate root growth; clean, fresh sphagnum moss to pack around the wound; root stimulator solution (discussed in the next section) to also stimulate root growth; plastic wrap cut in squares, and twist ties to wrap and seal the wound area; slim stake or stick, and plant tie tape, to support the wounded area while growing roots.

You will be utilizing chemicals that can cause personal injury and illness if used improperly. Be sure to read and thoroughly understand all manufacturers instructions.

To propagate the ficus, select a healthy ficus elastica for air layering. The plant should have numerous shoots available for propagation, preferably growing off to the side. This will encourage a pleasing, straight growth pattern in the original plant. Choose shoots produced during the previous season. For optimum rooting, conduct layering in the spring, and no later than midsummer if you live in high-temperature areas. For best results, the shoots should be at least pencil size or larger. How long a shoot takes to grow sufficient roots depends on the health of the plant, temperature, humidity, moisture, light and season. The process can take two to four months.Look at the plant as a whole and determine how you want it to appear after the layered shoots are removed. Keep its shape and characteristics in mind as you visualize how it will look in several years. What you layer and trim today will shape the future of the both the new and parent plants.

Use fresh materials and clean utensils. Doing so helps ensure that no diseases are contracted in the propagation process. You'll need to prepare three separate solutions, each at specific stages of the process.

Soaking the sphagnum moss. Use any commercial solution and mix it according to the manufacturer's directions at the time you're ready to start the procedure. After you're finished, discard any unused solution according to the directions. You should allow approximately two hours for an average application of five to seven layers. Soak the clean sphagnum moss in rooting solution for several hours before you are ready to use it during the procedure. This will ensure that the moss is thoroughly moistened with the solution. To prepare the plastic sleeves and twist ties, determine the number of layers you will be making. Cut a plastic sleeve for each layer, at least 8" x 10", 12" x 12" squares work even better. The twist ties allow you to make a snug seal, yet easily open to add rooting solution during root production. To make the cut, clean your sharp blade with a cotton pad moistened with alcohol. Use another cotton pad with alcohol to clean the target area. Allow a few seconds for the excess alcohol to dry. With the knife, make a long upward cut from 1-1/2 to 2 inches long, almost to the center of the stem (a). Insert a toothpick or matchstick into the wound to hold it open and prevent the cut tissue from growing back together (b). Liberally dust the cut with rooting powder to speed up the process. Be sure to cover as much of the exposed plant tissue as possible with the powder.

To form the root ball, apply a generous handful of damp sphagnum moss so that it envelops the wounded portion of the stem. (Tying the moss in place with string helps keep it in position while completing the process.) Squeeze out surplus rooting solution before using, since excessive moisture may result in decay and deterioration of the plant tissue.

Wrap the ball of sphagnum moss snugly with the plastic square, using the butcher's fold (as shown) to secure a tight edge seal when the two ends are joined.

To seal the root ball, gather the lower end of the plastic sleeve snugly around stem, making sure that none of the moss is exposed. Fasten securely with a twist tie, taking care to form as tight a seal as possible on the stem. Repeat the procedure on the upper end, again making sure there is a snug fit. Some moisture may escape, but try to keep this to a minimum. Support the plant with a stake or splint to prevent breakage at the wounded area, if necessary.

During the time required to grow roots, you must keep the root ball moist. For best results, use a syringe without a needle to deposit rooting solution into the plastic sleeve. Loosen the upper twist tie enough to fit the end of the syringe inside. Squirt in the solution, then reseal with as snug a fit as possible.

When the new roots have thoroughly penetrated the moss ball and you can see them on all sides, the rooted branch is ready to be removed from the parent plant. Remove it with a clean, sharp knife or pruning shears. Make the cut just below the ball of moss and roots. Carefully remove the twist ties and plastic square. You may remove the ball of moss, but try not to disturb the roots when doing so. It is acceptable, however, to leave the moss ball in place. Plant in a container using a good potting mixture.

1. Southern Plant Identification / ficus.elastica.leaf www.jacksonvillegarden.com/plants2/plants.e-k/pages/ficus.elastica.leaf.htm

2. Janne, Everett E. "Air Layering for Difficult to Root Plants." Accessed August 15th, 2001. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/ornamentals/airlayer/airlayer.html

Ficus Elastica [1]
Making the Cut [2]
Forming the Root Ball [2]
Wrapping the Root Ball [2]
Sealing the Root Ball [2]
Root Ball [2]
Separating the New Plant [2]

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