Although many professional fruit growers and orchardists plant grafted fruit trees for quality produce, quick growth and resistance to disease, many varieties grow well on their own root systems. In nature, mature fruit trees produce seeds that eventually grow into new trees. Growing a fruit tree from seeds takes a long time and many seeds may fail to germinate and sprout. Propagating by using stem cuttings provides an alternative for growing fruit trees on their own root systems. Cuttings eliminate the need for cross-pollination and produce trees that closely resemble their parent tree.
Prepare your soil for your fruit tree cuttings prior to pruning branches from your trees. Select a warm area on the southern side of your home, garage or fence. Loosen the top 6 to 10 inches of soil and remove any nearby weeds or other vegetation to provide a temporary area for your cuttings. Add compost to your topsoil to enrich the area and provide good drainage. Fruit tree cuttings require time to form primary roots before planting into your landscape.
Cut segments of your existing fruit trees in the early spring, when branches begin forming new leaf buds. Use a sharp knife to slice off between 6 and 12-inch sections of healthy branches. Choose the tip segments, rather than lower portions of branches. Make your cuts at 45-degree angles. Place the cut ends into a container of cool water to keep them from drying out while you gather other branches.
Strip the lower portion of leaf buds from each of your stems. Use your fingers to pull the buds gently from the branches. Allow only the top one or two leaf buds near the tips of each stem to remain on each branch.
Dig a trench deep enough to allow only the top 2 or 3 inches of each cutting to remain above the soil. Place your cuttings about a foot apart along the trench. Backfill the trench with your amended soil. Keep the soil slightly moist throughout the growing season. Although the exposed leaf buds may wither shortly after planting, continue to weed and water around your trench. Within a few weeks, you may notice new leaf buds forming on your cuttings. Keep these young trees in their temporary location until the following spring.
Transplant your rooted, fruit tree cuttings into your landscape when they are 1 year old. Place these in bright, sunny locations that allow plenty of space for future maturity. Once the soil warms and becomes workable in the spring, remove your cuttings from their temporary location by digging the entire root balls from the soil. Include a few inches of soil around each root ball to minimize the shock to your young trees.
Water your fruit trees about once each week, keeping the soil near their roots slightly moist at all times. Do not allow the soil to become soggy around your small trees.
Feed your fruit trees a general fertilizer listed for use with fruit trees. Mix and apply your tree fertilizer according to the instructions.