Michelia champaca, or fragrant champaca, grows naturally across southern Asia and is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental tree in mild coastal areas such as western California. Growing to 20 feet in height, Michelia champaca is a medium-sized tree with a spreading crown of leathery foliage and a warm-season display of intensely fragrant, cup-shaped flowers in shades of yellow and white. The plant can be propagated from both seed and cuttings, but both present some challenges, since the seeds have a low rate of viability, and cuttings require constant misting to keep the leaves from desiccating.
Gather seed pods from a Michelia champaca tree in late summer after they split open to reveal the large, reddish seeds. Pull apart the seed pods to release the seeds.
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Soak the seeds in warm water for 48 hours. Change the water every few hours to rinse away the germination-inhibiting chemicals found in the red aril, or seed jacket, of the seed.
Sow the seeds in individual 4-inch nursery containers filled with equal parts compost and soil. Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep. Water with 1 cup of water per pot.
Set the containers on a propagation mat set to 85 degrees Fahrenheit near a source of very bright, indirect light. Hang 50-percent shade cloth over the seedling pots to decrease the rate of evaporation in the soil.
Place a piece of plastic wrap over each pot to hold the heat around the seeds. Remove the plastic wrap for a few minutes each day to increase air circulation.
Water the Michelia champaca seeds whenever the soil feels dry 1/4 inch below the surface. Drizzle 1/4 cup of water into the pot.
Watch for germination in 45 to 55 days. Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds sprout, but keep the seedlings on the propagation mat for one more week. Remove the shade cloth after germination.
Keep the Michelia champaca seedlings in their pots until they grow to 4 inches in height, then transplant them into 1-gallon nursery containers for one year. Plant the seedlings in a permanent bed when they reach 1 foot in height.
Take cuttings from a mature Michelia champaca tree in spring, around mid April. Select a 4- to 6-inch-long portion of new growth from the tip of a healthy branch. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle with a pair of bypass shears.
Treat the end of the cutting with 0.3-percent IBA rooting hormone. Insert the hormone-coated end of the Michelia champaca cutting up to the lowest set of leaves in a 4-inch nursery container filled with compost.
Set the potted Michelia champaca cuttings beneath 50-percent shade cloth in a greenhouse or against a south-facing wall.
Water the cuttings with 1 cup of water every three to four days, or whenever the soil dries out at a depth of 1 inch.
Mist the foliage of the Michelia champaca cutting at least four times a day with a plant mister, or place the cuttings beneath an automated misting system.
Check for roots in 45 days. Transplant the Michelia champaca cuttings into 1-gallon nursery containers once they root. Keep them potted until their second year, then plant them in a permanent bed.