How to Propagate Fruit Trees From Cuttings

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Although cuttings from fruit trees are rooted less often than herbaceous plants and woody ornamentals, you can root hardwood cuttings taken from numerous varieties of deciduous fruit trees. Many people say “branch” when they mean rooting any shoot or stem on a tree. Although it is infrequently done in the United States, a larger, genuine branch -- called a truncheon -- may also be rooted.

Selecting A Cutting

In late winter or early spring, select a young, vigorous fruit tree that is dormant. Choose a tree that has been growing in full sunlight.

Take your cutting early in the morning before the shoots have had time to dry out.

Taking A Cutting

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water

Step 1

Soak the knife blade for five minutes in a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts of water or in rubbing alcohol. Let it air dry.

Step 2

Select a cutting. It should be a 1/4-to-1/2-inch-wide, 10-to-12-inch-long portion of the lower or middle part of a stem that began growing the previous year. It should have regularly spaced nodes and not be weak or overly vigorous.

Step 3

Cut the bottom of your cutting at a slant directly beneath a node.

Step 4

Cut the top of the cutting 1/2 to 1 inch above the uppermost node, called the apical node.

Step 5

Remove the leaves from the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the cutting. The cutting should still have a leaf or two on the upper part to help feed emerging roots.

Step 6

Dip the end in a commercial rooting hormone compound, which you can buy at most garden supply centers. Knock off the extra powder.

Planting the Cutting

Things You'll Need

  • Cutting
  • Plastic pot from 8 to 10 inches deep. The pot should have a drain hole.
  • Coarse sand or 1 part peat and 1 part coarse sand
  • Plastic bag

Step 1

Fill the pot with to within 2 inches of the top with cutting mix and moisten the mix with water.

Step 2

Insert the cutting 1/3 to 1/2 its length. If you’re rooting more than one cutting in a single container, space them far enough apart so all their leaves get sunlight.

Step 3

Cover the cutting with a plastic bag to help retain moisture in the rooting medium.

Step 4

Keep the medium moist until the cutting develops roots.

Tip

  • To promote rooting, daytime temperatures should be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and most cuttings root best if the growing mix is roughly 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a heat pad to keep the rooting zone warm. Many garden supply centers sell special waterproof heating mats designed for keeping the growing mix warm under germinating seeds and cuttings that are rooting.

To increase their odds of survival, transplant rooted cuttings into a planting bed or container before moving them into their permanent landscape location.

Storing Cuttings

You may want to store your cuttings before rooting them in a growing medium. Store them in slightly moist vermiculite or sawdust in a refrigerator or cool root cellar. Callouses will form over their cut ends. They will be ready to plant in three or four weeks.

Planting a Branch

You rarely see mention of planting actual branches, called truncheons, because it is a technique done best on trees that bleed white sap -- and these are most often found in the tropics. Among temperate climate fruit trees, the edible fig (Ficus carica spp.), cultivars of which will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 11, has white sap.

To root a truncheon, select a branch roughly as wide as a human arm, about 4 to 6 inches, and from 5 foot 9 inches to 5 foot 10 inches long near the end of its winter dormant season. Cut the end at an angle through a node just below where the current year's growth ends. Keep it in the shade for a few days so a callus forms on the cut end. Cut the top of the truncheon at an angle to prevent rot from setting in.

Plant the truncheon from 10 to 70 percent of its length to keep it from blowing over. If you live in a climate with hot weather, fill the hole with water before planting.

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