Now is the Time for all Good Gardeners to take Cuttings of Chaparral Plants

Yes, winter is when chaparral plants typically wake up and send oodles hormones to their nodes! Those hormones will make leaves and flowers grow - or roots if the node is underground. It also helps to apply a little Rootone, Hormex or other such hormone to the cut end too.

BTW this post follows on from a more comprehensive post on cuttings — A Lot of Propagation Tips from a Pro post.

At our recent CNPS plant propagation session, I learned that the best cutting material has "stacked nodes," that is, the nodes (the places leaves grow out from) are rather close together. When the stem between the nodes is longer, the plant is getting ready to produce a flower at that node, which is not where you want it to put its energy. We want roots! And leaves!

Also  short cuttings with little space between the nodes make bushier and more compact plants.

 If you want to get started in a small way, you can stick a few cuttings in a pot with a plastic bag over it (leaving headroom) and keep it maybe in the bathroom or garage. You can just try potting mix, but adding a lot of perlite is really a good idea - lean mixtures are best for cuttings. You can buy small bags of perlite at a nursery and mix maybe three to one with potting mix.

So after a busy CNPS propagation session where the group took cuttings of more than 20 species...

I came home and made a couple of flats of cuttings of my own. In one flat, mostly our local wild manzanita, with a row of local wild toyon ...

In the other flat, quite a few native sage cuttings, from nursery stock...

and also for the heck of it, little seaside daisy, creeping snowberry, and rosa (not chaparral plants).

Chaparral plant cuttings don't like to be misted. I'm not sure what the ideal moisture is in the planting medium. I aim for damp but not soggy. Don't let them dry out or get too hot. Keep them out of drafts and rain.

I still don't have an ideal set up for cuttings. One flat is in the mini-greenhouse, along with two other flats I took a month or so ago, some of which are still actually alive. It's set up in the shade house area. I open and close the flaps depending how humid and warm I think it is in that area.

The other flat is in the greenhouse, which has shade cloth on the windows right now because it's been so sunny! The misting system is currently offline — that's another rather boring story about valve malfunctioning. I used the misting system pole to hold up some plastic I roughly wrapped around the flat, it to keep the cuttings from drying out. It's not air tight - there is a gap on the other side that you can't see. I'm always second guessing myself. Maybe this is not needed at all. I'm a worry-wort.

So - this is my current effort - I hope you are inspired to go out and take some cuttings of your own.


Rena said…
Thanks for the reminder! I read this with great interest because there is a hardy Allen Chickering sagebrush that I'd love to propagate.
I wonder if you have any thoughts about ticks and manzanita? I was watching an old Survivorman rerun on the Sci channel last night, and the host claimed that ticks love to hang around on manzanitas. I'd like to grow one in the rocky inhospitable spot between a couple of driveways, but I don't want to encourage ticks.
Ed Morrow said…
Your photos are a good example of a picture being worth a thousand words. Now I've got a case of propagation envy.

A couple of questions.

Do you use bottom heat under the propagation trays? I'm beginning to wonder if bottom heat is necessary. Maybe just be a bit more patience.

A more technical question. In your misting set up, do you use garden variety sprinkler valves? Some valves specify a minimum flow rate in order to work. In a misting application the flow rates are pretty low. Does this cause a problem for you?

Ed Morrow
Carmel Valley,CA
Country Mouse said…
Rena - I have never heard of a link between ticks and manzanita - manzanita is such a widely grown garden shrub, I think I'd have heard of it. They love to hang around in all sorts of things - the tips of grasses along a trail, for example!

Ed - I've tried heat off and on and have not yet mastered the technique. I do have a bottom warming gizmo, and will let you know if I have any success. Different species respond differently to bottom heat, I know - can't recall the specifics off hand. As far as the misting system, no - it has specialized parts - I did a detailed post on it here: (you can also just google "town mouse and country ouse automated misting" to get there)

The more I've learned about natives - the less I think misting is an issue. It certainly does help to automate the watering of seedlings. Cuttings - well, that's another thing. Many of our natives are harmed by misting - they have sclerotic leaves - they get fungus if too moist, and so on. Riparian species probably benefit. More important I think is keeping the environment at a consistent temperature and avoiding desiccating winds and destructive rains - and not letting them dry out.