Propagating Dogwood Tree

Discussion in 'Cornus (dogwoods)' started by aalcock, Jul 15, 2006.

  1. aalcock

    aalcock Member

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    A friend of mine gave me some branches from her dogwood tree (it has lovely dusty pink flowers - don't know what kind it is?), and said that she was going to also take some cuttings and try to propagate them. I didn't ask her how she was going to do it, but thought someone out there knew how - perhaps has successfully tried it in the past. What is the proper procedure for successful cuttings?
     
  2. btrevoryoung

    btrevoryoung Member

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    Aalcock:

    I don't know if you can grow dogwoods from cuttings. My family's in the nursery business, and my grandfather specialized in dogwoods, and I never knew him to plant dogwood cuttings. We propagated a lot of different plants by cuttings, but never dogwoods. Perhaps it CAN work, occasionally, but in the nursery business, you need a really good "take" rate to be successful. But, if it works for you or your friend, let me know. I might try it myself.

    The general procedure for planting cuttings is as follows. Again, I doubt it works for dogwoods, but it's worth a try. First, you need NEW GROWTH from the original tree. Only the tender parts at the end of the branch. Generally green in color for most plants, but might be reddish for a pink dogwood. If it has turned woody, it's no good. Cut off all woody parts of the branch.

    Once you have just the tender new growth, you can cut it into 3-4 inch lengths. Just make sure you have at least one leaf on each length, but cut them so that the leaves are on the top half of the length. If the leaves are spaced 3-4 inches apart, that's perfect, and you can just make a cut above each leaf or leaf pair. If the leaves are closer to 2 inches apart, you might have to cut above every second leaf or leaf pair, and strip the lower leaves off each length. The point is, you want a 3-4 inch length of new growth, with at least one leaf on the top inch, but no leaves on thebottom 2-3 inches. So, whatever you have to do to get there, do it. Use sharp, clean clippers to a make a clean cut. I don't think it matters much whether the cuts are straight or at an angle.

    Now your planting medium. In the commercial nursery business, we used ground pine bark. That's the cheapest thing when you're buying in bulk. But if you're just planting a few cuttings, I suppose any potting soil would do. Probably better than the pine bark, but like I said, the pine bark was cheap. Anything with high organic matter content should be fine.

    I don't recall using fertilizer on cuttings. But that may have just been another commercial nursery vs household garden kind of thing. But I'd be careful not to over-fertilize.

    When we did cuttings, we put them in 2-inch cups, 48 to a tray. We filled the cups to within a half-inch of the rim. Then you just insert the lower end of your cutting down into the planting medium, to a depth of 2-3 inches. Make sure the the cutting is firmly in place and won't fall over. If you have to pack the soil around it to hold it in place, don't over-pack it, or the roots will have a hard job of pushing through the tightly-packed soil.

    We always placed our cutting trays in a "shed". Not quite a greenhouse environment, but it was a good 10 degrees warmer in the shed than outside. The screening on the shed shielded the cuttings from direct sunlight, but trapped heat and moisture inside. And we watered the hell out of 'em. The sprinklers were on a timer, and, depending upon the type of plant, they got hit for 20 seconds every 10 minutes during the day. So, basically, we had a hot, humid, shady, wet, organic environment, and it worked well. I doubt you'll be able to duplicate those conditions in your household, but you definitely want to keep the environment as warm and moist as you can.

    Oh, the best time to plant cuttings (or at least the time we always did it on the nursery) is late spring to early summer. But, if the plant is indoors, where you can control the environment, I suppose any time of year is okay.

    Of course, if your cuttings are successful, they will soon outgrow your 2-inch cups. To determine when this occurs, turn the cup upside down and gently shake out the plant, (hopefully along with the soil). If the soil holds together, that means the roots have grown to the point where they effectively bind the soil together in one mass. That's good. If you can actually see quite a bit of roots, that means they're trying to grow through the boundary established by the cup, and it's time to transplant into a larger container. If you can barely see the soil for all the roots, it's way past time to transplant.

    When transplanting, we would fill 1-gallon buckets to within an inch of the rim with the same pine bark. Then we used a tool call a divet to poke holes in the bark in the center of each bucket, roughly the size and shape of the 2-inch cup the cutting was grown in. Then we'd sprinkle some Osmocote 13-13-13 into the bottom of each hole. Then just shake each cutting, along with the soil in the cup, out of the cup and slide the whole thing into the hole in the middle of each bucket and lightly pack the bark in the bucket around the bark from the cup, so there's good contact between the original growing medium and the new growing medium.

