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Friday - November 30, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Transplants
Title: Propagating yaupons (Ilex vomitoria)
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Dear Mr. Smarty, I enjoy your weekly tips printed in the Austin Statesman. We live in the Texas hill country where the soil is essentially rock. One of the nice benefits of our yard and the area are the native yaupon hollies. The yaupons throw off a lot of sprouts, but rarely where we would like them. Is there an easy way to transplant these sprouts or start some young seedlings? It is very difficult to dig them up in the rocky soil. We would really like to establish a few shrub barriers using local plants without going to the garden store. Thanks.


Jill Nokes in How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (University of Texas Press, 2001) gives three possible ways to propagate the native hollies—Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) and Ilex decidua (possumhaw)—by seeds, by cuttings, or by transplantation. Her instructions for germinating from seed warn that germination for the hollies can be slow. One recommendation is to plant the seeds outside as soon as the ripe berries are collected. This exposes them first the warmer days of fall and then the colder days of winter to accomplish germination. You could plant them in pots outdoors and then transfer to the ground once they have germinated. Alternatively, the seeds can benefit from being stratified at 68-86° F. for 30-60 days and then 60-90 days of cold (41° F) moist storage before being planted under 1/4-1/2 inch of soil. Since the seed coats tend to be hard, soaking in concentrated sulfuric acid for a short time (an activity best carried out under a fumehood) should make the coats more permeable to water and easier to germinate. Nicking the seed coats is another way to make them more permeable.

Success in rooting from cuttings for I. vomitoria has been somewhat inconsistent, but she reports 50% success using "semihardwood cuttings taken in late fall and treated with 3,000 ppm IBA solution". (Note: IBA is indole-butyric acid and should be available at most nurseries.) She reports that I. decidua is difficult to root from cuttings.  One advantage for propagating from cuttings is that you can choose a female yaupon (the ones with the red berries) to propagate and be assured that you are going to have more trees with red berries.

Transplantation of wild stock in the winter is generally quite successful. That does mean digging and that is something you said you wanted to avoid. However, soaking the soil around the plants you want to dig up and also in the transplant area makes the job easier. Be sure to get as much of the root system as possible.

You can read more details about propagating the hollies in her book that should be available in your local library and at most bookstores.


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