Excerpts from "Propagating Deciduous Fruit Plants Common to Georgia"
by M.E. Ferree and Gerard Krewer, Extension Horticulturists




Cuttings


Types

Three types of cuttings are used to propagate specific fruit plants common to Georgia. Root cutting is the simplest method of propagation, and only erect blackberries are satisfactorily reproduced by this method. Hardwood cuttings, stem cuttings taken in the dormant season, are also an easy method of reproducing fruit plants. Figs and bunch grapes are most often propagated by hardwood cuttings. The softwood cutting method of fruit plant propagation is most commonly used to propagate rabbiteye blueberries and muscadine grapes, and is occasionally used to propagate figs. A mist system to keep the foliage of the cuttings from drying out is necessary, making this method of propagation more complicated than the root or the hardwood cutting methods.

Root Cuttings

Erect blackberries are most often propagated by root cuttings planted directly in the field where the berries are to be permanently situated. Root cuttings should be the diameter of a pencil and 4 to 6 inches long (Fig. 1). These cuttings are placed horizontally about 2 inches deep in the soil in March. Shoots should appear in four to eight weeks. If storage of the roots is necessary before planting, moisten them and store in a plastic bag at 34° to 38°F until time to plant.

Root Cutting
Fig. 1 Root cutting

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Hardwood Cuttings

Figs are generally propagated by 8- to 10-inch long hardwood cuttings of the previous year’s growth (Fig. 2) and placed in a nursery row about 4 inches apart in late February or March. Place the cuttings at a depth so only the top bud is exposed. The base cut on the fig cutting should be ½ inch below a node; the top cut on each cutting should be ½ inch above a node. Rooted plants are dug the following winter.

Fig Cuttings
Fig. 2 Fig cuttings

Bunch and French hybrid grapes are propagated by hardwood cuttings taken any time during the dormant season. For varieties such as Fredonia, select canes with buds 3 to 5 inches apart and make cuttings at least three buds long (Fig. 3). For less vigorous varieties, such as Delaware, select canes with shorter internodes and leave more buds per cutting.

Grape Cuttings
Fig. 3 Grape cuttings

Place these cuttings in a rooting box so only the top bud is exposed. The rooting medium should be sand, sand and peat, or sand and vermiculite, and should be kept moist at all times. Roots should appear in three to six weeks.
After rooting begins, the cuttings can be planted in the nursery row or in their permanent location in the vineyard.

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Softwood Cuttings

Rabbiteye blueberry plants are grown from softwood cuttings. Cuttings should be taken immediately after the first flush of growth in the spring. Using wood that is about 1/8 inch in diameter, make cuttings 4 inches long. Leave three or four upper leaves and place approximately 2½ inches deep in the rooting bed. The rooting medium should consist of half peat and half clean sand by volume. A rooting hormone is not needed. These cuttings should be placed under intermittent mist.

When cuttings have rooted well (generally five to seven weeks), gradually reduce misting and allow the plants to harden. Water only when the surface of the medium becomes dry. Plants may be left in the bed covered with glass or polyethylene for protection during the winter. Grow rooted plants at least one year in a nursery row before moving them to their permanent location.

Muscadine grapes are propagated by two methods: softwood cuttings or layering. Propagation of large quantities of plants is easier and quicker using softwood cuttings taken in late June. Use the current season’s shoots. Cut off and discard the tender tip and make cuttings from the rest of the shoot. Leave four nodes on each 4- to 6-inch cutting. Keep the cuttings moist to avoid wilting. Remove the two basal leaves on each cutting, treat the base of the cutting with a rooting hormone (optional), and line them out on a 3-by-4 inch spacing. The medium in the propagation bed should be a mixture of one part coarse sand and one part peat. Provide shade by blocking out about 50 percent of the direct sunlight with shade cloth or lath.

Maintain the humidity near 100 percent by intermittent mist. When the cuttings root and the shoots begin to grow, remove the shade. Gradually reduce misting and fertilize with a solution of one tablespoon of 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer per gallon of water once a week until mid-September. Use one gallon per 25 square feet of plant bed. Allow the plants to harden. Water only when needed. When dormant, these plants can be dug and planted in the vineyard, or planted in the nursery to grow for a year.

Figs, although generally propagated by hardwood cuttings, are sometimes propagated by softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings of actively growing fig shoots can be propagated under intermittent mist. Treatment of the base of the cutting with a rooting hormone is not necessary. However, two nodes should be placed in the medium. The base cut should be ½ inch below a node. Rooting should begin in three to four weeks, at which time the misting interval is widened to encourage further root growth. If these rooted cuttings are to be dug and potted, they should be placed under mist or in a shade house after potting until the roots recover from the transplanting operation.

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Peaches, nectarines and plums are generally grown from software cuttings.
Preliminary tests with trees produced from rooted cuttings compared with conventionally propagated trees on Lovell rootstock have shown own-rooted trees to be as good in respect to tree survival, fruit production and quality as well as tree size. As such, own-rooted trees have been recommended, in most cases on a trial basis, in many peach production areas. Recent research by USDA scientists indicate that own-rooted trees come into production earlier than conventionally propagated (two-piece) trees.

Generally speaking, there has been success by taking softwood cuttings following the period of flower bud initiation. As a result, specific timing will vary from area to area. In Georgia, the ideal time to take cuttings is in late July to mid-August.

Take terminal portion of shoots. The cuttings should be in the range of 6 to 12 inches in length. Leaves should be removed with exception of the most terminal 3-5, leaving a tuft of leaves on the end of the shoot. Cuttings should be protected from drying out after they are cut and prepared. If cuttings are to be held for even a short period, they should be placed in plastic bags and held in a cooler or refrigerator. However, cuttings should be used as soon as possible after they are taken.

To prepare the cuttings for rooting, wound by removing a shallow slice of bark 1 inch in length on two sides of the base of the cutting. Following this wounding, dip the wounded area of the cutting into an alcoholic solution of 2500 pm idolebutyric acid (IBA).

Treated cuttings should be stuck down into a media of vermiculite or other suitable rooting media. The rooting bed should be surrounded by plastic on the sides and set up with a mist system in order to maintain a 100 percent relative humidity.

Cuttings should remain under the mist system until well rooted. At that time, rooted cuttings can be moved into larger containers and placed in a greenhouse or other protective structure for overwintering.


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Bibliography

Ferree, M.e. and Krewer, Gerard. "Propagating Deciduous Fruit Plants Common to Georgia." caes.uga.edu. University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension. Reviewed Feb. 2012. Web. 26 May 2014.

Photographs

Fig. 1,2,3 Propagating Deciduous Fruit Plants Common to Georgia. 2012. caes.uga.edu. Web. 26 May 2014.

Published 27 May 2014 LR
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