Propagation Party Time

I've been having too much fun with propagation lately.

At the October 18 of 2009 CNPS propagation session, we prepared some Dicentra formosa stolon cuttings. (Stolons are underground stems - something I keep having to look up.) There were a lot left over, and I took them home and prepared about 8 gallon pots.

To prepare stolon cuttings, you make sure to include at least two leaf nodes, and you clip close to the nodes at either end so the meristematic tissues in the nodes can set their adaptable cells to building roots below and stems and leaves above.

We laid two cuttings per gallon pot horizontally and covered with about an inch of the growing medium, which was a bit richer than usual as I recall. We weren't sure how deep to put the cuttings and I still have not found that info so if someone knows please comment!

One of my cuttings sprouted within a month, and I was happy to get any success at all. I just left the rest hanging around, and nothing was happening at all. I don't know what made the difference - but another four in the cold frame have sprouted just this week - three months later! Never give up hope :-)

I had been ignoring the cold frame pretty much but decided to close it up to keep the torrential rains out. Maybe it kept them at the right temperature, and in moist conditions, or maybe they have a biological clock? I don't know.

Last week the propagation group met again, and a member had brought in a bunch of Western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale, for cuttings. They were growing natively at his Boulder Creek home. With the leftovers I made a tray of cuttings for myself. I would love to have some of this azalea - it is deer proof, and locally native. Also my daughter lives in Boulder Creek and it would be great to give her some plants.

Inspired by all the propagation work, I also I made a tray of cuttings of the ceanothus that grows on our property, Ceanothus papillus, Wartleaf Ceanothus. They are in Rat's office, along with the Holodiscus discolor cuttings that I potted on, of which about eight are now doing OK. Down quite a few, but I'm happy.

Yesterday I visited a neighbor to ask if the Ceanothus thyrsiflorus growing along the road on her property was native or planted. Native, she assured me, and showed me another one behind her house. "They used to grow all over here, they were everywhere thirty years ago," she said. "I don't know what happened to them all." She invited me to take cuttings and we mused about the fate of the ceanothus, and I took some pictures of her beside two huge trees that came down on her property in last week's storm. Fortunately the only damage was to her wood shed.

So I gathered and planted cuttings of Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, but when I was preparing the cuttings I noticed a lot had brown blotches on them. I cut most of it off, but am not happy. I might get more cuttings today from the roadside tree which looks a lot more healthy. I also made cuttings of Quercus agrifolia (from the little coast live oak that was downed in the storm - whose rings told me it was about 15 years old), and both "varieties" of manzanita, which I haven't yet identified - I'm calling them Arctostaphylos tomentosa crustacea "chubby bud"and Arctostaphylos tomentosa crustacea "droopy bud."

The droopybud ones have that extra long leaf thingy over the top of each flower (or is it a floret). I labeled each set of cuttings separately and will be overwhelmingly happy if I get results from both so I can compare the young plants. Jeffrey Caldwell told me that our manzanitas are at least several decades old. Some are looking really more dead than alive. If I can propagate them I'll be very relieved to have a way to perpetuate them, and share them with neighbors.

I also set some cuttings from a native rose that grows on our property. I'm not sure which kind it is - I am guessing it is Rosa californica but maybe it's Rosa gymnocarpa. I don't know how to tell as yet. I made an irrigation tubing framework for the cuttings and covered it with plastic, which is the method that seems to work.

I read that the mixture for arctostaphylos should be about 8:2 perlite:vermiculite. But I added a handful of peat moss too just because I couldn't help myself. Even though I read this on a CNPS forum (accessed 1/23/10):
Another thing about native shrub cuttings is that people often over-water or over mist them. If possible, wate[r] the cutting flat so that just the cutting medium gets wet. Continual water on the leaves of the cuttings can rot them. This is especially true of manzanitas, which are highly susceptible to fu[n]gal pathogens.
OK, I'll do my best! I don't know why I added the peat. It just seems so - sterile. But then I realize that the cuttings don't need any nutrition while they are first putting out roots. That comes at the 4 inch pot stage once the roots are established.

