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Scion clones keep failing -- fruit tree cuttings leaf out but then they die

 
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I keep trying to clone some of my fruit trees, and so far I have a 100% failure rate. =)

I use a rooting hormone I got off Amazon, and it seems to work fine. I stick it in 100% coconut fiber - about 3-5 scions per pot.
The pots were about 8" tall, and for the first week, I had them in a container with an inch of water in the bottom, so the cocofiber can absorb it and stay moist.

I misted them regularly for that first week, and covered the container in plastic, and kept it in my carport, out of direct sunlight but with plenty of ambient light, and where it's probably around 50F-60F degrees or so (during early spring).

After about 10 days, I move them to where they get morning sun and evening shade, and kept them watered and occasionally misted, no longer in a container of water.

Nearly all of them leafed out, but around the third or fourth week, they all 100% die (or at least their leaves turn brown and fall off, and the sticks no longer look green).
When I pull out their dead sticks, they do have several tiny hair-like roots that developed, about a half-inch long.

I had a variety of tree types, including about 10 mulberry scions which are supposedly easy to root.

Some guesses:
- It's rained pretty good on them. Is it possible they got *over-watered*? (NOTE: the pots did have holes in the bottom, and they were on an elevated bench with easy drainage)
- Are they not getting enough nutrients, due to pure coco-fiber? Should I have mixed the coco fiber with potting soil or some such?
- Am I supposed to re-pot them to potting soil sometime within the first three weeks?
- Am I supposed to cut their leaves in half after they leaf out? (NOTE: I rooted the scions before they budded)
- Am I supposed to use fertilizer or something? (NOTE: I may have dipped them in some heavily diluted liquid fertilizer before I dipped them in clonal powder, I forget. But surely if it was a problem, it would've hit them far sooner, not three weeks later)

What am I doing wrong?

Thank you in advance for any insight you can share about your successes!
 
pioneer
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Akiva from Twisted Tree said this about Mulberry cuttings:  "Cuttings: From literature I had read, I thought that starting mulberries from cuttings would be an easy way to start a bunch of trees. I have stuck hundreds and hundreds of mulberry cuttings using vigorous water sprouts from all times of year. I’ve gathered cuttings while they are dormant in the fall, winter, and spring, and have collected them during June and July. Most cuttings received root hormone dips. My success rate has been about 1%. The cuttings that did form roots generally made one or two very small root hairs that died after a month or two. I’m not sure why so many other people have had success with mulberry cuttings, but to me they have been impractical."

Other people here told me that they didn't have good luck with apple trees from cuttings either.  Maybe you aren't doing anything wrong, it's just that the trees you are trying don't grow well from cuttings.
 
gardener
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hau Jamin, well you have asked so I'll tell you how I grow cuttings (I've only had two die in the last 43 years).

The first thing to change is your growing medium, coir is not the best for anything to sprout in, first off because when you want to transplant to a larger container or into the ground the coir has to go with it, the roots would break off if you tried to remove the coconut coir.

Here's how I grow trees from cuttings (it's the same for all species for me)

I use sharp sand mixed with ground vermiculite (vermiculite is mica that has been heated and it not only holds water but it also provides some minerals).
If you are using a rooting hormone powder or liquid, you use a sharp, sterile knife and make 4 slits through the bark at the end you want the  roots to grow from. This stimulates the cambium to form roots.
Once you have prepped your scion for rooting (slits made and wetted) you apply the rooting hormone and plant in already wetted sand/vermiculite mix (using a Vitamin B-12 dilution to water the medium helps get things started better) in a taller than you think you need container, next you put a cloche over the top and set this in a shade to mostly shade area.
Check daily for too high a moisture content (lots of water droplets on the cloche interior means you need to let it dry out just a little.
Don't remove the cloche until you see new leaves growing.
Once the new leaves are doing well, remove the cloche but don't move the container for at least two more weeks, this allows the new tree to adjust to live outside the cloche.
If you are going to grow the tree in a container you can now set up that container and transplant, if you are going to place it in the ground, start prepping the spot it will live and let those amendments in the planting hole acclimate for around a week.
Now you can plant your new tree, do not remove the starting mix, just plant the whole root ball as it comes from the starting container, just as if it were a nursery bought tree.

Most failures are from rushing the process, don't be afraid to wait six months before you decide to move the new tree, the new roots are tender and they will break off if not allowed to really get established.
Usually when I am ready to plant a newly rooted tree, it has been in the starter container for 6 to 8 months and it has had two feedings of fish emulsion, when I lift them from the pot, they have a well established root ball.
If you are planting in the ground and the tree will end up in full sun to grow well, install a shade cloth over it in the beginning so it doesn't sunburn.

