Propagating Podacarpus

Gardening Question From Bee:

Could you please tell me how to start a podacarpus from a cutting?  My neighbors have really ugly wooden fences (we live in Florida) and I think a living fence would be so pretty.  I have seen them formed into beautiful hedges and that would be perfect for what I want.
We have two of the bushes that we’ve let get tall and we have them somewhat Christmas Tree shaped.  How can I use mine to make FREE starts?  I’m going to need a lot and it would be very expensive to buy them as plants.
Thank you so much.

Answer From Pat:

You are right to think that if you want to grow Podocarpus gracilior as a hedge, you should never grow your podocarpus from seeds because that results in a tree, not a hedge. Also I agree that this plant makes a delightful hedge but only when it is grown from a cutting. Unfortunately, taking a cutting and growing it yourself from cuttings is not easy. Nonetheless, I do have an idea that might work. It is called “layering” and now in fall is the right time to try.
Take a thin (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) low-lying, bendy branch of a Podocarpus gracilior—tip growth is best—and bend it down so it touches the the ground, then carefully with a sharp knife about 8 or 10 inches back from the tip, cut through the bark on the bottom of the branch (so the cut is facing down) and into the wood through the cambium layer, just enough so there is a v-shaped slit in it but be careful not to cut all the way through or to break the branch. Next dip the cut into “Dip It” or use a watercolor paint brush to brush the powder from a fresh can of dry rooting compound such as Rootone into the cut, then dig down with a trowel and bury it in the ground and put a brick on top too hold it securely down. If the cut tends to close up you can stick a tiny pebble into the cut to hold it open. Do this now in late August or early September. Be sure the ground stays moist. In spring, dig down with a trowel and look and see if the cutting has grown roots. If so, you can cut it off from the parent plant and plant it in a pot, feed it and care for it and when necessary pot it on into larger sizes of pots or nursery containers until it’s big enough to plant in the ground.
If you cannot find any branch low enough to reach the ground you can use pots to make your layered plants, but this is seldom successful since even the best of gardeners usually lets the pot run dry resulting in death to the young cutting. It sounds to me as if your Christmas tree shaped podocarpus will have enough low-lying branches so you can make many new plants. I have done this very successfully with azaleas but I think it will work well with podocarpus also.



Photo by conservatoire.brest

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