The cuttings have overspilled from Rat's office, now full up, to the master bathroom. And in case you are wondering about the greenhouse - work goes on apace, though rain put a stop to work for a week there. Here's a sneak peek at the current state of affairs.


Carol said…
This is a wonderful post!! Your greenhouse is exciting! Look forward to the updates on your propagation!! ;>))
Christine said…
Wow, that downed tree certainly didn't slow you down! It must have been such a thrill to see the sprouts of dicentra. And the greenhouse is coming along swimmingly! What's the plan with all these new plants?
janie said…
Peat is a wonderful ingredient in any medium for propagating cuttings. It is also good for starting seeds. It has no pathogens, and seedlings will not damp off in peat. It holds moisture well, but drains well too. I always use at least some peat. Usually I use it 50/50 with perlite.

If you are cutting roses, have you ever tried using 'soil conditioner' as a rooting medium? I like to use this stuff, as it has a loose consistancy, and allows for air in the medium. It is a good medium for roses.

Can you root that oak tree? I have never rooted an oak tree. Grown one from an acorn, not rooted one, tho. Keep us advised as to your progress.

Good post!
Country Mouse said…
I've got no idea if you can root oaks - I just thought I'd give it a go. I did also plant six acorns, so we'll see if any of that works. This afternoon I also set cuttings of toyon, ribes, and hazelnut, all locally indigenous. I'm pretty excited about the ribes - probably R. malveceum, chaparral currant, but I'm not sure. I thought it was dead, and there are no more on the property. That is one I'd love to bring back. And I set some more healthy ceanothus. And I finally planted the two Garrya elliptica I bought at the CNPS sale in October! In the north "bowl" area.

I plan to use these propagated plants locally (if I'm lucky and get some actual plants from my efforts). I have a large north-facing valley area to restore. And I have neighbors who would enjoy these natives too.

Good to hear you use peat too, Janie. I was using a third each of peat, perlite and vermiculite, then read that advice to not use peat at all. I think you can add or drop the peat component depending on where the native plant likes to grow. I put more for woodland, less for chaparral.
Anonymous said…
Great post on propagating, how exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing your results. The greenhouse looks great.
We have some Ceanothus thyrsiflorus on our property here too, and it seems to volunteer quite freely. However, we've noticed a number of ours, especially the newer plants, have been rather unthrifty. They are also (one of hundreds) of host plants for Sudden Oak Death, and I have wondered if perhaps some of our Ceanothus are infected here, and if so, if they themselves are more sensitive than some of our other natives here. Good luck though, I hope yours root! You're making fantastic progress on the greenhouse too...I'm very jealous!
Brad said…
I'm impressed with all of your propagating. I've only tried to grow 2 things from cuttings, one worked and one didn't. The dogwood cutting I took didn't, but you'll be glad to know the Ribes malvaceum did. The one from my last post I grew from a cutting and it has been very happy.
You seem to be making lots of progress in your luck (I'd say skill) in making cuttings come to life. I'd think your new greenhouse will give you even more chances at success. One thing I keep putting off is to see if gentle bottom heat will encourage rooting--I keep reading that it does but have never tried it.
Country Mouse said…
I was thinking about skill as I was doing these cuttings. It's not such a raw experience as it was the first time or two, and I know the basic requirements now. So I'd classify myself as a pending novice at this point. This'll be really only the third go at cuttings I've tried, plus CNPS propagation sessions, which are a great learning. I'm sure I'll get better if I keep it up. You have to learn from mistakes. I do find it absorbing, so far, magical, coaxing plants into life like blowing on little flames.
Oh, I'm so jealous that you are building a greenhouse! I want one so bad. Maybe next year.

Your propagation work sounds like a lot of fun. Hope you have a lot of room for your babies once they get big.