Chaya stalks rotting

Hi Friends. In Indonesia we are having some issue with Chaya stalks that we are sending to folks throughout the country. They are rotting and not successfully growing after being planted. This is becoming an issue for us as we train folks in Chaya, they get all excited then when they plant it, a lot of the stalks die. Any thoughts on what’s going on?

This is happening in more than one place. In the photo here the soil was more clay so maybe that was the problem.


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Hi, the pictures cannot display.
Chaya South Africa

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Are you letting the cuttings cure/dry before planting them? I have found that I have 0% success rate on cuttings that are planted the same day they were cut from the parent plant, while those planted a day or two later (after the wound has dried) have a much higher success rate.

Moisture could be an issue when planting chaya cuttings into clay soil. Less frequent watering might help. In a plant nursery setting, it might also help to improve the drainage of the soil by mixing in some sand.

Lydia Hofland, who manages plant propagation activities here at ECHO Florida, mentioned that we have had issues with chaya cuttings rotting in the greenhouse when they are over watered. She added the following:

  • Aim for moist but not saturated soil, keeping in mind that, without leaves and roots, cuttings should be watered differently than established plants.
  • As Noah mentioned, curing time helps with chaya. With katuk, on the other hand, rooting is more successful with fresh cuttings.
  • Consider mixing leaf litter (e.g., from forest soil) into clay soil as a way to lighten the texture and improve drainage.
  • Consider a more horizontal placement of chaya cuttings, much like cassava is often planted, placing cuttings into the soil at a slight angle and/or only partially burying the cutting. Roots will develop on the side of the cutting in contact with the soil.
  • Rotting is less of an issue once the cuttings have been rooted and established.
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Yes, the cuttings are dried. To give you an idea the stalks are cut from plants then collected and packaged for shipping. They then are packaged, usually in feed sacks and then shipped to various islands throughout Indonesia. The recipient then dries them out before distribution and planting. So I don’t think the issue is that the stalks are wet when planting.

Hey Tim, thanks for the input. I should say that this issue of rotting is also prevalent in non-clay soil. The latest example was in clay though.

Some of the folks in the Chaya network in Indonesia have suggested doing the following:

  • covering the tops of the cuttings in plastic so water can’t get in and rot them

  • planting a number of stalks in a polybag to see which stalks actually live, then transplanting those

  • actually not using the woody cuttings, but the green ones

I am a bit confused as some of this advice from the field people runs counter to what I know. But the rotting issue is real and the last thing we want is for someone we train and get excited about the benefits of Chaya to then be disappointed b/c half the stalks rotted.

Hi Jon. I meant to add that the rotting we’ve experienced has been with cuttings planted in media other than clay soil. My guess is that the main issue is too much moisture. Whatever can be done to keep the cuttings from exposure to saturated media will probably help. It would be interesting to run a small experiment to confirm.

At home, I’ve noticed that chaya branches that fall to the ground after pruning end up rooting. This happens even during our summer rainy period. My guess as to why cuttings are taking (not rotting) in this situation is that the cuttings are above ground.


So how long should someone wait to water the cuttings once planted?


Maybe twice a week under dry conditions, but going by a set schedule could lead to watering when there is no need. It is best to simply steer people towards a goal of moist but not saturated soil/media. Two important factors that influence this are:

  • Soil texture—clay soil holds water better than sandy soil does, so fine-textured soil does not need to be watered as often
  • Rainfall— cuttings may not need to be watered at all during weeks with frequent rain

Soil should feel moist to the touch, but you shouldn’t see or feel free water in the soil.

I trust this is helpful.

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Hi :slight_smile: I’d like to join and to contribute to this discussion. Could it be that the cuttings were moldy when they arrived in Indonesia?

I recently had my fiancee send me 12 cuttings, between 15 and 20 cms long, with at least 5 nodes on each cutting, from Thailand to Vietnam. She just put them in a plastic bag, didn’t wrap them with newspaper or anything else, then mailed them. Took at least 2 weeks. When they arrived, they smelled really moldy. So I aired them out to dry for 2 days, out of the sun the whole time. By the time they went into the ground (on May 22 and 23rd), they smelled okay. I planted one that day and gave 11 to a friend. Neither of ours have budded (this isn’t the correct term, is it?!).

I’m wondering if they were damaged by the mold.

