Ask a Question forum: Promoting root growth on cuttings

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Jul 13, 2014 1:09 PM CST
I live in the Chihuahuan desert of far west Texas about 17 miles from the border in the Big Bend National Park area. I have several cuttings of various plants in a plastic tray with a clear plastic dome with ventilation. It has a T5 grow light about two inches from the plants and I used a rooting hormone on the end of the cuttings before planting them in a soil-less growing medium. the growing medium is a mixture of coir, vermiculite, a compost ingredient.Two cuttings from a Tecoma stans (Yellow Texas Trumpert Bush), two cuttings from a Castela erecta (Allthorn or Goatbush), a seedling and a small rooted specimen from a Mimosa texana (Texas catclaw), and a cutting from an unknown plant, a mint sprig, and a seedling from a Berberis trifoliolata (Agarita).

I have twenty acres that are taking a toll with this ongoing drought. I'm attempting to start stem cuttings from specimens from my property before they are gone. This way I can replant them once the drought shows signs of letting up.

So far the status on the cuttings are:

Mint sprig is thriving wonderfully (of course), the Mimosa texana seedling is thriving and has already shown signs of infant thorns and real leaves and a stem after only a week, the Castela erecta is still green on the stem but has not rooted after four weeks, I wounded the stem end with a small cut parallel up the middle of the stem end on only one of them to see if it would work or not versus leaving the other cutting alone. the Tecoma stans has leaves now but no roots, the plant with no name is growing like a weed but no roots, Berberis trifoliolata is now a seedling with four teeny tiny true leaves with a very weak deep tap root.

Is there a way to promote root growth other than what I've done so far?

Thank you for any assistance with this issue.

Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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Jul 13, 2014 2:07 PM CST
Hi and Welcome! Charlton. Wow, it sounds like you're doing really well to me. Rooting cuttings in the summer is a hit-or-miss proposition for me, usually. Some plants will make roots any old time and others just refuse to make roots when the weather is warm and the sun is bright. I figure their hormones are saying 'it's growing season'. As long as you're seeing 'still green' or new growth that's encouraging.

My advice would be to keep doing what you're doing, but on the ones that have not made roots yet, get more cuttings if you can at intervals from now until fall, (or the mama plant dies whichever comes first). Sometimes plants under drought stress will also make seeds a bit early so keep an eye out for seed pods, too. Some plants will root from woody cuttings of older stems, but some also need the cuttings to be new growth (green stems, fresh leaves) so that also may be a factor.

You might want to try rooting a cutting in water, or maybe in potting soil to see if that works better. Everything I grow here is used to having lots of water in the summer, so I root many cuttings in plain water then pot up when they have roots. At my daughter's house in Utah we use 'willow water' for rooting. You make a tea from green twigs of willow trees (she has several) and it is said to have rooting hormones. Here in FL I use Quick Start on all my cuttings and transplants.

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Name: Anna
North Texas (Zone 8a)
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Jul 13, 2014 4:04 PM CST
I admire your efforts. I agree with all advice. If you have access to willow trees this is the link to make the tea
I have heard that rooting hormone looses it's effectiveness shortly after it is opened, in any case, this can perk things up

Jul 13, 2014 6:13 PM CST
Thank you all for your support and suggestions. I have heard about willow water and the association with a hormone that is in the bark of the willow tree. I grew up in the Virginia Appalachians and have always lived in zones with moderate temps. However, now that I live in the desert, coaxing stem cuttings to root have to be approached from another angle. I used to simply place any cutting in a glass jar of water on the window ledge and it would root while the temps usually remained in the 70's or 80's with plenty of humidity. Here, the window is just way too hot for me to place the cuttings there. We have the drapes drawn 24/7 since the temps range anywhere from 90's to 120 F or more during most of the year. Hence the T5 light and dome. I have been taking the entire tray outside for the first hour of sunrise so that they can get some real light and they seem to benefit from that really well. But if I leave them out there more than that, they begin to droop.

I will wait until summer temps are below the 90's and then attempt to root stem cuttings during the beginning of fall.

Thank both of you for your suggestions!


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Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Jul 13, 2014 7:05 PM CST
If you're handy, make a cloning machine.

The thread "Home Made Cloning Machine" in Propagation forum
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Jul 13, 2014 7:12 PM CST
Thank you Xeramtheum. I did see that while I was checking out the forums. I do have a drill and a five gallon bucket and access to the other parts. I think that is exactly what I will be doing next if the stem cuttings do not root. Some of the plants here on the property would qualify for hardwood and evergreen. The desert is tough on plants and unless there is ample rainfall there will be minimal growth as far as producing new growth or softwood. The bucket propagator hopefully will do the trick.

Wonderful ideas.


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