By: Amy Grant
If you’re new (or even not so new) to the gardening game,you might wonder how apple trees are propagated. Applesare usually grafted onto hardier rootstocks, but what about planting apple treecuttings? Can you root apple tree cuttings? Starting apple tree cuttings ispossible; however, you may not end up with the exact characteristics of theparent plant. Read on to learn more.
Can You Root Apple Tree Cuttings?
Apples can be started from seed, but it’s a little likespinning a roulette wheel; you never know exactly what you’ll get. Therootstocks of most popular applevarieties tend to be susceptible to disease and are grafted onto hardierrootstock.
Another method of propagation is planting apple treecuttings. This is a fairly straightforward method of propagation but, as withpropagation from seed, it’s a bit of a mystery as to what you will end up withand apple tree rooting isn’t always successful.
Starting Apple Tree Cuttings
Start an apple tree from cuttings in the winter or earlyspring when the tree is dormant. With sharp pruning shears, cut a portion of abranch that is 6-15 inches (15-38 cm.) from the tip of the branch.
Store the cutting, cut end down in moist sawdust orvermiculite for 3-4 weeks in a cool basement, cellar or refrigerator.
At the end of this chilling period, a callus will haveformed over the cut end. Dust this callused end with rootingpowder and then stick the dusted end in a container of moist peat soil.Keep the soil consistently moist. Place the container in a warm area of partialto dappled sunlight.
Planting Apple Tree Cuttings
After a few weeks, you should see leaves begin to emerge,which also means that roots are growing. At this time, give them a lightapplication of liquid fertilizer or manure water.
Transplant at this juncture or keep the cutting in thecontainer for the next year until the seedling has established roots and thentransplant it the following spring.
Dig a hole that is large enough to accommodate the appletree rooting. Settle the seedling apple tree into the hole and fill in aroundthe roots with soil. Gently tamp out any air bubbles and water the plant inwell.
If it is still fairly cool outside, you may need cover thetrees for added protection but remove once it’s warmed back up.
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Things You Will Need
Soak the knife blade for five minutes in a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts of water or in rubbing alcohol. Let it air dry.
Select a cutting. It should be a 1/4-to-1/2-inch-wide, 10-to-12-inch-long portion of the lower or middle part of a stem that began growing the previous year. It should have regularly spaced nodes and not be weak or overly vigorous.
Cut the bottom of your cutting at a slant directly beneath a node.
Cut the top of the cutting 1/2 to 1 inch above the uppermost node, called the apical node.
Remove the leaves from the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the cutting. The cutting should still have a leaf or two on the upper part to help feed emerging roots.
Dip the end in a commercial rooting hormone compound, which you can buy at most garden supply centers. Knock off the extra powder.
How to Grow Crabapple Trees From Stem Cuttings
Unlike their close relatives, the garden apple, crabapples (Malus spp.) are grown primarily for their ornamental springtime blossoms and fall foliage. They grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 8, and you can propagate them from softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer. Crabapple cuttings root fairly quickly under most conditions and will be ready to transplant by early fall. Start crabapple cuttings once the blossoms have completely disappeared and the leaves have fully formed.
Fill a 6-inch plastic container with a mix of equal measures peat and coarse sand. Soak the peat in water before mixing it with the sand.
Gather a 5- to 7-inch-long tip cutting with several sets of young leaves on the tip and a pliant stem. Cut the stem 1/4 inch below a set of leaves with bypass shears.
Strip off the mature leaves along the lower one-third of the crabapple cutting. Coat this lower area of the stem with 0.8-percent IBA (indolebutyric acid) rooting hormone.
Stick the hormone-coated end of the crabapple cutting into the prepared container. Press it in until the lowest set of leaves rests on the surface of the growing mixture. Firm the mixture around the base of the cutting.
Place the potted crabapple cutting outdoors in a sheltered area with filtered light. Protect it from wind and direct sun to prevent the leaves from drying out.
Drizzle water onto the growing mixture just around the base of the cutting. Maintain constant moisture in the peat mixture, but allow it to become nearly dry just below the surface.
Provide intermittent mist with an automated system or by spritzing the cutting two or three times a day with a spray bottle. Make sure to mist the undersides of the leaves, if you're using a spray bottle.
Tug the crabapple cutting in four to six weeks to check for roots. Feel if the cutting sticks to the growing medium rather than moving freely when you pull it.
Leave the rooted crabapple cutting in partial shade for the remainder of summer. Transplant it into a sunny bed with well-draining soil in early fall, around mid-October.
Samantha McMullen began writing professionally in 2001. Her nearly 20 years of experience in horticulture informs her work, which has appeared in publications such as Mother Earth News.
Apples do not root well as you have found. I have taken many cuttings and forced them in the early winter and only once did I see callus and rooting. Typically apples are propagated by grafting or budding the desired variety on to a rootstock.
I think you have your best luck with budding. I would suggest buying some rootstocks and planting them this spring where you want the trees or where they can be easily transplanted. There is a small Michigan nursery that specializes in small orders for home owners and they do sell rootstocks for grafting and budding. Grandpas Orchard in Coloma, Michigan https://www.grandpasorchard.com/Tree-Type/Rootstock-for-Backyard-Nurserymen
In late July or early August you go back to the tree you want and collect bud sticks. At this time the bark of young shoots easily separates from the wood. We say the bark 'slips'.
At the end of July, take your cuttings of the current year's growth. You want shoots that are 8 to 18 inches long. (If it is a big old tree with little growth you may want to do some pruning to stimulate grow this year.) We are going to use the middle part of the shoot, not the tip or the base. You should see good sized buds on the stems, just above where the leaf stem joins the woody stem. You can cut off the tip and base of the shoot where the buds are small and save the middle where the buds are larges. You should also cut off the leaf blades, but leave the small leaf stems (petioles) close to the buds. They make it easy to handle the buds once they are cut off the stick. Since you are only grafting a few trees you only need 2 or 3 bud sticks. Carry the bud sticks back to where your rootstocks are planted.
You are going to insert the buds, on the bud stick, under bark of the rootstock. This process is called budding and there are several different techniques. I suggest you search the internet for videos on grafting and budding and watch these videos to understand the process. I suggest you bud two or three buds near the base of each rootstock. The bark will heal around the inserted buds and you cut off the top of the tree the following spring just above the inserted buds. These buds will grow and produce the tree you desire. Remove any shoots from the rootstock, and you should probably choose the best growing or lowest shoot of the variety you want and remove the rest so you have a single trunk. Some people are growing paired trunks from 2 buds.
This is the way that apples are propagated commercially to get large numbers of trees of the desire variety. There are a large number of apple rootstocks available to control tree size
Thanks Marks, I did have some success about 30%, Now I have about 12 trees left over that the buds did not produce.
I was thinking I should graft them immediately, because it is now May 8th. What do you think?
I have never grafted, Any advice of how to or special tape or anything else that I should use. Or specific part of the host tree?