Propagating Chamaerops From Suckers
A spin-off from the lively letters on the subject,
Dave explains how it can be done.
Dave Brown, Chalk, North West Kent. firstname.lastname@example.org
Chamaerops No.31 Summer 1998
I have always had the urge to propagate anything exotic
by whatever means available. So I have tried all sorts of experiments,
mostly unsuccessful, but I have had the odd success. The main problem
that Ive had recently, is with propagating palms from fresh,
personally collected seed, as opposed to catalogue bought seed.
I expected to get about a 10% success rate, but actually achieved
over 90%. This resulted in 107 Phoenix canariensis, 89 Phoenix roebellini
and 67 Washingtonia robusta seedlings. Most of which were unsaleable
until 3 years old. I currently have self sown Dicksonia squarrosa
seedlings growing in the palm pots. They seem to like the overhead
irrigation system in the outer unheated conservatory.
I am always looking to increase my palm collection,
although now mainly with the more hardy types, that can be planted
out, in a North West Kent garden.
In June 1993 my family accompanied me to the Palm Centre at Richmond
to purchase my birthday present. Im not allowed to go on my
own, after coming home, on several occasions, with a car load of
palms. Its not the price of the palms that causes the objections,
but the cost of continually extending the conservatory, and needing
a machete to get through it. After the obligatory hour of telling
the children not to touch, or run through Martin Gibbons palm
paradise. I finally chose a 4 ft (126cm) Butia capitata and a reasonable
sized clump of Chamaerops humilis.
The Butia was planted out in spring 1994, and has
sailed through the cold winters of 1995/96 and the even colder,
windier 1996/97 so far.
In early July 1993 the Chamaerops just seemed to have
too many suckers for me resist an attempt at propagation. I counted
over forty, with the base of the larger ones being about 2"
(5cm) in diameter. It seemed to be a cheap way of propagating Chamaerops,
as the suckers were about the size of 3 year old seed grown palms.
Not having removed palm suckers before, I was not
sure how to go about it. I decided to just bend them downwards until
they broke free. This was easier said than done! The vicious teeth
on the petioles were a major problem, even with stout, hide gardening
gloves. Eventually I managed to detach 24 of the larger suckers,
but it took over 4 hours, and I was a bit alarmed at the lack of
plant material that came away with the sucker.
The suckers were cleaned up, the outer leaves removed,
dipped in hormone rooting liquid and potted deeply in 2 litre extra
deep shrub pots in a coir/bark/grit mixture.. Initially plastic
bags were put over them to conserve moisture, but it became all
too apparent that this would cause problems with rotting, so they
The suckers were left in a shady place in the garden
for the remaining Summer and Autumn. In late Autumn they were moved
into the conservatory. By the following spring (1994) 6 of the smaller
ones had succumbed. The rest were consigned to the south facing
patio. In late summer 1994 there was no sign of grown in any of
the surviving palms. A test was carried out by removing the compost
from one palm. No roots were evident after 14 months, although the
top was still firm and green, so they were surviving - just. On
closer examination the base of the sucker was starting to rot. All
suckers were removed from their pots, inspected, cleaned up by cutting
out any rot and stood in a bucket of Benlate fungicide (now withdrawn
from sale) for 24 hours. A further inspection revealed that 7 suckers
were beyond any hope, which left 11 of the original 24 with no roots,
14 months later.
The survivors were repotted in the same, disinfected,
pots but, this time in a 50/50 coarse grit/peat mixture. I have
stopped using coir altogether it now, everything seems to rot in
it. The particles are too fine, leading to compacting and lack of
Another year passed, late summer 1995, now down to
7 survivors. - still no sign of top grown, but a huge root appeared
out of the pot of one of the smaller palms, followed a couple of
months later by a very small spear. To date, January 1997, I have
6 surviving Chamaerops out of the original 24 suckers taken. 1 is
a reasonable size now, although still smaller than it was when taken
from the parent plant. The other five are all much smaller, about
the size of an 18 month seed grown palm, even though they were at
about a 3 year size, 3 1/2 years ago. The only thing in their favour
at the moment is, boy are they hardy. They are looking fine even
after being frozen in their 2 litre pots for over 2 weeks.
In conclusion - my experiment worked - Chamaerops
can be grown from suckers, but the failure rate in lost suckers
is high, and seed raised palms would have been bigger if sown when
the suckers were taken. All in all, the best way to propagate Chamaerops
is the seed method, or to buy them already grown.
09-07-20 - 23:16GMT
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