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Tuesday - April 28, 2015

From: Azle , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers, Shrubs
Title: Finding a manzanita species suitable for Fort Worth, TX
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Which manzanita shrub would thrive best in the Fort Worth, Tx. area? I was thinking of planting it in a large pot. Thank You!

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. But not many other people have.

The Texas Madrone is a beautiful tree and Mr. Smarty Plants wishes you great success in propagating it.  But I think you can gather that growing one from seed yourself will be very difficult.  

There are, of course, other manzanita type species, but they are all native to the west coast, mainly California.  This grower is a source of information and can provide several species.  However, I am not at all certain that these species will thrive in your area.  It might be worth a try.  Good luck!

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas madrone
Arbutus xalapensis

Texas madrone
Arbutus xalapensis

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