Propagation - potting on seedlings and cuttings, update on other propagation efforts

Disclaimer: As always I have to preface propagation posts with this disclaimer: I'm muddling along, learning as I go. In fact I just realized I used twice as much Osmocote as recommended for native plants potting mix (by the propagator at Yerba Buena nursery). But I hope my experiences are useful for other beginning propagators, and I hope experienced folk can comment and trimtab the info as it were.

So. Tae oor tale.

A few weeks ago, actually June 20th (sometimes I do update my garden journal and I never regret it), I had two trays holding 3 inch pots of successfully sprouted toyons, Heteromeles arbutifolia, from local seed. They looked to be getting pretty big and I began worrying about when to pot them on. So I potted on about half of them, mostly the bigger stronger ones. Now, compared to their 3 inch pot peers, you can see in the photo above that they are indeed bigger. Their stems are more sturdy too.

I had asked about when to pot on from small pots to gallon pots at the last CNPS propagation session. Denise (the professional nursery manager who guides our activities) said that the plants can stay in their little pots for much longer than I was thinking they could.

But still, you can see a big difference in the toyons that were potted on.

Also I have been nurturing along my first successes at propagating from cuttings (a very few out of a large starting field I should say). I have a few of our local manzanita, which is brittle leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos tomentosa ssp. crustacea, and some of our local coffeeberry, Rhamnus californica. Also some Dutchman's pipevine, Aristolochia californica, that I took cuttings from when pruning.

At the time I potted on the toyon seedlings, I also potted on one coffeeberry, but I was a bit dubious. I thought its roots weren't really ready, but I went ahead. It survives and is doing OK, but not markedly better than those in the small pots.

Ever the anxious gardener, I thought I should pot the rest of the cuttings on too. I'm always worried they want to send down deep roots and are confined in the little pots. But why didn't I listen to Denise and just leave them alone? I don't know. Maybe it was just because I had carved out two hours for the job and wanted to get it done.

Interestingly pretty much only the Dutchman's pipevine cuttings in the middle of the tray took - one can only surmise the pots stayed wetter longer and also deeper in the pot than those around the perimiter, and maybe also warmer.

I've been keeping these cuttings on a shady deck on the north side of the house till the roots got going, which I guessed was happening, based on the increased growth of the leaves, and the odd peek at the roots by tipping them out.

I've been giving them a bit more sun of late, but am leery of overdoing it as I have killed cuttings that way.

But they are getting tall.

And when I unpotted this one, I could see roots coiling at the bottom. So maybe they didn't fill the pot, but they were long. So they want to be in a bigger pot. That's my theory anyway.

(Picture is a bit blurred, but there is a circle of roots in the middle of the bottom.)

So, like getting ready to making a big cake, I assembled a batch of potting mix:

9 gals peat, 10 gals vermiculite, and 10 gals perlite, and some osmocote. Here's the correct measurement for osmocote: 1 teaspoon for 2 gallons. (Based on expert advice.)

Unfortunately I read this later, and these guys got a very rich mix - half the amount used for regular plants, instead of about 1/4 the amount.

I don't know, I'm worried. Should I take them all out and repot them in a diluted mix or just wait and see how they do? Do you get the impression I'm in the middle of an anxiety attack perhaps?

Key point from expert: Denise mentioned this at the last propagation session when we were potting on some cuttings: Don't bury cuttings deeper than they already were in the prior medium. The stems may rot if you do so.

So here is a gallery beginning with the just potted babies, and going on to a review of the others in the propagation area that are farther along.

More of the just-potted babies, Dutchman's pipevine in the foreground:

Below, two lupines - on left, silver bush lupine from The Cutting That Would Not Die, and on right, a mystery lupine from seed - gathered a couple miles away. It was supposed to sprout last year but surprise surprise!, this year one seed from the tray took off.

These are tall iris from local seed. I also have some that look a bit different and I don't know if they are less developed or a different sort. I think these are Iris fernaldii.

Here's some of the shorter iris:

Next, some lovely melic grass, melica torreyana, from seeds on our property, and themselves seeding away, with the shorter iris behind, and the Holodiscus discolor, seafoam, from cuttings, in front. The melic grass that's growing wild is all dried up. Now I'm thinking about maybe irrigating the bank where they grow just a bit in summer and really getting them going as a garden feature. The bank is on our driveway.

The tall iris, and the rampant hairy honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula.

And the volunteer elderberry. I was going to put this by my dad's cottage, but we just had our septic tank pumped out last week and it seems that location would be too close to the leach field. If one hair root gets in through the perforations of the drain field piping, it could totally clog up the pipe. Said the expert, the enthusiastic small business owner who did the work.

I can't wait for fall to plant all these out! Though I'm worried too because my babies will get chomped, more than likely.

So I hope some commenters may proffer advice for this anxiety ridden propagator, and I hope that I'll learn and get better at this as time goes by.


Christine said…
Wow, I'm so impressed and excited by all the progress you've made and to see how far you've come. As for the anxiety, I find that one of my encompassing hobbies is to worry about this plant or that- I think it's part of the process. Either way you'll learn something.
Native plants always have longer roots (even as seedlings) and do like longer pots, but they make do. What are those black bendy things you use as arches, so protect the plants?
Country Mouse said…
Thanks for the encouragement, Christine.
Monica, I used old drip irrigation tubing, tied onto flats by twisty ties, and covered in plastic, to get the cuttings to root. I just left the tubing on so I could reuse the tray again. It's an OK method, just a bit awkward to untuck the plastic and spray as needed. But better than the alternative, which was no covering and dried out cuttings! Thanks for stopping by.
Wowie! You're amazing!

I'm in awe of all you've accomplished!
Amazing progress! You'll encourage me to do more propagating, even though most likely it'd probably be for a chapter plant sale rather than for since I end up with far more plants than spaces to place them. Thanks for the Osmocote information. I've been trying to reconcile statements like "native plants don't like fertilizer" with the reality that I see Osmocote in potting mixes from more than one native plant nursery. My guess is you won't be hurting the new plants with your "overdose," and at worst the plants will be expecting a cushier time than they'll find in the real world when they get planted in the ground.
Frances said…
Thanks so much for showing this! Even though our climate is much different, I believe the potting mixture would be the same. We have had terrible results with cuttings of all types, but maybe knowledge is power! :-)
This is really a great post, especially for me at this time. I have this new garden plan for the front and I really can't afford to buy all the plants I need for the new installation. So the information you are telling me about how to propagate plants will be very useful. I have a lot of native plants that have seedlings living under them, and I will probably be transplanting them in the spring. I'm wondering if I ought to dig them up this fall and put them into pots. I'll bet that come spring they will probably be happier when I set them out.
Terry said…
Wow. Great sucess. How can I find out more about the CNPS propigation classes?