Learning to grow plants from cuttings is fun and rewarding. Although most citrus propagation is done by grafting, stem cuttings work very well for selected varieties. When grown from cuttings, cultivars like the Orlando tangelo are considered to be as good or better than when propagated by other methods. Rooting stem cuttings is simple and low cost as there are only a few basic supplies needed.
Dampen a paper towel and line the bowl with it. Take the cuttings from softwood, which is found between the soft, pliable new growth and the older woody stems. To test, bend a shoot until it breaks and listen for the distinct popping sound that softwood makes.
Cut the softwood stem about an inch below the second leaf node from the tip. Your cutting should have two sets of leaves and be 4 to 6 inches long. Put it in the bowl for moisture and keep it shaded.
Make a potting mix that is half sand and half peat moss or perlite. Moisten with water and fill a small planting container to within an inch of the top.
Cut away the lower leaves so that the leaf node is exposed and peel some of the bark away at the base. Dip the cutting into the rooting compound being sure it covers the exposed base and lower leaf node. Tap the cutting to remove excess compound and stick it in the planting container. The lower leaf node should be just below the surface. Cut off half of each remaining leaf with scissors. Be sure to wash your hands well after using the rooting compound.
Put Popsicle sticks into the corners of the pot and add a little water to the tray. Place the pot upright into a plastic bag and seal it. Place your improvised little greenhouse in a shady spot in the garden. Check the soil every few days and add water if needed.
Check the cutting for roots after about four weeks. Root hairs may be visible at the bottom of the container. If not, give the stem a gentle tug to see if there is resistance. Transplant the cutting to a larger container when roots have developed and keep it in a warm, sunny location.
Plant your tree outdoors in spring if you live in a warm climate such as Florida or Southern California. Choose a well-drained site with full sun. Spread 4 to 6 inches of mulch around the tree to keep water near the roots and discourage weeds. Keep the mulch off the trunk to avoid rot. You may have to wait four or five years for your tree to bear fruit, although varieties like the Orlando tangelo have been known to be productive in three years or less.