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Mr. Smarty Plants - Propagation of Texas madrone (Arbutus xalapensis)

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Wednesday - October 08, 2008

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

 

 

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