Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tis' Hunting Season

     I always look forward to the end of June and early July. Yes, it is hot as Hades here in Charleston, but it is also the start of hunting season. I don't need a gun, bow and arrow, or any other kind of weapon. My prey actually stands there and waits for me to come get it. I don't even have to worry about a messy cleanup after I find my target. No, it is not an animal I am hunting, it is Camellia Scion rooting season!
     Every year for the past 4 or 5 years, I have gone on an expedition in search of Camellias that I do not currently have in my collection, which is currently at 226. I know of a place that is prime hunting grounds and has hundreds of Camellias, some being planted as far back as the 1950's, possibly earlier.
It is a quite place and I love visiting it every year.
Want to see it?

Doesn't that look peaceful?
     Believe it or not, you are actually looking at some Camellias. I know what you are thinking, Camellias are shrubs, not trees.

Actually, as evidenced by this picture, they are small trees. Many of these have been planted for many, many years. 
     So, every year I trek into these peaceful surroundings, get my prey and bring it home to be processed. Yes, this type of hunting you have to process what you hunt too, it is just much neater.
     The trophies will look like this.

     You will want to take cuttings that are about 6-8 inches long, from healthy looking plants. The stem should be about 80% hardened off. Basically you can bend it, but it does not snap and has just starting turning brown. Tip cuttings are best, with buds at the base of most of the leaves. As you cut them, make SURE you write the name of the Camellia on the back of one of the leaves. A black sharpie permanent marker works best. You will NEVER be able to know which one is what, until they flower, if you don't mark them. Even then, it may not be as easy to ID as you think. If you carry them in a large Ziploc bag, with a few drops of water in there, it will keep the cuttings fresher. You will also want to do this in the morning, but is not an absolute necessity.
     So, you got your prey home. Ideally, you will already have the potting medium and propagation area ready. Pots, tags, water, soil, and pruners/scissors are all handy to have. After I get the cuttings home, I fill a bucket with a fungicide solution and let them soak, while I am prepping the others. 
     I start by having a small pot full of rooting medium which consists of 50% mesh pine bark mulch and 50% perlite. You can also use a 75% pine bark and 25% course builders sand. I then poke a hole in the center and place a label/tag in the pot so I know what it is. Trust me, even if you only stick ONE Camellia, you will forget what it is. Then I take one of the cuttings and make a 3-4 inch cutting of it, basically in half, so I now have two. Take all of the leaves off, except the top two, cut those two in half. Your cutting should now look like this.

Next, you will want to shave a small part of the bark off at the bottom, and cut the bottom at a slight angle.

This will allow more surface to be exposed and for the roots to come out.  Root hormone would be the next step. I prefer RootGel by Dyna-Grow, which you can find by clicking on the link at Amazon.

I prefer the gel over powder and even liquid, because it sticks to the cutting better than the liquid and does not have any drying properties of powder. Stick the cutting in the small hole you made, pack it in and water.
     The final product will look like this.

Now what?
Put the cuttings in a very high humidity environment. Keep the rooting bed in a shaded, wind protected area with good light intensity. Here is what I use. 

I keep the lights on a timer, they burn on and off for about 16 hours. The only moisture is the little bit that I put in when I watered the cutting in. Then, if they do happen to look a little dry, I will give it a few mists of water. You can also do this outdoors, I just prefer indoors because it is easier to control light and humidity and temperature.
     Under ideal, perfect conditions, rooting should take place in 1-1/2 to 2 months for most cultivars. Some may take longer, especially if your temperature is way above, or below, 70 degrees. See why I like doing mine inside?  A rooted cutting should start to bloom in one to two years, dependent upon the particular cultivar, and how good your horticultural practices are. 
     Does this seem like a lot of work? Yes, to some degree. However, the reasons you would want to do something like this are:
1) It is a heck of a lot cheaper to start your own plants than to buy them.
2) If you have a good source, you can find many more cultivars than are usually on the market.
3) The satisfaction of just doing it!
Besides, there is ALWAYS room for one more plant! Just look

See that spot over there by the green garden hose? LOTS of room! LOL     
     I hope you decide to try this very easy way to propagate Camellias. Even if you don't want to have a huge collection, but have a favorite one, you can multiply that one.....or sell them!!
I am always up for some Camellia cutting swapping, just touch base with me and we will see what we can work out. 
     As always, if you have any questions about this, or any of my other articles, please feel free to e-mail me at And don't forget to follow me on Facebook  

Happy Growing!