Saturday, August 10, 2013

Take Root

Today's article is going to be a little off the beaten path for me. I don't usually recommend products here, other than some of the stuff put out by Espoma (i.e. Citrus Tone and Holly Tone), but I have come across a company and, so far, these couple of things that I will talk about, are showing some good promise.
As you all know, I like to experiment with growing different and unusual plants. Finding different, easy, cheap ways to grow them or propagate them. Things that the average poor homeowner might be able to pull off.
Camellias have become, for lack of better wording, an obsession. I am a competitive person and love to see how I stack up against other people and their ways of growing things. However, Camellia plants are VERY expensive to just go out and buy. If you have friends that grow them or maybe a nursery that you are in good with, today, I will show you an easy way to multiply your collection.
I will start with the basics.
The best time to root Camellia cuttings is Summer. The wood should be semi-ripe. Not hard and woody and not green and very pliable, a kind of in between.
To root the Camellias, or any other type of plant for that matter, you basically need a pot or container, a medium in which to stick the cutting into, light, humidity and of course, the cutting.
I have created a humidity chamber out of rubbermaid type containers. They look like this:

The thing with the tube going into the first picture is a reptile fogger. As you can see, I have three different container experiments going on here. Two large and one smaller. One of the large ones has the fogger going into it. The idea of the fogger is to provide humidity. I run it for 30 minutes, then off for 30 minutes while the lights are on. The lights are on for 18 hours and everything is on timer switches. You only want bright indirect light. Don't put the light directly on the plants, it will just fry them.
When the fogger is on it looks like this inside:

The temperature stays between 70 and 85 degrees.
Okay, that takes care of the light, warmth and humidity.
I use a 50/50 mix of fine pine bark and perlite as my soil medium. It is well draining, light, yet holds some moisture.
This is where the products I was telling you about come into play.
I take a Camellia cutting, about 6 inches long, cut all but the top two leaves off. I then cut those two leaves in half to help retain moisture. I scrape a little of the bark off at the cut end and dip it into Dyna-Gro Root Gel.
It looks like this:

I think there was a horror movie made with stuff that looked like this. LOL
Also possibly a Ghostbuster was hit with it.
I have used all kinds of rooting products before and got so-so results. This is so much easier to use. The theory behind the gel is it seals the cutting and functions as an artificial root system until the cutting develops its own roots.
You will want to have your pot filled with your medium of choice and, using a pencil, poke a hole into the center of the medium so you don't scrape the gel off.
The stem will look like this:

And the final product will look like this:

Always make sure you tag your cuttings, preferably with the botanical name of the plant, but at least the common name. I promise you, even if you stick only one cutting, you WILL forget the name of it. I like to put the date that they were stuck too. That gives me a better idea of when they might be ready to start checking for roots.
Usually I start checking 6-8 weeks after I stick them.
I mentioned that there where a couple of products I wanted to discuss. While the Root Gel seems to be working exactly as planned, Dyna-Gro has a couple of other things as added insurance to your success.
For all intents and purposes, I am using a mist system to propagate my Camellias. So, I am also using K-L-N Rooting Concentrate and Pro-Tekt Concentrate.
The directions are: Mix 1/2 teaspoon K-L-N and 1 teaspoon Pro-Tekt per gallon of water and add to the systems holding tank. Keep the cuttings moist. I have had to modify this slightly. I made the mixture and using a spray bottle, I spray the cuttings by hand a couple of times a day.
The K-L-N rooting concentrate is pretty self explanatory. It is just a little more of a kick to get roots to form.
The Pro-Tekt Concentrate I actually find fascinating. Reading directly off the bottle, "contains potassium and 7.8% silicon to reduce stress caused by heat, cold, drought, insects and disease".
This stuff is not just for rooting cuttings either. It has directions for maintaining your plants and hydroponic production. It can be applied with your irrigation and/or as a foliar spray.
This is what my cuttings look like after a month:

Not great pictures I know, but trust me when I tell you they look good. Like I said, I have tried other rooting agents and after a month I was losing them quickly. The leaves would start falling off and they would just up and die. These are not.
I am not one for pushing products just willy nilly. If I mention something here on my blog, I have actually used it and like what I see.
So far, I like the results.
If you would like to contact Dyna-Gro yourself and ask them any questions, their website is HERE
Or you can call 800-Dyna-Gro
Just as a side note, I have some WONDERFUL friends that have allowed me to come into their yard and take some cuttings or have sent me cuttings from their yard in other states. I also want to thank a local nursery that has basically a forest of old Camellias, some more than 50 years old, that allowed me to come acquire some cuttings. You ALL are great!!
As always, if you have any questions for me, I am only an E-mail away:
Happy Growing!


  1. Darren,

    I found this very informative. Thank you!

    As you know, I am not the 'garden person' of the house, so I apologize up front if this is a stupid question... I have seen the 'garden person' of my house grow roots on cuttings by sticking them in a vase of water. Does that only work with vines?


    1. Hey Alice,
      No such thing as stupid question.
      There are many things that can and will root by sticking them in a vase of water. I actually, by accident, rooted an Ornamental Flowering Pomegranate that way. Long story short, it was brought to me to ID and she had it in a vase of water. I told her what it was and left it to sit on a table for a LONG time, having every intention of getting rid of it, I had forgotten about it. When I did finally remember and went to chuck it, roots had formed.
      I don't recommend this method because the roots that are being formed do not always do well in soil after being in water for so long. Yes, there will be people that argue this point and prove that it can be done, and it can. Success rate is a little lower however and there are things that will just rot in the water. Best advice, if you have the extra cuttings, try both methods, water and soil, and see what works best for you.

  2. The humidity chambers are vital for enhancing the humidity level in air. You can say good bye to a number of diseases as you use the humidity control chambers.

  3. Hi Darren, I appreciate this post and the photos! I am interested in propagating camellias, too. What was the result of your experiment? (I couldn't find any follow-up on your blog.) Did any of your cuttings take root? In which container(s)? Also, what is the purpose of the wire in the second-to-last photo? Looks like it has some kind of probe at the end... maybe temperature? How often do you have to add water to the fogger? I looked them up and they run around $50+. Was it worth the investment do you think?
    Carol in Jacksonville

    1. Hey Carol,
      Yes, I guess I need to do an update.
      I got pretty good results from all of the containers, especially the fogger one.
      Yes, the probe was for temperature, I just wanted to see what kind of temps it got to be in there.
      I added water about once a day to every other day.
      As for it being worth the investment, let me run a few numbers and facts by you.
      Essentially, you are creating a one gallon plant. (give or take)
      If the cost of each of those plants in a store is $5 and you get 10 to take, there is the cost of the fogger. If you get more to take, even better.
      The cost of the scions, if you have friends to swap with or will allow you to take cuttings is basically free.
      If those same friends have plants that are not easily obtainable in the market, you are ahead there.
      So, to answer your question, I would say yes, it is worth it. Especially if you want to be competetive and create a large collection as cheaply as possible.

    2. P.S. If you have camellias already, let me know what you have, we might just have to do some swapping!