En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
4 ratings

Wednesday - October 08, 2008

From: Wimberley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Propagation of Texas madrone (Arbutus xalapensis)
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have seeds from a madrone tree and would like to know if you have had success propagating a madrone and if so, could you give me some tips, because I hear it can be tricky.


You are right that propagating Arbutus xalapensis (Texas madrone) is a tricky business—not wishing to sound discouraging, but the US Forest Service says:

"Plants can also be grown from seed, although light and soil moisture requirements are exacting....After more than 10 years of experimentation, only 2 of 10,000 seeds planted in carefully controlled greenhouse conditions actually germinated and became established."

The references for their statements, however, are more than 30 years old and Jill Nokes in "How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest" is much more encouraging if your seeds have recently been collected.  She says that seeds lose their ability to germinate from about 80% just after collection to only 40% after six months of dry cold storage and down to only 4% after 30 months.  She recommends 30 days of cold stratification prior to sowing the seeds.  Here is a quote from her book:

"Plant Madrone seedlings no deeper than 1/4 inch in well-drained media such as perlite or vermiculite.  Germination is usually complete within 4 weeks.   Seedlings are extremely sensitive to water stress levels and also damping-off fungus.  They must be kept very damp at the initial establishment and early growth stages.  As the seedling grows, gradually lessen the watering to prevent damping off.  Avoid overhead watering of young seedlings.  In one report, seedlings survived best when a half-strength solution of a fungicide was applied with every watering until the seedling had three or four true leaves.  In addition to the fungicide, the seedlings were fertilized at every watering with a 15-16-17 soluble fertilizer (220 ppm nitrogen) until they were planted in the landscape...To minimize transplant shock, many growers plant seed directly into "Jiffy" pots. black polybags, peat pots, milk containers, or other biodegradable containers that provide good drainage...Once planted in the landscape, Madrones grow best in well-drained soil and under drip irrigation.  Young seedlings benefit from partial shade the first growing season."

If you would like to read more from Jill Nokes about propagating the Texas Madrone, your local library may have a copy of her book or you can purchase it online from our Wildflower Center Store.

You might also like to know that David Winningham at Natives of Texas Nursery in Kerrville, who specializes in madrones, has been very successful in propagating them.

The Texas Madrone is a beautiful tree and Mr. Smarty Plants wishes you great success in propagating it.

Arbutus xalapensis

Arbutus xalapensis

Arbutus xalapensis

Arbutus xalapensis



More Propagation Questions

Time of year to plant Tecoma stans
December 16, 2007 - I wanted to know when the best time to plant the Esperanza flower (Tecoma stans) was. The information on the website did not give planting dates or soil conditions for this plant. Can you please help?...
view the full question and answer

Student project on Hudson Valley, NY native plants and ecology
January 16, 2009 - Mr. Smarty, Hi I am starting a project with a school group 4th-6th grade, that has a greenhouse. The goal is to teach children about native plants & ecology of the Hudson valley region in NY. We will ...
view the full question and answer

Gardening book for beginner gardener
December 06, 2008 - What is a good gardening book for a beginner gardener who lives in Round Rock. Would like info for both vegetables and plants for landscaping. Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Propagation by seed of Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata (heartleaf skullcap)
January 15, 2008 - Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata-- Hi Mr. Smarty Plants! How do I grow this from seed?! I'm trying to propagate for a native plants garden (zone 7B). Thanks for the info! Cheers!
view the full question and answer

Adventitious sprouts on oak tree in Austin
April 26, 2010 - Hello, I have an Oak tree which was planted in about 2002, which has adventitious sprouts. The tree has always sent these up, and we cut them off below ground. The tree has always been a 'runt', b...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center