    So, that's the general procedure for planting cuttings. But once again, I doubt it will work for dogwoods. One thing you CAN do with pink dogwoods, however, is GRAFT them. Your friend had the right idea about trying to propagate them, because they don't grow from seed. Only white dogwoods grow from seed. So, what you do is, you take cuttings from a pink dogwood and graft them onto a white dogwood root stock. To learn how this is done, click on my name and get a list of my other posts. In two separate threads about pink and white dogwoods, I gave a brief description of the grafting process.

    Regards,
    Trevor
     
  3. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Though not as common as grafting or budding, dogwoods can be propagated from cuttings. See Dirr's "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" (1998) p.259. He suggests success rates up to 93% under favorable conditions. 'Also see Savella, "Propagating pink dogwoods from rooted cuttings," Proc. Intl. Prop. Soc. 30:405-406 (1980). One of the most important aspects is to allow the rooted cuttings to go through a dormant period and when growth ensues then pot them'.
     
  4. btrevoryoung

    btrevoryoung Member

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    Sorry, I don't have those books in my library. Any chance there's an online version?

    I seriously doubt that, at least in the real world of commercial nurseries, you can get anywhere near 90% success from cuttings. If you could, the nurseries would be doing it. But they don't, at least not in Forest Hill, LA. A pink dogwood is a lovely tree, but the one unattractive part is that ugly graft scar that never goes away. If it was feasible, on a large scale, to grow pink dogwoods without graft scars, I suspect all the nurseries would be doing it.

    Of course, none of this is meant to deter you, Aalcock, or your friend from attempting it. You're obviously not operating a large commercial nursery, but simply trying to propagate one or a few pink dogwoods for your own yard. You could set 50 cuttings, and even if only 10% of them take root, you have more dogwoods than you need.

    A question, Gordo: How long does it take for a dogwood propagated from cuttings to reach, say, 4 ft tall? I ask because maybe I'm all wrong and you CAN achieve 90% success from cuttings, even in commercial operations, and the only reason the nurseries graft instead is to get a one- or -two year head start, achieving a 4-ft plant in 1 year rather than 3. Could that be the case?

    Also, Gordo, if you can grow pink dogwoods from cuttings, I assume you can do the same with white dogwoods, and in fact probably more successfully. Right?

    And oh, I'm serious about an online version of those two references. If it really works, I can experiment with it to maximize success in a commercial setting and go into business. I believe I could get a premium price for pink dogwoods without graft scars. And I think I could live with 30-40% rooting success. If you can't give me an online reference, maybe just tell me 1) what kind of medium the cuttings were rooted in, 2) what time of year, and 3) how long is that dormant period?

    Regards,
    Trevor
     
  5. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    I'm not a nurseyman, but I think you nailed it with your comment about getting a one or two year headstart.
    I'm not sure whether all varieties of Cornus florida root equally well or not.

    Michael Dirr's reference is probably available at better libraries. Additional comments; "Cuttings, softwood, collected in June rooted 56% in sand under mist, when treated with 10000 ppm IBA, quick dip, after 8 weeks; this same clone rooted 93% in peat:perlite under mist in 10 weeks with the same hormonal treatment."

    The written proceedings of The International Propagators Society are available through their website, however the volume 30 is apparently out of stock at present.
    http://www.ipps.org/index.html
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/library/2000_October_November/Growing_Greenbacks
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2006
  6. btrevoryoung

    btrevoryoung Member

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    Just found the Dirr book, and the reference to dogwood cuttings. But it referred to dogwoods in general (Cornus florida), not to pink dogwoods specifically. Guess I'll just have to try the recipe from Dirr and see what happens. Maybe fine tune it a little over time. Thanks.

    Trevor
     
  7. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Good luck Trevor. Good to see you back.

    Gordo.
     
  8. ksmith

    ksmith Active Member

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    Not sure if this will help. My mother in law has a dogwood in her yard. She said her father planted it years ago. I tried to start from cutting, nothing worked. Then I read about the seeds. It's worth the wait. I now have 20 new baby dogwoods. Try starting from seeds. Good luck. Karen in Maryland
     
  9. Scion Swapper

    Scion Swapper Active Member

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    Don't bother trying to root them. They'll root easily, but they are not hardy on their own root. They will die after their first winter planted in the ground. If you lived in a southern state in the US, say zone 8, you might get away with it, but not in BC, Canada.

