Growing fruit is really exciting, but the cost of buying new plants is not. Here are 6 fruit crops to propagate for free from cuttings.
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Fruit Crops to Propagate for Free: Getting Started with Cuttings
Everyone loves the instant gratification of buying established plants at the nursery and being able to harvest fruit relatively quickly. However, propagating your own fruit by cuttings is an inexpensive way to clone your favorite fruits. All you need is a healthy, existing plant from which to take cuttings.
If you’re wanting to grow fruit tree guilds or a food forest on the cheap, especially if you’d like to grow perennial crops for money, this method may work well for you.
Another benefit of taking cuttings is the ability to clone outstanding varieties or local varieties that are hard to find in stores.
Make sure you choose plant types and varieties that suit your climate and sun conditions.
Get started soon, because most cuttings will take about two to three years (or more) to be large enough to bear fruit.
6 Fruit Crops to Propagate for Free from Cuttings
Although there are many fruit crops to propagate for free, not all of them do well with propagation by cuttings. If you have a particular fruit in mind that isn’t listed here, do some research before giving this method a try.
Plan to plant at least a handful of cuttings for each fruit crop, since not all of them will take.
Cuttings should be about 5-6 inches long for the crops listed below, except where noted.
Take cuttings only from healthy plants.
#1: Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)
Blueberries can be propagated from hardwood or softwood. Cut softwood twigs in late spring from the tip of existing canes of healthy bushes. Cuttings can also be taken from hardwood canes during the midwinter dormant season.
Blueberry cuttings are rooted in a growing medium with a low-pH that should be kept moist but not too wet. Fertilize regularly with fish and seaweed fertilizer during the summer months. Cuttings are best planted in the ground the following spring.
#2: Blackberry and Raspberry (Rubus spp.)
Brambles are excellent berry crops to propagate from cuttings. Simply take cuttings of the tip of a primocane—that bright green, pliable cane that is this-year’s growth. Cuttings are best taken in late summer, and rooted in a potting soil medium. They should be ready to plant in the ground within two months, before winter.
Read more about growing black raspberries.
#3: Currant (Ribes spp.)
Take 12-inch cuttings from one-year-old wood in late winter. Plant about two-thirds of the stem under soil. They will root quickly in potting soil as long as they are kept moist and in the shade. Plant them in a more permanent location the following autumn.
Read more about growing and using currants.
#4: Elderberry (Sambucus)
Softwood cuttings are taken during early summer from the tips of green, pliable shoots and placed in a potting soil mix. Keep the cuttings moist especially until shoots take root.
If you’ve planted them in a pot, they should be ready to plant out to the garden within three months.
Elderberry shrubs are an excellent choice for the edible hedgerow.
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#5: Fig (Ficus)
Take cuttings in early spring from 1/2-inch thick branches, 8 inches long, and root them in potting soil. The greenhouse environment listed below in ‘Tips for Success’ will be essential to their success.
Keep the soil moist but not too wet or too dry. Wait until early summer when the weather has warmed, AND new growth has appeared, before planting outside.
#6: Mulberry (Morus)
Take 12-inch cuttings from soft, pliable branches in late winter, and root them in growing medium in a container. Place the pot in a greenhouse environment specified in the ‘Tips for Success’ section below. Keep them moist.
Once the outside temperatures warm up AND the cutting has begun to develop leaves, place the container outside in a sunny location. Be sure to water at least once daily to keep soil moist, and mist the above ground growth. In the fall of that same year, cuttings can be planted in a permanent location in the ground.
Hint: Taking cuttings from cultivated varieties that are known to be self-fruitful is your best bet. If you are taking cuttings from wild mulberries, on the other hand, it is best to take several cuttings from different trees. This will increase your chances of growing at least a few trees that will complement one another for pollination and fruit set.
Mulberries are a popular berry to grow in your own jelly garden!
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Fruit Crops to Propagate for Free: Tips for Success
Many of the fruit crops listed above can be planted in a permanent spot as early as six months after cuttings are taken. However, they can also be cared for in containers for two years or so, increasing the pot size as needed. If they will be planted in an area with heavy weed or deer pressure, keeping them in pots for a longer period of time maybe be essential to their success.
