Electronic leaves for plant propagation

What is an electronic leaf?

An electronic leaf (often called a Mist-a-matic) is a mechanical device that controls the frequency and amount of mist that cuttings receive. It does this by using a lever with a screen or other flat surface on one end and a switch that is connected to a solenoid on the other.

How does an electronic leaf work?

As the mist is spraying, it falls on the screen on the end of the lever. The weight of the water droplets will cause the lever to tip down, breaking the electrical contact and stopping the flow of water. As the water evaporates from the screen, the lever will slowly raise and make the electrical contact which will send a signal to the solenoid to open and allow water to pass. This cycle repeats itself, constantly supplying the cuttings with moisture.

What are the pros to using an electronic leaf?

Electronic leaves can be a great asset to a plant propagator because they are designed to mimic a leaf on the cutting. As the water evaporates from the leaves on the cuttings, it also evaporates from the screen on the lever. This evaporation from the electronic leaf delivers the required amount of mist only when the cuttings need it.

What are the cons?

Electronic leaves are mechanical devices and mechanical devices can and will fail at any time. Also, as water evaporates from the screen, calcium and other minerals tend to collect on it. This cause the electronic leaf to become out of balance and deliver the incorrect amount of water. Two other cons are bird droppings and insects. If either one lands on the screen, they will render it useless. Of course, once the insect moves away the electronic leaf will operate correctly, but the bird dropping is there to stay until it is discovered and removed, sometimes much too late to save the cuttings.

Do I need an electronic leaf to propagate plants?

Not really. They do a good job of mimicking the natural evaporation of moisture from the leaves of the cuttings, but they are not essential. I have been rooting cuttings for years with a misting system that uses a timer. This setup is located outdoors under a small hoophouse that provides shade but plenty of air movement. Using an electronic leaf is a personal preference. Some folks absolutely love them and some have had their fill.

A recent customers comments on using an electronic leaf:

I recently sold a misting timer to a gentelman who told me he spent years constantly adjusting his electronic leaf and finally had enough. He relayed that he had to fiddle with it daily and had to check it multiple times a day to be sure it was working correctly. He stated that when the leaf was operating correctly he loved it, but it was so tempermental that he did not trust it. He finally made up his mind to replace it with a DIG 5006-IP misting controller. The customer was thrilled that the controller could operate multiple zones, all having different settings. He was also extremely happy that the timer cost less than half of what a new electronic leaf would have.

Conclusions on electronic leaves:

There are basically two schools of thought here.

  • Propagators who swear by them
  • Propagators who swear at them

As stated earlier, when they work they work great, but when they don’t, an entire crop of cuttings can be lost in a short amount of time. Before running out and buying an electronic leaf, do a bit of research and ask questions of fellow growers who use them. Do a cost comparison and also take into account any future growth of your operation.

To learn how to grow landscape plants to sell, visit Mike McGroarty’s website. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter, it contains some great tips!


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