How to Graft a Champaca Tree
The champaca (Michelia champaca) is a species of fragrant flowering tree within the magnolia genus. It is also called the yellow jade orchid tree, fragrant champaca, Himalayan champaca or magnolia champaca. An evergreen native to Southern Asia, it is best suited to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. Although the champaca eventually reaches 25 to 30 feet tall and wide at full maturity, it is an extremely slow grower and bloomer, sometimes taking as long as 10 years to produce flowers. Trees sprouted from grafts tend to bloom in as little as 1 to 2 years, significantly faster than those grown from seed. Grafting forces a small piece of vegetative tissue to regrow the parts it needs to survive. You must locate a champaca and and get permission to cut a small branch from it. This small branch, called a scion, will be the beginnings of your new tree.Trees from the magnolia family graft best when cuttings are taken at the semi-hardwood stage of growth, which occurs just after a major growth spurt in mid-July to early fall.
The scions you chose should have both current and past growth on it. Choose healthy branches without wilt or fungus. Cut a 4- to 6-inch long piece. It is smart to cut a few to attempt to root since the growing process is not 100 percent guaranteed to work every time.
Sterilize your pruning shears with one part bleach mixed with nine parts water to avoid spreading disease to your new tree.Soak the blades in the solution for five minutes. Use the cleaned, sharp shears to cut scions from the tree.
Remove any flowers and flower buds from the scions so all of the tree's energy can route to growing new roots rather than to reproduction. Keep the scions in a cool and moist area if you are unable to transplant them immediately. Place them in a baggie with a wet paper towel and store them in the refrigerator or a cooler until you are ready to plant them.
- The scions you chose should have both current and past growth on it.
- Keep the scions in a cool and moist area if you are unable to transplant them immediately.
Prepare a 4-inch pot with a mixture of equal parts of peat and course sand. Dip the cut end of one of the scions into rooting hormone and insert it 1/3 to 1/2 of its length into the pot, making sure the buds are pointed up. Repeat this process with each scion.
Water the cuttings as needed and, when leaves grow, mist them a few times a week. Keep the seedlings in a pot for at least a year to increase its chances of survival in the ground.
- Monrovia: Fragrant Himalayan Champaca: Michelia Champaca
- University of California Davis: The Backyard Orchard: Propagation
- Sunset: Propagating Plants from Cuttings
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: General Information on Propagation by Stem Cuttings
- North Carolina University Horticulture Information Leaflets: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener
- Rooting hormones may be purchased in a home improvement store or gardening center.
- If humidity is low in your location, increase humidity by placing a plastic bag or bottomless milk jug over the cuttings.
- Do not use vermiculite alone for potting, as it can become overly moist and rot the scions
Josie Myers has been a freelance writer and tutor since 2008. A mother of three, she was a pre-kindergarten teacher for seven years, is a Pennsylvania-certified tree tender and served as director of parks in her local municipality. Myers holds a Bachelor of Arts in music and business from Mansfield University and a Master of Arts in English from West Chester University.