A thrifty way to get multiple saplings of a tree variety is to take cuttings from an existing tree. With a good cutting taken in the fall, you can care for new plants throughout the winter. When spring comes the cutting should be ready for planting outside. While a lot of supplies aren't needed to propagate trees from cuttings, patience and vigilance are required as the cuttings start new growth and turn into whole plants.
Select in the fall the limb of the tree to be cut. Collect a tender, green stem rather than older, hard wood. Cut a pencil-thick stem portion 6 to 9 inches long that starts and ends just before and just after a bud.
Clip off any leaves that are growing on the bottom half of the cutting, leaving only the upper leaves intact. Fill a 4-inch pot with potting soil or seed-starter mix to within a 1/4 of an inch of the rim.
Dampen the soil in the pot with water. Poke a hole into the soil with a pencil about 3 to 4 inches deep without touching the bottom of the pot.
Dip the bottom inch of cutting into a small bowl of water to wet it. Dip the wet end of the cutting into the rooting hormone powder to coat it. Place the cutting immediately into the hole in the soil. Firm up the soil around the cutting to hold it in place.
Cut the top of a 2-liter bottle off with a sharp knife or scissors. Turn the base portion of the bottle upside down to create a mini greenhouse. Place the bottle over the pot and press the bottle edges into the soil by 1/2 of an inch.
Set the pot in a warm, sunny window and leave it there as the cutting starts to form roots over the next few weeks. Moisten the soil when it feels dry to the touch.
Remove the bottle greenhouse from the pot when new growth appears on the cutting. Continue to care for the tree cutting over the winter by watering and providing as much sun as possible. Plant the new tree outside in spring after the last frost has passed.
Things You Will Need
- Hand pruners
- 4-inch pot
- Potting soil or seed starting mix
- Rooting hormone powder
- 2-liter bottle
- Large knife or scissors
- Different tree variety cuttings will respond differently, so allow plenty of time, up to two to three months, for the cuttings to show new growth. As long as the plant isn't wilting, turning brown or black, or forming a fungus on the soil level, consider the cutting to be healthy and growing roots under the soil.
- Dry or overly soggy soil will result in poor germination or dead seeds.
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