Apple tree cutting propagation

Written by brenda priddy
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Apple tree cutting propagation
Apple trees can be grown from cuttings in several different ways. (Getty Creative)

Apple trees are a planting that many people desire in their yards because of the fruit production and beautiful blossoms. There are several ways to use cuttings to produce a new apple tree. Cuttings should be taken in the spring or autumn for best results.

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Branch cuttings

Branch cuttings from apple trees can be formed in two different ways: Stem cuttings are taken from new growth that has no flower buds. The cut is made 6mm (1/4 inch) inch below a leaf node, at an angle. A rooting hormone powder is dipped over the cut end, and the stem is placed into a growing medium, such as peat moss. Cuttings can be taken from softwood (wood less than 1 year old) or from hardwood (wood older than 1 year) to produce larger trees sooner. The cuts are much larger (12 to 30 cm (5 to 12 inches)), but once the cutting is finished, the rooting process is the same.

Rootstock cuttings

Rootstock cuttings are made by forcing an already planted apple tree into creating more ground shoots. The tree is cut back to about 50 cm (20 inches) high and allowed to grow for one year. The next year, the tree is cut back to about 25mm (1 inch) above ground level. The next year, during the dormant season, a cutting is taken from the roots of the tree immediately under the main tree root. Make a straight cut on the top and a diagonal cut on the bottom. A rooting hormone is added to the roots, and they are placed in the ground to finish the dormant season. The apple tree will sprout the following year.

Rooting

The easiest way to grow apples from cuttings is to cut a branch in the spring or summer. Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone powder. Place the stem into some moist peat moss or compost. Cover the entire container with plastic. Keep the cutting moist over the next several weeks. After three weeks, start to test for root growth by pulling gently on the stem. If the stem resists, then roots have started. Remove the plastic and keep the plant indoors until the following spring.

Planting

Plant the tree in the early spring, after there is no danger of frost. Choose a growing site that has full sun. Mix some compost in with the soil, and mix in sand if the growing site has poor drainage. Dig a hole twice as large as the current container. Place the tree into the hole, making sure that the tree sits in the same level in the new hole as it did in the pot.

Care

Apple trees require some care and pruning to remain healthy. The first year, prune the largest branch on top, to encourage the tree to grow outward rather than upward. Do not allow the soil to remain dry for more than one or two days at a time. Remove weeds from the area. Fertilise the tree once a month with a 10-10-10 fertiliser in the summer. Do not harvest any apples the first year.

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