I have tried and failed to propagate Ceanothus papillosus, wartleaf ceanothus, many times. It's one of two kinds that grows wild where I live - the other being Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, California wild lilac, which I have propagated successfully from seed - never from cuttings. The cuttings get moldy and/or dry out in the conditions I've been able to provide so far. Now - a new tack - bottom heat!
So on Sunday, I took "semi-ripe" - also known as "semi-hard" - cuttings from a branch that was trailing low on the ground, and also I prepared seeds.
|The branch from which I took cuttings|
|Cut just below a leaf node at the bottom and either take a tip cutting - or cut just above a leaf node at the top. Remove all but one or two leaves at the top. If leaves are large, cut them short. Also remove any flower buds and side shoots.|
|Small branch before preparing, with heel (on right) - where this little branch was ripped off the main branch. Sometimes there is more of the rooting hormone there - varies by species and I don't know about ceanothus. Worth a try.|
|Same small branch, prepared as two cuttings. I dipped the cuttings in rooting hormone - I think #3 is OK. I use some liquid stuff and am not very scientific about it.|
|I didn't have enough ceanothus for one flat so I made half the flat of some manzanita cuttings - same technique. I had to reject many of the potential cuttings due to damage, fungus, or etc. Only use healthy material!|
I read that ceanothus is difficult to grow from cuttings. And that bottom heat helps. Also frequent misting but just a little bit. My experience is that they get fungus or that they dry out.
I have a misting system - in parts - not yet in place. But my greenhouse I think is too hot right now, anyway.
So I put my mini greenhouse in the pool shed - which is open on one side - to keep it out of direct sun, and put the bottom heat mat under the seed flat. I hope the plastic covering will stop the cuttings from drying out.
|My latest idea about where to propagate cuttings... The pool shed! It's protected there - maybe not so bright. It's open on one side. I might move it into more light later on.|
I read on a CNPS forum that Yerba Buena nursery uses a mix of two parts vermiculite to 8 parts perlite for ceanothus cuttings - so I tried that this time. No moisture-retaining peat.
|I used two parts vermiculite to 8 parts perlite|
|This is perlite|
|This is vermiculite|
|The finished flat|
|Bottom heat, shade, and covered in to keep the plants a little moist. I'll have to mist just enough to keep them moist - with the cover, and being out of the sun, they should stay pretty moist. Wish me luck!|
OK - on to the seed prep!
I prepared seed from 2010 and from 2012. (I seem to have lost a lot of 2012 seed - I KNOW I collected seed. Hm.... ).
First I liberated a little muslin bag I had tied over the end of a branch and left there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the seed had popped out of its nutlets all by itself, in the storage bag. Not many, but enough I hope.
|I put a bag over the end of a branch to catch seeds. This is what came out.|
|Not so many seeds in the bagged lot, maybe about 12 or so|
|I got these from some nutlets saved in 2010. I read that seed can survive 100 years! Again the seed had popped out of the nutlets in the storage bag. Any unexploded nutlets just didn't have seed in them, that I could see.|
So first - "scarification" which in this case means a 12 hours soak in hot water - pour on nearly boiling, and let cool. Next "stratification" - 1-3 months in the fridge, in a bag of moist perlite, faking out the seeds that they have been through winter. Last time I put the seeds in peat - this time in perlite. In the peat, some seeds got fungus - it's good to keep checking - also in case they germinate in the fridge - in which case, immediately plant!
I am bound and determined to grow Ceanothus papillosus! I think it will be a useful garden plant for people in my watershed (and maybe elsewhere). It's a shrub - whereas Ceanothus thyrsiflorus is a short-lived tree, which fewer people want in their wilderness property gardens - we have enough trees of various sorts all around us as it is.
Will I be successful? Time will tell...