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How to multiply matilija poppies ... challenging to very difficult.

How to multiply Matilija poppies . . . challenging to very difficult

If you like uphill battles, you'll enjoy propagatingMatilija poppies (Romneya coulteri), the plants described on page 94. Another reason for propagating them would be if you can't find plants at a nursery. One way or the other, it's not going to be easy. The Matilija doesn't reproduce readily--in nature or for man.

Here are the three ways to propagate thisbig, beautiful white-flowered plant.

Digging up suckers

The easiest method, digging up and plantingsuckers in potting soil, is described above. The only starting method that's easier is to set out a plant from a nursery. Time to dig the suckers is from November through February.

Making and rooting rhizome cuttings

Of the many ways to grow Matilijas fromcuttings, all are difficult for amateurs. Nurserymen succeed better: they have more experience and better facilities, and they don't fuss over the cuttings.

Indeed, much of the loss that occurs inhome propagation comes from this needless fussing. (Several Sunset editors tried growing them this past winter and failed. Our commercial nurseryman overseer concluded that we overwatered the cuttings and wiggled them too often, testing for roots.)

For cutting wood, take sections of eitherthe thick, mostly horizontal rhizomes or thick, vertical roots. Consensus among professionals is that rhizomes beat roots.

The thicker and longer the section, thebetter, because cuttings do their initial growing from carbohydrates in the tissue, and the more carbohydrates, the more growth you'll get.

The cuttings in the series shown in themiddle row on the opposite page are 1 1/2 inches long. A professional propagator was rooting them. Amateurs would do best to use cuttings of largest possible diameter and 2 to 3 inches long.

Put rhizome cuttings into top of pottingsoil in 2- to 4-inch pots, like floating logs. Put root cuttings vertically with upper end (as it grew) at the surface. Cover surface with grit (fine gravel) as a mulch. Water pots once and place in polyethylene bags, close the ends, and leave pots on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse.

When new growth is about 2 inches long,remove the pots from the bags and put them in a moist, still place out of direct sunlight until plants are 3 to 4 inches high. By that time, you can assume that the plants are rooted. Knock them out of their pots and plant them in 1-gallon or larger containers until the following October, when you can plant them out.

Germinating and growing seedlings

Matilija seeds aren't commonly sold.Finding a dealer will take some searching but would be worth it, because commercially collected seed is probably stronger than what you might collect yourself.

Nurserymen vary in how long they burnthe pine needles--from a quick burndown of 5 minutes to a lengthy, refuel-if-necessary 20 minutes. Both work.

The other method: put seeds in a cup andcover them with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide; stir well. After 30 minutes, pour seeds into a strainer and rinse in fresh water. Mix seeds with 3 parts perlite and 1 part peat moss. Moisten the mass and put it in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to three months. Then plant the seeds.

Photo: Suckers: surest wayto increase

Matilija poppy suckerssprout from underground horizontal rhizomes and then form roots. Dig and replant them. At far left is such a sucker freshly dug. At center, the same sucker has been pruned for planting in a 2-gallon can. At near left is a dug-up sucker that isn't as good as the one in the first two photos; it has less root mass and will need more growing time.

Photo: Cuttings: here'sone way to go

Shown here is one way toroot the cuttings (text describes others). At far left, rhizome is being cut (see text about lengths). Center, place one cutting, coated with 50 percent captan powder, into top of rooting medium; cover cuttings with grit. The cuttings will take weeks or months to sprout (near left picture).

Photo: Seeds: not enough ofthem sprout

Here is one of two waysto make reluctant seeds germinate (the other is in the text). In fall, collect seeds from ripe seed heads (far left). Center, mix seeds with potting soil throughout a seed flat; cover with 8 inches of pine needles or other natural tinder, then burn up to 20 minutes. Near left, seedling is ready for transplanting to a pot for growing to garden size.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1987
Words:738
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