California pepper trees (Schinus molle) are also known as pepper trees and peppercorn trees. They are native to Peru but can be seen under cultivation in southern California and Mexico. When the tree escapes cultivation, which has happened in portions of Australia and southern Florida, the tree chokes out native vegetation and is considered invasive. California pepper trees reproduce aggressively via seed distribution. They are also readily propagated through shoots and cuttings.
Cuttings yield mature trees quicker than seed propagation. Cuttings are often the chosen method for propagating trees because of the technique's ease and speed. Cuttings can be taken during the tree's active growth period or the dormant phase, depending on the tree type. California pepper trees are narrow-leaved evergreen trees. The best time to propagate this type of evergreen is during the late dormant stage. Take cuttings during the winter season.
Types of Cuttings
Stems, branches, roots - there are many parts of a tree from which to take a cutting. Since California pepper tree cuttings are taken during the dormant period, stem and branch cuttings are the most effective. Choose branches and stems that are at least one year old. Start at the tip of a branch, or stem and prepare to make tip cutting. Make the cut between 4 to 10 inches from the branch or stem tip. The longer the cutting the quicker the plant will mature.
Maintenance and Growth
Cuttings must be maintained and nurtured in order to root and, ultimately, produce a healthy plant. Root your California pepper tree cuttings in a porous, well draining medium. Keep the medium and the air surrounding the cutting moist. Moisture encourages rapid root growth. Keep the cutting's leaves intact. Foliage helps the root system by supplying it with needed nutrients. Rooting hormones are available for purchase at nurseries and garden centers. These hormones encourage rooting but cuttings will root without these hormones. Cuttings taken in winter are ready to be planted in containers or beds by spring. The saplings are still too young to plant directly in the ground. They require loose, well aerated soil until their root systems strengthen.
Inspect stems and branches prior to cutting and choose branches that are healthy, leafy but not full of flower buds. Make clean cuts. Jagged cuts will damage the parent plant, making it susceptible to disease.
- University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension:Schinus molle California pepper tree
- Victorian Resources Online: Peppercorn Tree (Schinus Molle)
- City of Los Angeles Urban Forestry Division; California Pepper Trees Information Sheet
- North Carolina State University; Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener; Erv Evans, Frank Blazich
- Photo Credit Chris Clinton/Lifesize/Getty Images