#1: Prevent the Spread of Disease
Only take cuttings from healthy plants. Also, use high-quality pruners that have been disinfected with bleach or vinegar before and after each cutting.
- Pruners for Large Hands (Felco F 7)
- Pruners for Medium Hands (Felco F 12)
- Pruners for Left Handers (Felco F 17)
#2: Is it working?
You will know the cuttings are rooting when they start to grow new leaves. However, the percentage of success with cuttings is historically low. This means that to ensure success, you’ll want to grow at least three to five cuttings for each plant you hope to get.
For example, if you want to grow five bushes, you may want to start 15-25 cuttings. If you’re growing in 1-3 gallon pots, you’ll be able to grow 4-5 cuttings in a single container. The bright side is that if more of the cuttings are successful, you’ll have some to sell or give away as gifts!
You can increase the odds of success (and possibly speed up the process) by using a rooting hormone. However, if you’re following excellent growing practices, rooting hormone should not be essential for the fruits listed in this article.
Here is a reminder of good growing practices for propagating cuttings:
- Take cuttings from healthy plants only
- Use only sterilized, high quality pruners
- Grow in great soil or soil medium
- Grow in prescribed conditions
- Keep soil moist
#3: Essential Watering
Cuttings should be watered every day and grown in partially shady conditions (except where noted). Never let cuttings dry out in the pots, especially prior to rooting.
#4: Make a Greenhouse Environment
Cuttings do best when grown in a warm sunny window, in a greenhouse, cold frame, on a seedling heat mat, under a 2-liter bottle with the bottom cut off, or with a clear plastic bag placed over the cutting. The key is to keep the environment warm and humid, so you might need to use a combination of these suggestions.
Cuttings in a greenhouse environment will benefit from frequent misting with water from a spray bottle. Do this as often as you can remember: frequently throughout each day can be beneficial.
Note: Before propagating any of the fruits above, do some research on your specific fruit to be sure you have all of the details. I didn’t have the space to include many of the fine details in this article.
Propagating your own fruit by cuttings is inexpensive and a satisfying way to clone more of your own fruit crops.
Have you had success with any other fruit crops to propagate for free from cuttings? Do you have any tips to share?
Karen Hugg says
I need to try blueberry cuttings. I have a couple of varieties I’d like to share. Thanks for this informative, thorough article. It gives me tons of ideas! Cheers.
If you don’t have any fruit trees , where can you get cuttings from , I would like to buy some ?
Ask around your neighborhood, join local garden groups…
Any advice for growing blueberries?
What have you tried? My first suggestion is that blueberries naturally grow in acidic soil, which we don’t naturally have here. Instead of artificially creating acidic soil, I grow serviceberries, which grow natively in our zone 6 soil and taste as delicious as blueberries. A lot less work.
Amend the planting hole 50% with peat moss, compost soil, sulfur, rock phosphate, and greensand. Check out The Holistic Orchard for more details.
I live in central IN, wrong soil for blueberries, so we planted them in old horse troughs, or big pots, using mostly peat moss, mixed with compost, potting soil, etc. They are great!
Previously had tried putting fig cuttings directly into soil in pots but this never worked. I was successful in getting several early spring cuttings of fig to grow by just placing them in a bucket full of water and keeping it topped off with water all summer. Some of the sticks were 2 ft long. By the end of summer they sprouted roots and when there were enough roots I potted the sticks in regular garden soil and then they leafed out. It was easy and fun.
Great suggestion, thanks for sharing! 🙂
where did you buy the fig cuttings , i would like to get some
For black raspberries— do you plant the cut off top of the cane “upside down”, like it would be if it are aches itself to the ground? Or “right side up— like taking the top off a Christmas tree and keeping it the same orientation as the original tree, and planting it that way?
You can technically plant either end, but the most pliable end typically roots more easily (having more natural rooting hormone in it).