Simple Techniques for Fruit Tree Propagation

Strikingly Simple Techniques for Fruit Tree Propagation

The simple techniques for fruit trees propagation, covered in the following article, will introduce a few methods that will help grow tree saplings other than sexual reproduction. Read on, to know more...
Most people are under the impression that fruit trees can only be propagated with the help of seeds. The fact is that fruit tree propagation is more than just planting seeds. You see, if you take a seed to propagate a fruit tree, you are actually growing a hybrid plant. No, there is no scientific mumbo jumbo here. It is just plain genetics. When a seed forms, it has genes of two different plants that are mixed during replication. The plant growing out of that seed will now be a hybrid of the two parent plants. Thus, it may differ in the number of fruits produced, quality of the fruit, etc. You may not want that, especially when you wish to grow some of the top fruit varieties. Therefore, the choice of propagation for simple fruit trees is vegetative propagation. In this article, we shall describe certain successful, yet simple techniques for fruit tree propagation that are used worldwide.

Fruit Tree Propagation

It is very easy to propagate any fruiting plant, if only you know which propagation technique works for which plant. Some plants need seed or root propagation, and some need grafting. These trees propagated otherwise, will result in just waste of time, energy and effort. Fruit trees can be grown using different methods like planting seeds, rooting cutting, layering and grafting. Commercial propagation of fruit trees is carried out using a technique called tissue culture. We shall not get into the details of tissue culture and planting seeds, but concentrate more on the types of vegetative propagation.

Different Propagation Methods for Fruiting Trees

These methods are simple and can be carried out at home too. These methods are simple variants of the commercial propagation of fruit trees. You can try these for small-scale or private propagation of trees.

Rooting Cuttings
There are a few plants that can be grown by rooting their cuttings. This means stems can be cut from the plant and grown in the soil. These cuttings will soon develop roots and grow into a plant. Follow the tips given below and try to grow your tree using this method.
  • Take a plant that can be propagated using cuttings. Late spring or summer is the best time to try this method. The temperature should be warm enough for the plant to grow actively. Take a healthy branch and cut it about a few inches to a foot long. Strip off all the leaves, barring just a few small ones at the end of the branch.
  • Take a flowering pot or container with a hole in the bottom to drain water. Fill it with a suitable rooting medium or soil. Place the cutting in the soil and water thoroughly.
  • Take a clear plastic bag and place it over the pot, such that it covers the cutting. This will cause the air inside the bag to humidify totally, further preventing the cuttings from drying off.
  • Place the pot in an area of full shade, under a tree, in a yard, etc. Basically, you need a warm, shaded place to allow rooting.
  • It may take about 4 to 8 weeks for the roots to develop. If you find new green leaves or growth, remove the bag for a few hours. If the leaves remain as they are without wilting, it means rooting is successful.
  • If the leaves wilt, it means you need to add more water and place the bag over the pot for a week or so.
  • After the cutting has taken roots, transplant it carefully in a good potting soil. Place the pot in a shaded area. When you find the leaves do not wilt and continue to grow, move the plant gradually into the sun.
  • Few weeks later, when the roots are well established, and the plant is growing well, you can transplant it to a suitable area under the sun for further growth.
Root cuttings also involve hardwood cuttings such as simple cutting, torn cuttings and hammer cutting. Semi-wooded cutting and truncheons are also a part of root cuttings.

Layering is another successful and simple technique. In this method, the branch you use for rooting is not planted in the soil, but attached to the mother plant, till roots are spotted. There are two types of layering: ground layering and air layering. Let us take a look at both these methods.

Ground Layering
Choose a plant you need to propagate. Now, find a branch closest to the soil. Bend it over to the ground and keep it in this position using a rock. Cover a little portion of the branch with damp mulch or soil. Make sure the soil or mulch is regularly watered. You can even scrap off a bit of bark from over the area where you want the roots to grow, before pinning the branch to the soil. Suppose you do not find any suitable branch, stem or vine near the soil, you can either use a pot or a plastic bottle with its bottom cut out and filled with soil. Prop up the pot or container to the level of the branch. Now, place the branch in the soil and cover it up with soil. Water regularly, as the water will quickly drain off from the suspended pot. After several weeks or even months, you will observe roots. Once you notice the growth of roots, cut off the branch from the mother plant. Cut off few of the new leaves from the new plant, as it may not be able to support most of the leaves.

