The Q&A Archives: camellias

Question: How do you root camellias? I have a friend who wants me to root from my camellia. Thanks. Barbara

Answer: One of the most common methods of propagating a camellia is by rooting cuttings. It is not the quickest method, but it is the easiest and least expensive method to reproduce plants. Most nurseries us this method exclusively. One advantage in growing cuttings is that the resulting plants will be exact duplicates of the original plant. However, if the cutting is taken from a branch that flowers a mutation (sport) of the original cultivar, the cutting will usually be a reproduction of the sport but may be the original plant.

Not all camellias root readily from cuttings, but with good facilities, bottom heat, intermittent mist, and rooting hormones almost any camellia cutting can be rooted successfully.

Cuttings of new growth are the easiest to root. They should be taken soon after the tender growth matures and hardens (May - August). The cut should preferably be made around the fifth node (the node is the tiny bud-like growth at the base of the leaf junction with the stem). Cuttings of this length are long enough to remove the lower leaves, leaving eyes from which roots will develop in addition to those at the cut end. A tapering cut should be made at the base of the cutting. This allows more surface for roots to develop. To reduce dehydration, the leaves left on the cutting may trimmed back one-half.

A media of one-half sand and one-half peat has been proved successful. Also used are vermiculite and perlite. The medium should drain well but not dry out too quickly. Any box, pot, or container, or bed at least 4-6 inches deep that provides good drainage is suitable for the medium. Although not necessary, a rooting hormone may speed up rooting if applied to cuttings before inserting into the medium.

Cuttings should be placed in rooting media about 2 inches apart and 2-3 inches deep. A covering of glass or plastic over the pot will help to retain moisture. Cuttings should be kept moist, but not wet at all times. When cuttings are well rooted, usually mid-to-late winter, transfer them to pots or plant in a protected bed. A small number of cuttings may be rooted in a pot of sand covered with a milk jug or soft drink bottle with bottom removed.

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