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How to Propagate a Lilly Pilly

You can take semi-hardwood stem cuttings from your Lilly pilly from autumn to around the middle of spring.

If you have a Lilly pilly or two growing in your garden and you’d like to add a few more, you can easily use stem cuttings from your current plants to propagate new ones.

Similarly, you might notice that a friend or neighbour has a gorgeous Lilly pilly growing in their garden that you’d also love to grow.

Syzygium Australe Lilly Pilly | Plant care

Why not ask your friend or neighbour if you can take a few cuttings so that you can propagate some plants for your own yard?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to propagating Lilly pillies.

Step 1 – Gather your pots or seedling trays

It’s a good idea to get your pots or planting trays ready before you start so that your cuttings aren’t left out to dry for too long.

You can either use small pots or seedling trays for your cuttings. In the propagation nursery where I worked, we always used seedling trays that had individual cells for each cutting.

seed tray | Plant care

However, you can use whatever you have on hand. If you’re using second-hand pots or trays, give these a good wash to make sure that they’re thoroughly clean and free from any remaining soil.

The next step is to prepare your growing media and fill the pots or seedling trays.

Step 2 – Fill your pots with growing media

For the growing media, you want a mix that is free-draining, has some moisture-holding capacity and enough grit to ensure plenty of air pockets.

If this is your first time propagating your own plants from cuttings, you might like to purchase a commercial mix to use such as Scotts Osmocote Seed and Cutting mix.

However, if you want to make your own mix, just combine some washed river sand with coconut coir. This mix should contain around 75% sand and 25% coconut coir. 

lavender propagation | Plant care

You could also consider a mix containing sand, perlite and coco coir. This can be mixed in equal amounts because the sand and perlite will allow for drainage and air pockets and the coco coir will help with moisture retention.

Once you’ve filled the pots or trays with your preferred mix, water them well so that the soil is moist when you place the cuttings into it.

Step 3 – Take your cuttings

You can take semi-hardwood stem cuttings from your Lilly pilly from autumn to around the middle of spring. Semi-hardwood cuttings are new growth at the tips of branches that have become reasonably firm.

Avoid taking cuttings that are too soft or ones that are completely woody if you want the best chance of success. That’s why these cuttings should be taken after summer is over because they’ve had enough time to firm up.

Cuttings should be around 8 to 10cm long and you should cut directly below a set of leaves or leaf nodes.

Step 4 – Prepare your cuttings

To prepare your cuttings, strip off the leaves at the bottom of the stem and leave around 2 to 3 leaves at the top. These remaining leaves will support the cutting’s growth so that it can produce roots.

Now, a little trick that I learned as a professional propagator is to use your sharp secateurs or a clean knife to slice off a small sliver of bark at the base of the stem. This exposes the inner layers and will form a callous.

Lilly pilly cuttings are more likely to root after this callous has formed. Just take care when you do this as I remember almost slicing off the top of a finger at one time when I was producing hundreds of cuttings a day.

Step 5 – Use rooting hormone to get the best results

When I was working as a propagator, we had a common practice of using liquid rooting hormone. As we were preparing the cuttings, we would have a small amount of the liquid hormone in the cap of the bottle.

Then, we would prepare the cuttings and stand them in the liquid until we were ready to put them into the growing media. This allowed the cuttings to not only stay moist but also to take up some of the rooting hormone.

However, you can use powdered rooting hormone instead. Just spoon a small amount of this into a separate dish and dip the ends of your cuttings into this.

Make sure that you never dip your cuttings straight into the bottle. Always pour or spoon some out into a separate dish or container.

The reason for this is that it avoids contaminating the entire bottle of hormone liquid or powder with sap from the cuttings.

And, if you haven’t used all the hormone powder or liquid in a separate container, avoid putting it back into the bottle for the same reason. Just throw it out.

Step 6 – Place your cuttings into the mix

Take a pencil or dibber and make a hole for each cutting. Place the Lilly pilly cuttings into the holes and firm the mix around the stems.

Step 7 – Place your cuttings in a warm spot

To germinate well, Lilly pilly cuttings need warmth and adequate moisture. Commercial nurseries provide this by placing their cuttings onto benches that are heated with hot water-filled pipes underneath.

You can simulate this same environment by purchasing a heat mat to place under the cuttings. This is prudent if you live in a cooler climate as you’re expecting your cuttings to grow roots over winter.

However, your cuttings should root without bottom heat. It might just take longer. 

Above all, it’s important to place your cuttings in a warm spot that is out of direct sunlight.

Make sure you mist your cuttings daily to keep the soil nice and moist. But, make sure that the growing media doesn’t become waterlogged.

Now all you have to do is wait for your cuttings to produce roots. Don’t expect 100% success because some cuttings will fail to root. This means that you should always plant more than you’re going to need.

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Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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