Mesquite trees are one of the hardy darlings of the American Southwest. It is a medium sized lacy, airy tree with interesting pods and creamy white fragrant pods. In its native range, wild plants readily reseed themselves, but human mesquite tree propagation requires a few tricks. These trees can grow from seed, cuttings or transplants. The quickest results are from cuttings, but they can be tricky to get to root. Planting mesquite seeds is budget friendly and may get a better result if you pre-treat the seed correctly prior to planting.
How to Propagate a Mesquite Tree
Mesquite trees are drought tolerant, stoic trees that thrive in hot, arid climates. They have become an interesting landscape specimen due to their adaptability and lovely cut pinnate leaves. The ornamental pods add even more seasonal appeal.
Growing new mesquite trees may happen naturally by finding seedlings under a mature specimen. However, mesquite tree reproduction in this manner is uncommon due to the capriciousness of the seeds, and human intervention may be necessary if you want more trees.
Mesquite Tree Propagation by Cuttings
Cuttings may be used to propagate a mesquite, but by all accounts they can be difficult to get to root. For best results, take cuttings of both hard and softwood. Use a rooting hormone and a soilless, moistened medium in which to insert the cuttings. Cover the container with plastic and keep lightly moist in a warm area. The chances of cuttings taking root seems to be about 50/50.
Growing New Mesquite Trees from Seed
A possibly surer way of mesquite tree propagation is with seeds. Harvest these when the pods rattle during shaking. The rattling indicates the seeds are ripe. Late summer is when most pods are dry and brittle and seed is ready. Break open the pod to reveal numerous dark seeds. Discard the pod and preserve the seed.
Seeds need several treatments prior to planting in soil. Scarification is one important process. It mimics the action in an animal gut after a pod has been ingested. Sandpaper, a file, or even a knife may be used. Next, soak the seed in sulfuric acid, vinegar or plain warm water for up to an hour. This further softens the exterior of the seed, enhancing germination.
You may also want to refrigerate the seeds for 6 to 8 weeks, a process called stratification. Some growers think this helps aid germination. It may not be strictly necessary but cold exposure breaks dormancy in many temperate regions and the process will not hurt the seed.
Once the seed coating has been damaged and soaked, it is time to plant the seeds. A good growing medium might be sphagnum moss or potting soil mixed with perlite. Considering the inhospitable environment in which mesquite trees grow, almost anything might work, including sand or fine bark mulch.
Choose large containers with good drainage holes and plant one seed per pot. Bury seeds 1/4 inch (.64 cm.) beneath the soil surface. Keep the soil moderately wet and situate the container in an area where temperatures are at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 C.). The exact time to germination is variable.
Transplant seedlings when they have two sets of true leaves. This inexpensive method of mesquite tree reproduction may require some trial and error but it costs little and takes only a bit of time. The results will be worth it when you have new baby mesquite trees to populate your landscape.