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Propagating apple root stock via cuttings

 
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Hello permies, I grafted some trees last week and collected the cut off root stock pieces to try to root them.  I tried a variety of cuts on the bottom end as an experiment.  I put them in moist potting soil near a west facing window and they're already pushing growth.  So I have some questions:

Should I let all the buds push growth or should I rub off all but one bud to limit the amount it expends on top growth and hopefully encourage root establishment?

If I should rub off all the buds but one, should I keep the highest or lowest bud?  And should I prune off the wood above the bud I keep or leave it alone.

Is a 55-60 degree laundry room with a West window good enough?  Or is a sunnier sun room that bounces between 70 and 35 better?  My other options is a South window in a bedroom that's closer to 62-70 degrees.

Thanks!
Apple-rootstock-cuttings.jpg
[Thumbnail for Apple-rootstock-cuttings.jpg]
 
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I would keep two to three buds so there will be enough energy for good root growth.
It would seem that you are wanting to grow your own root stock, so I would not prune any extra length for a year or two.

You are going to want at least one south window, the objective is as long a sun period as possible for root growth.
Temp is not as important as sun hours.

Redhawk
 
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Hello Mike,

I agree with Bryant. If you have them in a south window, the direct sun will also help heat up the soil and speed up root development. Thats one reason heating mats are used for germinating seeds, the warm temperature stimulates growth, and root development. I've used clear containers in window seal applications with great success, because in early spring when its cooler. The clear container lets the sun heat the dark soil quickly. Over exposure to heat can of course be an issue, but the changing angle of the sun limits the duration of direct sun as the season progresses, due to the eves from the roof line casting a shadow. So in my particular situation it self regulated very well. Every situation is of course different, but a little extra daylight heat from that souther exposure, could help drastically in speeding up root development, especially if your containers mass, are acting as a heat sink, to hold that stimulating warmth through the colder nights.
 
Mike Haasl
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Awesome, thanks!   I'm not positive the sunroom will stay above freezing for the next month (but I suspect it will).  Would a slightly freezing night be a problem for them?

Yes, my goal is to get at least one to properly root so that I can have a root stock tree for future stool layering.  My question above about pruning was that if I leave a bud on the cutting that is 3" from the tip, should I prune off 2.5" of the tip above the bud I keep.

Thanks!!!
 
R. Steele
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Mike,

I personally wouldn't recomend doing any cutting of the hardwood, until your new trees are rooted and well established. You can safely trim off the stubs during the next dormant season, after the roots and new leaders are established. Ideally you would make the appropriate cuts when preparing your sticks for rooting; however, hindsight is 20/20. At this critical stage of rooting, a fresh wound of that size will most likely only cause increased stress and dehydration. Those are two things you definitely want to avoid to insure the best success at this stage. Freezing temperatures will most likely just slow down the speed of development, but cold causing damage can very on numerous factors. I would try to protect at least the roots from freezing if possible. Is using a frost blanket possible at night? An extra layer of greenhouse type protection at night, may be all you need.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I have used heating pads (on lowest setting) under containers or between containers to keep root balls from freezing on really cold nights, in the old days we used "smudge pots" but that was for outside plants since they burn kerosene.
Heating pads are safe as long as there isn't open water around. If the pots are plastic, put something non-flammable between the pot and the heating  pad.
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks R, I'll leave the poor sticks alone and not cut them.  I'll keep them in the sunroom which probably won't freeze at night.  If it's going to get below 25F I can always just bring them into the house for the night.  Thanks for the advice!!!

Sorry Bryant, just saw your post.  I do have a heating mat but it's under a bunch of seedling peppers right now.  I'll keep that in mind for the future though...
 
Mike Haasl
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Quick update:  All 22 root stock cuttings sprouted multiple buds.  They all got leaves and put on 1-2" of growth.  I had them outside in a spot that got dapple shade in the afternoon.  All but one had the leaves wither and dry up in the same week (uncanny consistency).  But one made it!  The leaves haven't kept growing but they haven't dried up.  I think it pushed out enough of a root that it's holding on to life while it grows that root out.  Time will tell but it looks like I may have a "root stock" tree to stool layer in the future
 
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Any updates on this project?
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks for following up T.J.  The last remaining stick died a while later (weeks to a month if I remember correctly).
 
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Awwww- that's to bad...I was "rooting" for them! I have a old apple tree (over 40 years old) that is way over grown and I wondered if I could cut some of the suckers and replant them for newer producing trees?
 
Mike Haasl
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What you could try is "air layering" the suckers.  Or bending them down and burying part of them so that they hopefully form roots.  Then clip them off the main tree and plant where you want.  I tried that with two of my suckers and it didn't work but I may have done it wrong...
 
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I've found that at least with the common rootstock that most of our trees are on (MM106) that it keeps suckering and shooting from even small scraps of root, so I've got a seemingly limitless supply I just keep dividing the shoots as they emerge, whether it's out in the orchard or in the pots and bags where I'm doing my propagating.

Air layering usually works pretty well with apples and pears. You may wind up with a good tree, but you may also lose traits that were being provided by the rootstock. These could include delayed bud break, tolerance of certain soil types, resistance to disease or pests, and size of the tree. If you want to control those qualities, grafting is well worth the trouble.
 
T.J. Stewart
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Funny thing happened to us today.  We were clearing an area with a bobcat to prepare it for our greenhouse.  Part of the area has dwarf apple trees in it.  While my son (15) was moving huge plies of compost, he accidentally backed over one of the trees snapping it at the base.  He's eyes got super big, especially since I had already told him to be careful not to knock down any trees (lol).  Anyway, I told him not to worry about it, all was not lost, because there was a beautiful M27 root stock sucker standing unscathed.  We dug him up, replanted him in his forever home, and stooled him up nicely.  I'm pretty sure that I'll get a bunch of nice root stocks from him for years to come. :)
 
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