Air Layering
The most difficult form of layering is air layering. Not because it is difficult to carry out, but requires a lot of hard work and patience. The following instructions will prove to be useful:
  • You need to select a healthy branch for propagation. From the tip of the branch, come down about 12 inches. Now, take a sharp knife and make two 1 ½ inch parallel cuts. Make sure you do not cut through the branch, or else you will lose the branch.
  • Add a bit of rooting hormone to the wound created. It will help enhance the rooting process.
  • Take moist potting soil or sphagnum moss and cover it over the wound. To keep it in place, use a plastic wrap. This will help create an airtight pouch over the soil and branch. This is the hardest part, juggling soil, plastic and trying to tie it in place with rubber bands.
  • After the plastic and soil or moss is in place, cover it over with an aluminum foil. This foil will help prevent the sun's rays from reaching the wound and destroying the rooting hormones also preventing the area from getting too hot.
  • Remove the aluminum foil regularly to check if rooting has occurred. Once the roots are spotted (it may take months), you can cut off the new plant from the mother plant, just below the pouch.
  • Place the new plant in a desired spot in the soil or container. Remove a few leaves and make sure you water regularly, till the roots fully establish themselves.
There are different types of grafts used according to the procedure and shape of cut. However, basically, all these methods are just variations of the original grafting method. Some of the grafting methods for fruit trees are discussed below:

Whip and Tongue Grafting
Also called bench grafting at times, is one of the most commonly used method of grafting. However, this method is structurally weak and therefore suitable for only small grafts. The root-stock and scion are to be of the same diameter. The scion should be about 5 to 15 cm in length and have around 2 to 3 buds. Make a smooth, straight diagonal cut of about 1½ to 2 inches at the top of the stock and scion base. Now hold the scion in the hand such that the angled cut faces to the end of the first finger. Place the knife about 2/3rd above the cut. Make a notch over the scion and a similar notch over the rootstock. Now, slide the scion over the rootstock such that the cambium of the rootstock touches the cambium of the scion at least on one side. Now, wrap the cut with a tape using a parafilm and cut a thin rubber band and wrap it over the graft. The rubber band will pull the grafts together and allows better contact of the cambium tissues. The cambium tissue of both the scion and stock need to be in contact to allow the grafting to be a success. Do not expose the plant to too much sun, or else it will dry out completely.

Saddle Graft
In this method, take a scion with about 2 to 3 buds. The cut tip and other parts in parafilm, leaving just about 1 inch at the end. Take a sharp knife and make a 'V' shape cut in the scion. Make a similar length and size 'V' shape mirror image cut on the rootstock. Now, place the 'V' shape scion over the mirror image 'V' shape rootstock. Tie them together with a very tight rubber band. This is all that is required for a saddle graft technique.

Other methods of grafting include side-veneer grafting, bark grafting and cleft grafting.

Budding is method that involves maximum cambium contact. There are three methods of budding that include chip budding, shield budding, forcing and patch budding. Let us take a look at a few of these methods:

Chip Budding
Chip budding is a technique that helps a new tree grow from each bud on the scion wood. This method is not applicable for large, thick barked root-stocks. Take a tape and wrap it around the rootstock, just below the place you want to make the graft. Take a sharp knife and cut a V shape shallow notch into the bark of the rootstock. In this case, one side of the V should be longer than the other. Take a scion and cut under the single bud. Then cut below the bud and make a chip of the same size of the notch you made on the rootstock. Place the chip over the notch and make sure the cambium is in contact. Wrap the stock and scion with a parafilm wrap. Hold it in place using tight rubber band, cover the rootstock, but not the bud.

Citrus trees are commonly propagated using the T-budding method. This method is carried out on actively growing plants where the bark easily separates from the wood. You need to take a sharp knife and make a vertical cut on the bark of the rootstock. Above this vertical cut, you need to make a horizontal cut. This will form a T. Cut the scion in the same way as you did in the chip budding method. Here, you need to cut below the bud then remove the scion and place a second cut above the bud. Peel a bit of bark from the rootstock at the top of T. Now, slide the bud beneath the bark and tape it with a parafilm tape. DO not cover the bud in any way as it needs room to grow. Then, once the bud starts growing, you can cut the top of the rootstock and place the plant in an area receiving full sun.

You need to use mature root stocks and healthy scions for these plant propagation methods to be successful. Beginners may have a lesser success rate initially, but with repeated attempts, trials and errors, you will soon be able to carry out successful vegetative propagation.