Camellia Propagation: Secrets of Rooting Cuttings
By Ray Bond
At Bond Nursery Corp., we have spent a lot of time and money on research and development, particularly in the area of camellia propagation, i.e., rooting cuttings. We have had outstanding success and our loss rate is now less than 4%. Many have asked what our "secrets" are and we have been hesitant to divulge information until we have had time to test and check sufficiently to give us confidence in our process.
Cutting PreparationIn our area, late July through August, when new growth is more than 80% hardened off, is probably the best time to start rooting cuttings. The "sticking" process should be completed by mid October. After that, climate, local conditions and plant pathology begin to decelerate the rooting process rapidly. We are located in East Texas, so our rooting season may be longer than those at higher latitudes.
The ideal cutting has two or three leaves and as many growth buds. Tip cuttings do very well. Three or four inches long is sufficient; can be shorter or longer, if that is what you need to get roots. Slice the butt end of the cutting on an angle and/or scratch a line through the bark and cambium to the white pulp along one side of the cutting. Begin about an inch above the lower end and continue to the cut. Treat the cutting in fungicide.
Rooting MediumWe use 80% crushed, aged 2 to 3 years, f" mesh pine bark mulch and 20% clean, sharp, coarse sand as a soil medium. To this we add perlite in quantity to add 25% to 40% more volume. This mixture is doped with dolomitic limestone to a pH of 6. Put this soil medium in a well-drained tray or small container (rose liners are very good) to prevent root tangling between plants. We root in IOx20, 36 cell trays for camellias with small leaves (such as C. sasanquas) and 24 cell trays for camellias with large leaves.
Root StimulantWe mix our own root stimulating solution. We use a solution approximating .5% IBA mixed with .25% NAA in de-ionized water. We buy the IBA and NAA in powder form from Research Organics Corp. in Cleveland, OH.
Next, we add Celluwet, a water-thickening additive. Celll/wet is a product of Griffin Laboratories, Valdosta, GA and is available at ACS. We use it to thicken the IBA-NAA solution so that it will adhere to the stem of the cutting and not be dissipated after the cutting is placed in the rooting medium.
We mix to a viscosity approximating that of 5W to lOW motor oil.
Sticking and EnvironmentNext, we dip the butt end of the cutting in rooting solution and stick it in the moist medium to a depth of about one-inch. This medium is in the trays mentioned above. After placing cuttings in this medium, we place the trays in a mist bed, applying 5 to 10 seconds of mist every 8 to 10 minutes. Jf you cannot do that, put the cuttings in a very high humidity environment. Keep the rooting bed in a shaded, wind protected area with good light intensity.
ln winter, try to keep the root area warm. Preferred rooting temperature is 65F to 75F. Whatever technique you use, do not Jet the cuttings become dry, nor let them puddle. Keep the cuttings and the medium moist.
RootingUnder optimum conditions, rooting should take place in 1-1/2 to 2 months for most cultivars. Cuttings should be ready for planting in six to eight months. If it takes longer for rooting to occur it could be due to one of three things:
(1) The cutting has formed a large callus ("popcorn") which may delay rooting. Leave the cuttings in the bed;
they will root. Some cultivars must go through this process before they will root.
(2) Some camellia varieties root more readily than others do. The slower ones may take a long time.
(3) Temperature. Above or below the optimum temperature, 70F, the roots take proportionately longer to form.