Planting a Eugenia Cutting

by M.H. Dyer

An evergreen shrub also known as Australian brush cherry, eugenia (Syzygium paniculatum) displays new, reddish bronze leaves in spring, which turn glossy green as the warm season progresses. Creamy white flowers appear on the shrub in summer. If left unpruned, the plant reaches a height of 12 to 20 feet at maturity. Eugenia is a warm-weather plant that grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 11. Propagate eugenia by taking semi-ripe cuttings in summer or early autumn.

1. Preparation

Small containers such as 3-inch pots or celled trays with 3-inch cells work well for planting eugenia cuttings. Successful rooting requires a well-draining potting mixture such as a 50-50 combination of finely chopped bark and sand, perlite or vermiculite. Clean your cutting tool, which can be garden shears or a knife with a sharp blade, before you begin. Bacteria is easily transmitted to the cuttings. You can sanitize tools by dipping them in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water.

2. Taking Cuttings

A semi-ripe stem is beginning to harden, but is still relatively pliable. The base of the stem is firm, but the tips are still soft. Cut 4- to 6-inch stems, with the cuts made straight across just above a bud or leaf node. Remove all but the top two leaves, then cut the remaining two leaves in half horizontally. Morning is the best time to take cuttings, because the stems are still plump and well-hydrated.

3. Planting Cuttings

Although rooting hormone isn't absolutely required, using it increases the chance that the planted eugenia cuttings will root successfully. Rooting hormone, available in powdered, liquid or gel form, is available in most garden centers.To plant the cuttings, use a stick to make a planting hole in the center of each cell. The holes allow you to plant the stems without scraping off the rooting hormone. Dip the bottom 1/2 inch of the cuttings in the hormone, then plant the stems carefully in the holes, just deep enough that they stand upright. Be sure the leaves are slightly above the potting mixture. Pat the soil around the stems, then water until the rooting mix is moist clear through, but not dripping.

4. Care

A warm, humid environment is best for rooting eugenia cuttings. Cover the containers with plastic after placing drinking straws or similar objects in the corners to prevent the plastic from touching the leaves. If you have a heat mat, set it at 64 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, as bottom heat speeds rooting. Otherwise, you can place the containers on top of a warm refrigerator or other appliance. Low light is best, because intense light may scorch the tender cuttings. Water lightly if the rooting mix becomes dry.

5. Rooted Cuttings

Eugenia cuttings root during the winter, and by spring the cuttings are ready to plant in 4- to 6-inch containers filled with regular commercial potting mix or a homemade mix consisting of half peat moss and half perlite. Place the containers outdoors in a sheltered area. For the best chance of success, allow the young trees to mature for at least a year before planting them in their permanent outdoor homes. If the trees outgrow the small pots, transplant them into 1-gallon containers.