A cloche (in case you don't know) is simply a clear cover, some are glass, some are plastic. ( like to get hold of those blue 5 gal. home water fountain containers and cut the neck off to use for this purpose)
The scion needs to have at least 3 sets of leaves on it (and the rooting portion needs to be at least 4 inches  long) and the growing tip if you want a really nice, single trunk tree.
I have been known to use concrete blocks to keep the scion from being bent over when I put my cloche over the new rootling.

Redhawk

I added this thread to trees and fruit trees incase people that read those want to chime in with their tips and tricks.
 
pollinator
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Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
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I am not sure of what is sharp sand outside of what is available to me locally.
For sharp sand I have been using sand taken from the river bed near my house.  
They sell two grades. The more expensive sand is used on mortar that has been cleaned and another cheaper that has not been cleaned.  I use the cheaper since it has pebbles in it.
Are the slits in the stem along the length of the stem?
what is the B-12 mix ratio?  1000 to 3000 mcg  per gallon of water?
Thanks for this guidance.
 
Jamin Grey
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Thank for the details, Bryant!

Bryant RedHawk wrote:The first thing to change is your growing medium, coir is not the best for anything to sprout in, first off because when you want to transplant to a larger container or into the ground the coir has to go with it, the roots would break off if you tried to remove the coconut coir.
[...] I use sharp sand mixed with ground vermiculite (vermiculite is mica that has been heated and it not only holds water but it also provides some minerals).



I think I understand why you're saying not to use coconut coir *alone*, but are you say not to ever use any coconut coir, even in small amounts, in a rooting medium?

Would e.g. 10% coconut coir + 90% store-bought "potting soil" work fine?
I got plenty of sand also, though I'm not sure what constitutes "sharp" sound. Can I just mix 10% coconut coir, 40% potting soil from my garden (or even soil from my garden beds? Or will that carry too much disease?), and 50% sand?

I don't have vermiculite, but I can purchase some if that's truly a necessity.
 
steward
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For my cuttings, I like to use 100% sand. That seems to provide much better results for me than anything containing soil or coir.

I might use rooting hormone. I might not. Sometimes, I might just stab a whole bunch of cuttings into a spot where I want a new plant to grow in the clay-ish soil. Once in a while one of them will take.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Sharp sand is pure sand, it is commonly used for sand blasting and mortar mixes.
For our purposes anything that doesn't have particles over 2mm will work fine.
Coir isn't great for rooting plants unless you are air layering, where you are going to leave the medium in place for several months.
Less soil is going to be better for rooting, again it is because you want the water to be able to drain away so the roots will form and follow the retreating water.  
The slits are between 2 and 4 inches long, their purpose is to show the plant where you want it to grow roots and to get the hormone powder or liquid in contact with the cambium layer.
I make up my B-12 solutions from vitamin tablets, 4 tablets to a gallon of water, then I dilute that solution 1 cup to a gallon of water.

My own rooting mix is 75% sand 20%vermiculite and 5% finished compost.
I've found this to be slightly better for my purposes than pure sand, which is what I used for 30 years with great success.
I added the vermiculite because I don't have an automatic water setup for plants and I was forgetting to mist the plants as often as I should have, the vermiculite and cloches take care of that problem.
I add the compost more for biology (bacteria and fungi) than for any other reason.

Redhawk
 
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I grafted some figs that also leafed out and started growing but then failed.  Only one of them survived. I think the issue I had which sounds like yours as well, is the growing medium was too wet. I believe it was root rot that killed mine.

I have not tried it yet but I think using a growing medium with added vermiculite and perlite would help out. I believe it would hold water but not too much.

Another thing that is supposed to help, which I also have not tried yet, is utilizing a grow may to heat the cuttings from the bottom. This encourages root growth and does not dry out the top portion of the cutting.
 
gardener & author
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This is exciting to hear might be possible. Redhawk, what time of year do you take these cuttings and root them? Thanks!
 
Dennis Bangham
pollinator
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M. Korsz wrote: I grafted some figs that also leafed out and started growing but then failed.  Only one of them survived. I think the issue I had which sounds like yours as well, is the growing medium was too wet. I believe it was root rot that killed mine.
...



I have drowned many of a plant trying to grow cuttings.  I tend to over tend. I have not yet learned that nature did very well before I came long and will do very well after.  

I tried bottom watering in a standard greenhouse tray but over did that also. Maybe the vermiculite and sand is the answer I need and maybe not watering but 2 or 3 times a week while growing inside the house.
 
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