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How to Propagate Russian Olive Trees

Elaeagnus angustifolia, commonly known as the Russian olive or oleaster, is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 3a through 8b. The Russian olive tree can grow to be 20 feet tall. With attractive, silver and gray elongated foliage, Russian olive trees are moderately easy to propagate if you prepare ahead of time and are willing to be patient. Ensuring a humid environment and carefully monitoring your cuttings is critical for success.

Begin the propagation process in the winter, after the Russian olive tree has gone dormant for the season and the wood of the tree is at least 1 year old. Called hardwood cuttings, roots will form more easily for this particular tree.

Prepare a growing container that consists of two small boxes of the same size. The lower box needs a drainage hole, and the top box needs a glass or plexiglass window. The top box will rest on the lower one, creating a humid environment ideal for starting cuttings.

Fill the growing container base with a growing medium composed of equal parts peat moss and sand.

Cut a stem from your Russian olive tree. The stem should be 28 to 30 inches long. Measure up to 10 inches from the tip of the branch and make the first cut. Then measure 4 to 8 more inches and cut again. This piece in the middle of the branch is called a simple or straight cutting. Do not use the lower third or upper third, as these pieces will not root as easily for the Russian olive.

Pour some hormone powder, an auxin compound available at garden centers, on clean wax paper. You will discard the unused portion left on the wax paper to avoid spreading infection to future cuttings.

Create a hole in the rooting medium that will accommodate the cutting and prevent the auxin compound from being removed as you plant.

Dip the lower 1-1/2 to 2 inches into the auxin compound. Shake off the excess powder.

Plant the cutting in the prepared hole and water completely until the cutting is firmly placed in the medium.

Place the grow box in indirect light in temperatures of between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the cover on the lower box to retain moisture, and check it daily. The rooting medium should be evenly moist but not soaked.

Tug gently on the cutting periodically to check for root formation. It could take up to three months to form a stable root system. A gentle resistance tells you roots are forming.

Transplant the cutting into a 4-inch-diameter pot filled with quality potting soil when it has three roots that are 1/2 inch long.

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