Camellias are beautiful plants that look great in most gardens. Unfortunately they can be quite expensive and since there are a lot of different species it's hard to get the exact one you want. Thankfully it's relatively easy to propagate them using cuttings, making sure you get the same exact species cheaply.
(the farm's collection includes several varieties of japonica, sasanqua, sinensis (tea plant), and reticulata, see them all on our flickr)
This weekend we went on an expedition to a nearby family garden to get cuttings of some interesting camellias. We cut some small branches and set out to create cuttings to plant. First we cut the branches at nodes since that is where it's easiest for the plant to create new roots. Then we trimmed the cuttings to a reasonable size and trimmed the leaves so the plant has less to sustain. Any small branch can produce several cuttings.
Once we had our cuttings prepared we used a rooting hormone
to increase the chances that the cuttings will grow roots and turn into a viable plant. To do this first we wet the cuttings in running water and then gently tapped the nodes into the hormone powder. We then tapped the nodes against the container to remove excess power. We did this one by one while being very careful not to spill the hormone as it's supposed to be quite toxic if inhaled.
Once we had our cuttings ready with the hormone we needed to plant them in an appropriate soil. We usually use a seed starting mix
to make sure we have a sterile soil that won't immediately be overrun by weeds. We also use a plant cell tray
to plant each cutting individually so that once we have viable plants it's easy to split them up and plant them in their own individual pots. After filling the plant tray with pre-watered starting mix we used an old large nail to open the wholes to put the cuttings in. This avoids scraping the rooting hormone all over the dirt while pushing it in, making sure the hormone is where it should be, in the cutting's node.
With the holes all opened it was a simple matter of putting the cuttings in and then pushing the dirt down so that the cutting is held on snugly.
Once we filled the whole tray it was time to clearly label them
and then figure out where to put them so that they are regularly watered.
These were actually put in our outdoor nursery. It's a shaded area to protect plants from the summer heat and it has an automatic irrigation system that sprays the whole plant area twice a day to make sure everything is well watered.
Our success rate in the past has not been particularly good but since we are planting a whole tray of at most two species we will eventually get at least a few of each to survive. Once we have gotten survivors it will be time to transplant them into a larger pot still in the nursery until they are strong enough to be planted directly in the soil. We will do another post when it's time to transplant these ones.