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Growing natives from cuttings

By Ben Sims
18 August, 2020

Alogyne huegelii - West Coast hibiscus.JPG

What is asexual reproduction(cloning)? Where do I start ? How do I start? What species are good for beginners? Which species should I try once I have had success with the easier ones. 

Firstly, from a biological point of view you are taking a piece of plant material and what you are trying to do is reproduce it by cloning (asexual reproduction). There is a hormone that is produced in the growing tips called auxin and it is naturally produced in the plant. When you cut the tip of the plant, the plant will naturally send auxin down to the cut area/base and this hormone will help to produce new roots. The natural hormone can break down in light easily however and is not good once isolated and put in a jar (not to mention the expense). There are now synthetically produced auxins that are light stable and store for a long time and these are a must have when producing cuttings as dipping cuttings in an auxin solution will greatly help the cuttings success rate. Buying plant hormones might sound expensive but if you don’t then you will be wasting allot of time and plant material and losing confidence which is something you need to have especially at the beginning. Apart from using hormones the main barries to success include water loss and creating a warm humid environment around the cutting as the main reason the cutting will fail is due to the environment either being too hot or too cold and too dry. 

Make sure you have a sterilised pot ready and some good quality potting mix. I love Baileys premium as it can be used for a range of different purposes including cuttings. Choose some juvenile cutting material and choose this from the newer shoots/branches. Once you take your cutting which should be about 150- 200mm long cut it at the bottom and the top just above the nodes which are the growing points where the leaves come out. Then dip the cuttings in the Auxin solution. Finally find 3 pieces of thin stakes that are higher than the cuttings. Place them evenly around the pot as the stakes need to be a few inches higher than the cuttings. The stakes will hold the plastic bag above the cuttings. Then all you need to do is water the potting mix and place your plastic bag over the top of the pot(which includes cuttings and stakes) and “tuck” it under the pot because you don’t want it blowing off in the wind and adding to the plastic pollution in the environment. I can say for certain that the tucking under pot method works 100% as I’ve tested it through many of Perth’s winter storms which get very windy and I only lost 1 bag(whoops, I did go and get it) because it wasn’t tucked under properly but now I make sure they are. The weight of the pot is more than enough to hold the bags in place even during storms.  

Which native’s species are a good place to start? Well according to native propagating experts that I have talked to the best species to start with are Eremophilas. They are quite easy to propagate and you can even propagate them without auxin (though let use auxin and not waste time and plant material). They are so easy to propagate that you can even produce a grafted plant on a cutting that does not even have roots yet!!!  They are from the Figwort family or Scrophulariaceae. The Eremophila are from a genus of plants that are naturally found in all states of Australia except Tasmania believe it or not. Eremophilas are known as lovers of lonely places and these lonely places can be extremely hot and dry and even freezing cold at night because they are in the middle of nowhere in the dessert throughout Australia. They are not all antisocial in their distribution as Eremophila glabra is found in the Perth metropolitan area and along coastal areas. 

If you do not have access to Eremophila then other easy to propagate plants are plants from the Goodeniaceae family like Scaevolas as many of these will propagate from leaf cuttings. 

Feel free to try more difficult species (Silver Princess - Eucalyptus caesia from stump regrowth) as the idea of horticulture is to experiment and push the limits and try things that have not been done. Remember this is one area where you are the boss and you can try things that you want!!!

A resource that I will always use is a fantastic book by the well-known TV native gardener Angus Stewart called “Let’s Propagate”. The information contained in this book is fantastic and if there is anything technical you do not understand please send me an email and I will help you understand. If you skimmed through the book and read what you can understand you would have a much better understanding for starting cuttings and if you followed the basic principals and chose easy to propagate plants you will have free plants at your disposal.