Cloning or propagating plants from cuttings is a quick method for adding more plants to your garden. Many houseplants are fairly easy to clone, but a skilled gardener can also propagate hardwood trees via cloning. The cherry tree (Prunus avium) is one hardwood tree that can be started from cuttings as long as you follow the correct procedure.
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Growing cherry trees from cuttings can be more difficult than starting a plant from a cherry seed. Nonetheless, propagation from cuttings is possible and can give you a head start on the growing process. Cherry trees grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 8.
The procedure for cloning of a cherry tree depends on whether you opt for a softwood, semi-hardwood or hardwood cutting. However, propagation using hardwood cuttings takes much longer, and specimens have a lower chance of survival.
Taking Cherry Tree Cuttings
Taking the right cuttings at the right time is key to successful cherry tree propagation. Softwood cuttings are taken from the tender new growth of your tree in May, June or July. These cuttings should have leaves at different stages of development and should snap when bent. Although softwood cuttings dry out more easily, they're easier to root. Semi-hardwood cuttings are taken later in the year, from about mid-July to early fall. This wood is firmer than that of softwood cuttings and bears full-size leaves.
Aim for cuttings between 6 to 12 inches long. Using clean, sharp hand shears, cut the stems at a slight angle. Carefully remove any leaves, buds or fruit from the bottom half of the cuttings using the shears. Keep the cuttings moist during the transplanting process because if they dry out, they're more likely to die.
Planting Cherry Tree Cuttings
Drainage is important when planting any cuttings, so use a reasonably shallow pot with drainage holes in the bottom. A mixture of equal parts coarse sand, perlite and Sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir can also boost drainage. Water the mixture thoroughly before planting your cuttings, leaving it adequate time to drain.
You can then plant your cuttings, taking care to plant them with the cut ends down. Use a pencil to make small holes in the rooting medium at least 2 inches apart. Applying rooting powder to the cut ends can help your cuttings to grow roots. Apply it to the bottom third of each cutting if you choose to use it and tap the cutting prior to planting to remove loose rooting powder. Place your cuttings in the holes to about one-third to one-half of their length and gently firm the rooting medium around them.
Keep your cuttings at a lower temperature in an unheated porch or garage throughout the cooler dormant months, but avoid letting them freeze. Excess warmth may encourage the cuttings to sprout too early, but at this point, the focus is on rooting, not foliage.
Cherry Tree Cutting Care
Keeping your cuttings moist is crucial. You don't want your rooting mix to get too soggy or waterlogged, though, so checking the drainage is also important. Spraying your cuttings can help keep the moisture level topped up without adding too much water and risking rot. To maintain high humidity levels, you should also completely cover your cuttings' pot with a clear plastic bag propped up with stakes or dowels to prevent the plastic from touching the cuttings. If the cuttings are sharing a larger container, you can use clear plastic sheeting over a wire frame instead.
In spring, avoid tugging on your cuttings to see if they've rooted as this can damage the roots. Instead, look for signs of sprouting, which means the cuttings have developed roots.
When you're able to see roots growing from the drainage holes of your pot, you can transfer the cuttings to individual pots, taking care to plant them at the same depth at which they were growing in the original pot. If you live within the cherry's USDA hardiness zone range, you can also move your cuttings outdoors at this stage. But continue shielding them from extreme temperatures for a minimum of one year before planting them in their permanent locations.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Hardwood Cuttings for Shrub & Tree Propagation
- Permaculture Research Institute: Different Methods for Propagating Fruit Trees From Cuttings, Etc.
- Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service: Home Fruit Planting Guide
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Prunus avium
- The Old Farmer's Almanac: Growing Cherries
- NC State Extension: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings
- RHS: Grow Your Own Fruit: Cherries