Propagation of Fruit Trees

Overview

Fruit trees are expensive and require a large investment in time. Once a good tree is established, gardeners often want another of a similar variety. It is possible to clone that tree, creating an identical copy without the need for seed. More adventurous gardeners may attempt pollinating and planting seed from the plant and seeing what happens.

Problems with Seed

Many fruit tree varieties do not produce a seed that creates a similar tree with similar fruit. Seeds can be used to create a plant that provides the roots for a grafted fruit tree, a process called creating understock. Check whether your specific tree variety will produce the same variety from seed by contacting your local university extension service.

Preparing Seed

Fruit seeds often have a hard shell that requires weakening before planting, says the Oklahoma State University Extension; the seed must be permeable to water. Soak the seed in sulfuric acid to weaken the shell, or soak it in hot water followed by a brief period in bowling water. Mechanical scarification with a knife is also a proven method. The seed also may require cold treatment to force dormancy. Most fruit tree seeds require temperature of 41 degrees F for several weeks. Once the seed is removed from the cold storage, it will spring back to life and is ready for planting.

Planting the Seed

Mix the seed with moist sand, sawdust or peat moss in a process called stratification. Place the seed into a seed container with the stratification mixture; a bushel or half-bushel container is best. The stratification mixture should keep the seed moist for a period of two months during germination.

Grafting

Grafting takes a branch from a mature tree and attaches it to an understock to recreate the fruit from the original tree. This is often the only way to produce the same fruit as the parent because cross breeding makes seeds sterile. A piece of scion wood--one season old and about a foot long--is collected from the tree with the desired fruit. The piece is cut from the tree at a 45-degree angle with a sharp knife. The scion is kept in cold storage until time to graft.

Methods

Grafting is done according to the tree variety. The most common method is the whip graft, where a cut is made into the understock that is the same diameter as the scion wood. The scion is cut at the bottom to expose fresh wood, and the two pieces are attached together using grafting wax or tape. The wound heals in a few months, melding the two together. Other methods require scarring or splitting the wood and scion or bud attachment. Your local university extension likely has information about which method is best for your tree.

Keywords: propagating fruit trees, fruit tree grafting, fruit tree seed

About this Author

Cleveland Van Cecil is a freelancer writer specializing in technology. He has been a freelance writer for three years and has published extensively on eHow.com, writing articles on subjects as diverse as boat motors and hydroponic gardening. Van Cecil has a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Baldwin-Wallace College.