Last year my plum tree was the victim of a savage deer rubbing attack. The bark was stripped all the way around the trunk leaving no possibility of water passing toward the top of the tree through the cambium layer. It was frustrating to say the least. Two varieties of plum trees are necessary for good cross pollination to produce fruit and one of mine was doomed. Or so I thought. I took a chance and cut the plum tree down then took cuttings from the top of the plum that had not yet had time to dry out.
I treated the cuttings with rooting hormone then stuck them in pots of soil. I put about 9 cuttings each in small 6 inch square nursery pots. I was in a hurry and just used whatever soil I had around at the time. I didn’t expect much but figured it was worth a shot to save my tree. I put the cuttings over the winter in my greenhouse (which is unheated) and let the dormant cuttings rest over the winter. I didn’t pay much attention to them until this spring. As I planted and watered my other greenhouse plants I watered the plum tree cuttings. Some of the plum branches began to sprout leaves which indicated they still had a chance but didn’t necessarily mean that there were roots yet. I checked a few periodically but they were not ready. Those that I did check eventually died because I disturbed them (impatience will often work against you in plant propagation).
This morning I took a peek at the underside of the pots and found roots coming out! Of the cuttings I took I have about 7-8 cuttings that may have rooted. I won’t pull them out until I am ready to transplant them all into pots so my exact success rate is still up in the air.
(Since I cut the top off my plum tree I left the root system in the ground which has since regrown quite a bit of foliage. I’ll trim down the sprouting foliage to one strong main leader and let it grow.)
The hardwood plant propagation method is best done in the late fall after dormancy. You can do this method with all kind of trees and shrubs. When you prune your trees in the fall take a few pencil thick sized branches of first year growth, treat them with rooting hormone (may or may not be necessary depending on the plant), and overwinter them in a location where they will have some humidity. Tenting cuttings or covering with a plastic container will help to maintain enough humidity so they do not dry out. You don’t have to have a greenhouse to grow cuttings! Once spring growth begins don’t let the cuttings dry out.
Plant Propagation Note: If you are taking cuttings of fruit trees keep in mind that it will generate its own roots. Which means if it was grafted on a different root stock before to create a dwarf or semi-dwarf variety it will grow to a full sized tree. It also may not have the same vigor as the previous plant did since grafted root stock is typically chosen for improved growth and disease resistance.