The Australian Heath Family - Propagation

Introduction

Propagation of the Australian heaths from seed is often difficult and propagation by cuttings is the preferred method. Seedlings will, however, sometimes germinate in gardens of their own accord.

Seed

Seed of only a few species is available from commercial suppliers and is often in short supply. Seed can ripen and be dispersed very quickly and this leads to difficulties in collection.

Seed is usually sown without any pre-treatment using conventional seed raising methods. Seed from species native to cold climates may benefit from stratification - this involves exposing the seed to a period of low temperature. The simplest method is to sow the seed normally in a punnet or pot, cover it and place the container in a refrigerator. The period required under stratification varies with the species and can range from 3 to 10 weeks. As a rule-of-thumb, seed sown in the warmer months should be stratified for a longer period than for those sown in winter.

Another method that has been successful for at least some species is the use of smoke or "smoked water" as a pretreatment. This has been successful in the germination of species of Acrotriche, Astroloma, Epacris and Leucopogon and may have practical application for the home propagator. Further information on this procedure is available in the article Smoke Stimulates the Germination of Many Western Australian Plants (see Further Information) and from the Regen 2000 web site.

Germination can take anything from a few weeks to several months to never!. Once seedlings have appeared, however, particular care needs to be taken when potting up. The plants have very fine roots and extreme care must be taken to minimize damage.

For further information on propagation from seed see the article Growing Epacris from Seed.

Cuttings

Several members of this group of plants can be propagated relatively easily from cuttings of hardened, current seasons' growth, usually taken in mid to late summer through to mid autumn. In many cases, however, suitable material is difficult to obtain and propagation is difficult. Species that usually give good results include:

  • Epacris impressa, longiflora,microphylla, obtusifolia, pulchella, reclinata
  • Astroloma pinifolium
  • Prionotes cerinthoides
  • Woollsia pungens

Others which have been successful but which are a little more difficult include Dracophyllum secundum and Leucopogon lanceolatum.

Cuttings about 30-60 mm in length would normally be suitable with the leaves carefully removed from the lower two-thirds. "Wounding" the lower stem by removing a sliver of bark and treating with a "root promoting" hormone both seem to improve the success rate.

As with seedlings, care must be exercised when potting up to avoid damaging the very fine roots. It is often best to place cuttings in individual small tubes to minimizie potting on damage.

A useful guide on propagation of Epacris and its relatives from cuttings can be found in the article Epacrids from Cuttings - Propagating the Australian "heaths" (see Further Information).

General Propagation

Further details on general plant propagation can be found in ANPSA's Plant Propagation Pages.


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