    Brian
     
  10. Scion Swapper

    Scion Swapper Active Member

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    Forgot to mention, Cornus florida varieties need to be grafted onto Cornus florida, and Cornus kousa varieties must be grafted onto Cornus kousa.

    Brian
     
  11. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Brian,
    I've not tried propagating C. florida from cuttings, but there seems to be plenty of references to this technique (see, for example, Dirr above). I wonder if you could tell us why plants propagated by this method would not be successful? Also, I believe the OP lives on Vancouver Island - probably somewhere in zone 7-8.
     
  12. Scion Swapper

    Scion Swapper Active Member

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    Dirr has done a great amount of research on the rootability of cuttings. Many of the species described in his book he describes as rootable. He does not go on to describe long-term health of those rooted trees once grown outside of the greenhouse.

    Our nursery tried for several years in the 1980's to root various Cornus cultivars, mostly Cornus florida 'Rubra'. They rooted very easily and survived the first winter if kept in a minimal heat greenhouse. Once the liners were established and planted in the field, they all died after their first winter.

    Every Cornus florida 'Rubra' tree that you see for sale in garden centers has been grafted by some method onto a seedling of Cornus florida.

    Brian
     
  13. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Thank you Brian - it's always valuable to get the insights of people with practical experience. I found a web source that agreed with your assessment of the poor survival rates for rooting started C. florida 'Rubra'. Curious that the red form would be generally more difficult than white. I wonder if the same holds true for all pink/red forms or just those cultivars that are less hardy? Article also states that rootings taken from younger trees tend to have better rates of survival than those taken from mature trees.
    http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/cornus/florida.htm
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2007
  14. Scion Swapper

    Scion Swapper Active Member

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    Hi Gordo,

    Regarding your mention: "Curious that the red form would be generally more difficult than white." That is only true because pinks don't generally come consistently from seed, hence they must be grafted to have a consistent crop. All whites are either seedlings of the species (most of them) or grafted selections (heavy/double flowered, variegated, weeping, yellow fruited, etc.). Whites are not rooted either..

    Look around at many of the flowering Pink Cornus floridas this time of year and you'll find white flowers too, normally coming from the base of the tree. Those are suckers from the understock. Some think that it was intentional to have two flower colors, but actually its because the owner of the tree didn't recognize, or didn't really care, that her/his tree was suckering from the understock.


    Hope this helps.
    Brian
     
  15. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks again Brian.
    Although I agree with you that grafting or budding is undoubtedly the best method for commercially propagating named cultivars, I still am wondering if rooting isn't at least a possible method, as it is stated as such by numerous sources, including the USDA. And if it is not, why? Does it have to do with the hardiness of individual clones, or could it be more specifically related to age. I've often wondered if there is something akin to genetic age memory when dealing with cloned plants, but that is purely speculation on my part.
     
  16. Scion Swapper

    Scion Swapper Active Member

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    Gordo,

    In my opinion from the rooted trees that I've seen, the root systems do not look like those of a true seedling. Clonal roots are sparse and don't seem to show the "higherarchy" of a natural root system (tap root and series of uniform side roots). Rather, rooted trees, at least in the case of Cornus florida and some other rootable (but not hardy as rooted), have a more sparse and non-uniform appearance, as if they don't quite know what they are doing or why they are there (ha ha).

    Brian
     
  17. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Hmm.. kinda like "I've fallen and I can't get up!"? Interesting - sounds like it might be a subject worthy of further investigation.
     
  18. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Excellent discussion.

    I had heard for many years that a few nurseries in Tennessee specialized in cutting grown dogwoods, done in the 10,000's if memory serves. Now this may all still be true, as a nursery could still sell these cuttings to others, who would have to "fight" with growing them on...(tho I doubt this could go on for too many years before the customer base thinned out considerably).

    I've noticed the poorer quality roots of cuttings in other plants, like my clematis armandii, which I think will be better grown from seed (finding this out as I speak!).

    I'm also trying to remember examples of cuttings being an advantage, due to the more compact roots compared to the taprooted seed grown plants, perhaps some tree species (with differing topgrowth habit being an additional confounding issue on many of these).

    Then there are those like Heritage Seedlings that do contorted hazel from cuttings, with the more obvious advantage of avoiding the normal suckering from rootstock.
     

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