I planted to cuttings in well drained soil, but covered with a mulch, that I kept 1 or 2 cms away from the cutting. I buried 2 nodes, with 4 exposed to the soil. I gave the cutting exposure to the early morning sun, but shaded it with a cloth during the scorching hot part of the day, then uncovered it after the sun didn’t directly hit the cutting. We didn’t have any rain until just 3 days ago, but I watered the soil every day, careful to keep it moist, not sopping wet! I don’t know what kind of soil my friend put the cuttings into, but he has experience with chaya in Australia, so I trust he knows what he’s doing. His cuttings haven’t taken either.

My friend is heavily involved in the local organic movement here in Vietnam, so I gave him the cuttings. He told me that to the best of his knowledge, these are the first cuttings in Vietnam. I kinda suppose there are others here though.

Troy :slight_smile:

Hey Troy, good to hear about Chaya in Vietnam. Actually there is quite a bit of Chaya in Indonesia so the stalks in question were only sent from one island to another. So they generally are only wrapped up in packaging maybe for a few days.

Maybe you guys can start a whole Chaya movement in Vietnam. Later this year we’ll be releasing a film about the spontaneous spread of Chaya in Indonesia called From Two Sticks as the Chaya in Indonesia came from 2 Chaya cuttings ordered from ECHO in the late 90s.

I see. So mold wouldn’t have been an issue.

The ‘2 sticks’ thing reminds me of a question I’ve had for some time. When we propagate a species through cuttings, aren’t we limiting its genetic diversity? If so, isn’t that risking widespread vulnerability to disease? I know that katuk is often propagated by cuttings, and this question first occurred to me with respect to katuk.

I consider Thailand to be my home, and it’s there that I first saw chaya in Asia. I was living with the Santi Asoke group, at a temple and farm in the northeast. We were given chaya cuttings by someone who said they think the cuttings came from Cambodia. Now, this all just gives me pause to wonder how much genetic diversity there is in the chaya plants here in Southeast Asia, and again, if there’s any risk of widespread disease in the plants.

Here are some photos of the stalks and the rotting, IS IT NORMAL FOR THE END OF THE STALK THAT’S CUT TO DIE? and all the new growth to come out of the buds? This seems like it will stunt the plant’s growth b/c all the new growth has to come out of that one tiny stem

This is what I’ve seen after cuttings started to grow. They die off on the top, down to the first node. The new growth in the picture on the bottom is coming from 2 or 3 buds, right? With decently good soil, warm temps, and moist soil, I suppose they’ll be at least a meter tall and around by the end of the year :slight_smile:

It’s pretty common when pruning shrubs that there will be die back from where the cut is made to a node that will break. Are you overhead watering so that water accumulates where the cut was made? I so , would cutting at an angle prevent moisture from accumulating at the cut? You can try watering at the soil level only. Just a thought.

I have propagated lots of chaya both in subtropics and tropics here. I potted up a lot from my original plant and found that I rarely had to water them and if I just watered them when they started to look a bit sad only they thrived. I guess they don’t like too much water. Once established they can handle it well as both places I have it growing can get VERY wet in summer. We have it growing and being eaten in remote aboriginal community in Australia where the locals use it in their wallaby stew. Original piece came from echo quite a few years ago. Especially good because it may possibly help with diabetes which is a big issue for our Indigenous people

Dear Jon_I,
I have grown Chaya in several acres of land.

3 Images: dated June 29: The drying off at the tip is perfectly okay. However, I could see the beginning of curling of leaves. Use an insecticide to arrest the curling of leaves caused by mites.

Image : dated June 26: There could be problem in quality of planting material (was it sourced from plants where the symptoms of leaf curling was there? In such cases, the initiation of buds gets delayed with apical part showing symptoms as in the image).

Fig. Mites causing curling of leaves.

  • There is also possibility that the cuttings were not planted at sufficient depth. At least two nodes should be inside the soil.

  • Although excess soil moisture is a concern in chaya plantation, in this particular case (image June 26), the cuttings before planting could have been wrapped under moist condition for considerable duration before planting leading to fungal decay at the top. The soil moisture in this case does not seem to be a cause.

  • In an established plantation, apical decay is caused by deficiency of calcium. I could reverse the severe apical decay in grown plants with application of lime.

Hope this helps.