Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cuttings, Sprouts or Seeds?

Someone asked if I planted seeds from my gardenias. I'm not sure that I've seen gardenia seeds. There isn't much at the base of dried gardenia blooms that looks like a seed. I had never considered such. My propagation book says 7 years from seed to bloom. I can't wait that long. A cutting will root in a bottle of water in a north window this summer and bloom if not the next summer, the next, if potted when roots form. A gardenia is a joy. Plentiful gardenia bushes are largesse.

From right, Vitex from a cutting, Dogwood from seed,
Seedling Camellia and gardenia from a cutting.
Crape Myrtles in the background were sprouts.

Camellia seed pod.
Inside are marble sized black seeds when ripe.

Seed to bloom takes about 4-5 years.
Cuttings are a little faster.

Seedling Camellias and  a white Crape Myrtle.

Seed pods on a white Crape myrtle look similar to bloom buds above them.
Seed pods are larger and darker. Seedlings may not look like the parent.
My white Crape sprouts came from the Colonel's Lady's garden in town.
All but 2 were white. They bloomed in a nursery bed so I could
choose before I moved them to permanent homes.

Dogwood seeds are ready to plant when they turn red.
They may be soaked, the red part rubbed off and seeds stratified.
My method is to poke them into the ground when I gather them.
It may take an extra year for sprouting, but I used not to mind.

Oakleaf hydrangea seed heads can be gathered in a paper bag and shaken to release the seeds.
A faster plant is to dig suckers from around the shrub as shown below.

Esperanza, Tecoma stans and Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima are perinnials here, dying back to the ground at frost. They are easily started from seed.

Seeds of Esperanza look like green bean pods but are filled with many small seeds layered in a white tissuepaper-like substance.

Seeds of Pride of Barbados are large flat seeds in a pea-like pod. I have trouble collecting these seeds because they suddenly ripen and the pods open  and seeds fall to the ground and disappear. Picked too soon, they tend to mold in the pod.

If like me you grow for the joy of seeing plants from seed to blooom you may choose to grow from seeds, strike some cuttings and collect suckers from underneath mother plants.

If you are on a budget but propagation isn't your interest, you might start with small nursery plants, remembering to give them space.

If you want a finished look the first year more costly full-sized plants are available.


  1. Great info! I rarely grow ornamental plants from seed, but have started becoming more interested in it. I think because I have enough plants so that it doesn't look bare, but I could still plant seeds to fill in.

  2. Small brown paper lunch sacks are ideal for catching seeds of the Pride of Barbados. I pop the bag over the seed pod(s), and secure with a twist tie from the bread sack. When the pod opens, the seeds are safe and sound in the bag.
    I love to propagate from cuttings. Because the mother plant is a mature plant, the cutting is also a mature plant, and once rooted, will bloom just as the parent plant blooms.
    I just moved some volunteer crepe myrtles. I don't know their bloom color yet, but most volunteers are white. I love the white blooms, so that bothers me not at all. Along with the beautiful bloom on plants that get the largest (white), in the shortest amount of time (white), comes a fantastic fragrance. The various colors of crepe myrtles seldom produce the sweet fragrance that surrounds the white blooms.
    I am into the third generation of gardenia now. I love when they bloom! So easy to root from a cutting, I have promised myself that I will always have a gardenia in the garden.

  3. Thanks for the information. I haven't yet tried to grow shrubs or trees from cuttings - any advice about the best time of year for taking cuttings? Sounds like now is good?

  4. I prefer cuttings for my method of propagation with shrubs and trees.

  5. Cuttings. Any time of year that is not hot, preferably autumn when it turns cooler and the rain comes. Bits of shocking pink pelargonium I tucked in, mmm a few weeks ago?, are blooming happily. Also the pink and white daisies, and the blue Felicia. And if they don't take, try, try again.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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