How to propagate ceanothus cuttings

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The ceanothus is a deciduous shrub that reaches a height of 90 cm (3 feet) or more -- often to 2.4 m (8 feet) or taller. One species of this shrub is known by the name New Jersey tea or redroot.

California is home to multiple species of ceanothus, where this very drought tolerant native shrub is known as California lilac, mountain lilac or buckbrush. The shrub produces clusters of small, white or blue flowers at the end of the woody stems during the spring season. Propagate ceanothus shrubs by taking softwood cuttings in May or semi-hardwood cuttings in July. Softwood cutting produce roots quickly but are fragile and dry out quickly when not watched closely.

ceanothus image by Alison Bowden from

Cut a 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) section of branch from the ceanothus with a clean, sharp knife. Softwood cuttings taken in spring have a green colour and snap if bent. Semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer are maturing and starting to harden.

Fill a clean propagation tray with moist rooting medium. Add enough water to the medium to create the texture of a damp sponge. Purchase rooting medium at garden supply centres.

Remove the foliage from the bottom half of the stem. Cut the bottom end of the ceanothus cutting at a diagonal and dip it into powdered rooting medium. Tap the cutting lightly to remove excess hormone.

Stick the bottom end of the ceanothus cutting into the rooting medium to one-half the height of the stem. Space the stems so the remaining foliage does not touch other cuttings.

Mist the ceanothus cuttings lightly with water and cover the propagation tray with a clear plastic bag. This will keep the humidity high around the cuttings to stimulate root development.

Place the propagation tray in a warm area that receives indirect sunlight. An area with a temperature of 20 to 21.1 degrees Celsius (68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) is ideal.

Check on the cuttings each day to make sure the medium does not dry out. Open the plastic covering and mist the soil and cuttings as needed.

Verify root development by pulling on the cuttings to see if there is resistance. This occurs in approximately 3 weeks for softwood cuttings and 6 to 8 weeks for semi-hardwood cuttings.

Transplant the Ceanothus cuttings once the roots are at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) long. Plant each cutting into a 10 cm (4 inch) diameter container and continue to grow them indoors for a minimum of one year.