Wax myrtle is a common plant that can be found growing wild in the south. As a matter of fact, it thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 9. While some view this plant as a weed, others value it not only for its landscape value but also its history. In a nutshell, the wax myrtle got its name from the fact that the berries are covered in a waxy coating. Since the pioneers that settled in this area did not have wax or enough lard to make candles, the wax from these berries were a substitute. In doing so, this little plant provided light.
Propagating Wax Myrtle
Propagating wax myrtle can occur in three different ways. The first way is to dig up suckers or roots and transplant them in a new location. When doing this, make sure that the hole of the new location is twice to three times the width and the same depth as the root mass. Once the plant has been placed in the hole, water it in until the bubbles stop coming up. Add additional soil as needed.
Another approach is to take a cutting. To do this, one will need to first clean the knife or pruner that you plan to use for the cutting. What do you clean it with? While water will remove dirt and grime, what you really want to do is to kill any bacteria, fungi, and/or pest. The best substance to use is rubbing alcohol. To sterilize your tool, simply wipe the cutting surface with a towel moistened with rubbing alcohol. Once that is done, allow the tool to dry in the sun.
Now that the tool is cleaned, you will simply take a four to six inch cut at the tips of selected branches. Do not just cut away. You want to take your cuttings from the best branches possible and this means ones that are disease-free and strong. As far as the cut, do not just slice straight across. This is bad for both the parent plant and the cutting. From the parent’s point of view, a straight cut will collect water and in doing so will cause the branch to rot. The best approach is to make an angle cut. This prevents pooling and makes rooting of the cut easier.
As you cut your starts, dip the cut end in water then in rooting hormone. Next, push your cutting into a flat of moistened, all-purpose potting soil. Continue with the process until you have all the cuttings you want. After you have your flat filled, place in a clear, plastic bag, seal, and place in a warm location away from sunlight.
Monitor the soil moisture and water as needed. In about four to six weeks, you can check to see if your cuttings have rooted. How do you do that? Well, to test to see which ones have rooted is simple and only requires one to give a little tug. If you feel resistance then the cutting has rooted. If not, place the flat back in the bag and repeat the process for another four weeks.
Once the cutting(s) have rooted, it is time to plant. Choose a well-drained area that in located in full sun or a little shade. While I have covered how to replant a transplant, the process for a cutting is very much the same except the size of the hole. The hole will be small and needs to be wide enough so that you are not struggling to get the roots inside the hole. It also needs to be deep enough so that all the roots are covered. Beyond that, the steps are the same.
One of the negative aspects of this plant is the “berries,” which are technically called drupes. Drupes, by nature are “fruits” of trees that have three layers. These layers start with a hard center, which leads to a flesh middle and a thin skin. Unfortunately these drupes cause a mess on sidewalks, cars and yards. One way to avoid this is to only plant male wax myrtles. To be guaranteed that you have a male, you will need to take transplant or take cuttings from male myrtles.
The third way of propagating the wax myrtle is through it drupes. This can be done in two ways but the beginning process is the same for both and that is the collection of the drupes. This should be done in the fall. Once collected, you can either save the seed by placing it in the fridge for two to three months. After that time has passed, you are ready to plant them in the garden or in pot. The second approach is to go ahead and plant the drupes outside in the fall. Do not worry about the cold period. Mother Nature will take care of that for you. To do this, simply loosen up the soil to a shallow level. Wax myrtle drupes should not be planted deep. Once that is done, simply place your drupes on the soil and cover with ¼ inch of mulch. You should begin to see germination in about three to six weeks.
Caring for your Wax Myrtle
Wax myrtles like to be in a sunny location but they can also find home in shady areas. They can tolerate wet to dry conditions but will need to be watered during times of drought. As flexible as the environmental requirements are for this plant, the use is just as flexible. Wax myrtle can be used as a specimen plant, small tree, a formal hedge or informal hedge. To keep the tree shape, one will need to remove sucker and shaped up to encourage internal growth.
If you want a hedge, you will need to prune more aggressively but……this pruning will decrease the life of the plant. Wax myrtles do not like to be pruned often. But to keep the hedge shape, wax myrtles will need to be pruned in the early spring and then again in the fall. When doing the pruning avoid removing too much. As a matter of fact, never remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.
The wax myrtle has three pests. This includes the lobate lac scale, Pestalotia leaf spot, and Diplodia corticola. All three can be controlled by following simple sanitation practices. This means cleaning all tools that are used on one wax myrtle before they are used on another one. Also, rake up the leave in the fall. Fallen leaves can be a breeding ground for plant disease. Lastly, destroy any diseased plant material.
Copyright WM Media. All rights reserved.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.