Thought it might be interesting to take a look at how my citrus plants, propagated in May 2013 from a Calamondin orange tree, are coming along.
There’s no denying that they are taking their time! To be honest, I’ve been feeling a little frustrated by the slowness of growth and was glad to be able to look back at my photos from this time last year to reassure myself that they have indeed been growing!
This is how they were in May 2014, the seedling then the cuttings:
I originally had 4 rooted cuttings and one plant grown from a pip, but I gave away one of the cuttings, so here are the remaining 3 plus the seed-grown specimen as they are now:
and from a lower angle to show the height:
and some individual shots, firstly the seedling:
then the cuttings:
The tallest of the plants is actually the seedling at 18 inches, with the tallest of the three cuttings coming in at 15 inches.
Habit-wise, they’re all a bit leggy in my opinion, but that probably has to do with the less than optimal indoor growing conditions that I have over winter – if I had a cool conservatory to keep them very light and bright but frost-free I imagine that would be a fair bit better than sitting them next to a north-facing patio door in a centrally-heated lounge!
On the whole, though, I’m quite pleased. They all seem to be somewhat prone to yellowing of the newer foliage in spite of the various tonics and citrus feeds that I apply, but apart from that, they appear to be healthy and doing fine.
I am holding back from potting them on for as long as I dare because I know from experience that citrus seem to do better for being a little pot-bound and certainly don’t like being moved into too big a pot too quickly – give them too much new compost around the rootball and the roots don’t seem to want to move out into it for some reason.
So, there we are. They are outside for the summer in a fairly sunny spot and I feed them with citrus food once a week and water fairly frequently – I don’t keep them soggy but I don’t allow them to dry out as much as I do in winter.
I think it might still be a while before I see any flowers/fruit on these, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait!
Well, it’s been about a year since I started trying to propagate my grafted Citrus mitis plant from cuttings and seed so I reckon it’s time for an update.
To be honest, none of them are looking great at the moment:
In spite of being fed with citrus tonic both cuttings and seedling are showing sickly-looking pale yellow new growth rather than the fresh lime-green new growth that the parent plant produces.
I could only think that this is iron deficiency (chlorosis) brought on by my hard tap water, but if so, why does the parent plant not have a problem?
Then I remembered that this is the first time I’ve actually tried to grow Citrus mitis on its own roots: the parent plant is a specimen I grafted onto a rootstock I grew from an ordinary supermarket orange pip, so perhaps by pure dumb luck I grew a lime-tolerant plant. The cuttings and the seedling are both relying on their own roots and maybe the roots of Citrus mitis are not as lime-tolerant?
Anyway, I’ve treated them all with a sequestrene iron tonic and I’ll see what happens.
Growth-wise, none of them have exactly been romping away, but I suppose if there has been a nutrient deficiency that won’t have been helping.
Would I bother again? Probably not to be honest. It was a fun challenge but I found my grafted specimens from years back produced sizeable specimens much more quickly, though of course I have to factor in the year spent growing the rootstock from a pip to begin with(!)
I’ll keep going with these for the time being and see how they develop. I’m intending to put them outside for the summer and hope that that will give them a bit of a boost.
…a very long-delayed update!
At the end of September I finally decided it was time to see how well my 7 citrus cuttings had rooted and move them to individual pots. I’d previously thought that all of them had significant roots, but that wasn’t in fact the case.
These three had managed only the tiniest amount of root, preferring to concentrate their energies into producing flowers instead. I decided they wouldn’t amount to anything and discarded them.
The remaining 4 looked like this:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the one with the best roots was also the one that had produced the biggest shoot, and it continues to be the most promising of the 4.
All in all, I’m very happy with my citrus propagation endeavour. I wasn’t really expecting any of them to take given the lack of sophisticated tools/equipment at my disposal, so to have half of them succeed is pretty satisfying – gotta love plants-for-free!
I’m beginning to wonder if some of my cuttings are destined to do anything more than make a few roots.
So far, I only have 1 out of 7 that is shooting; the others are either trying to make flowers, or doing nothing at all.
The successful cutting:
So I don’t know what to make of it, to be honest.
All the cuttings I took appeared to be the same age and at the same stage of development, and none of them were showing any signs of being about to flower, so how I’ve ended up with a bunch of flowerers and do-nothing-ers I have no idea.
Still, at least I do have one viable cutting, so that’s better than none! I won’t ditch the rest of them for the time being as I’m curious to see whether anything will come of them. I think maybe I”ll pot them all on in the next couple of days because there can’t be much goodness left in the rooting media by now.
The seedling is still slowly growing:
It looks a bit washed out in that photo, but in real life it looks fine and healthy, so I’m very happy with that for the moment.
Time for another look at my Calamondin propagation project, firstly, the seedling:
It’s hardly romping away, but it’s definitely growing – and it has two lead shoots even though I didn’t pinch it out, so perhaps it’s self-branching?
I photographed it in the garden but it still lives on my south-facing kitchen windowsill with a net curtain between it and the window, so it gets good but diffuse light. I’ll probably keep it there until next spring, or whenever it warms up enough to put it outside – at this rate, I don’t think it will outgrow the windowsill any time soon!
My cuttings are still all alive, but they’ve hardly moved with only two out of the seven showing signs of shooting:
The pot on the right sits on the same windowsill as the seedling, so it has good light and warmth (because of the time of year) but it’s hardly doing any more than the pot on the left which sits next to my north-facing patio door.
Am I doing something wrong, I wonder? Or is this just how they are? I really would have expected a bit more growth by now – they’ve been on the go for 4 months, so they certainly take their time! Given that there have been roots poking out the bottom of the pots for a while, I think I may just move them on into individual pots and see what happens next; growing on is always the tricky bit in my book!
I’m a little bit chuffed this morning.
Okay, I’m a lot chuffed. Because today I finally have tangible evidence that my citrus cuttings have rooted, and they’ve done so without using any special equipment or even rooting hormone. Result!
The citrus in question is a Calamondin Orange, which produces, if grown well, a year-round succession of highly fragrant white flowers and very ornamental (but exceedingly bitter!) miniature oranges.
The plant from which I was attempting to propagate is one I actually succeeded in reproducing by grafting about 15 years ago. I grew a rootstock from a supermarket orange pip, waited a year, then grafted a bud from my parents’ original plant onto it, but the only reason I went to that trouble was because previous attempts to propagate from said original plant had failed: it never seemed to set viable seed, and cuttings just turned yellow and rotted no matter how they were treated.
But I’ve been doing some research this spring – chiefly browsing around on youtube – and I decided that 2013 was going to be the year to have another crack at it, armed as I now was with some new information…
So, firstly, seed.
I gleaned from various videos that the best way to get citrus germinating is to peel the outer, waxy coating off the seed before sowing it, which is exactly what I did with the only viable-looking seed I could find in the mature fruit I had available (all the seeds were flat and shrivelled bar this one, plump one). I didn’t much like the odds of success with only one seed, but I stuck it in a small glass jar of compost, down the side so I could see if any roots formed, put a foil lid on it and placed it on the hood of my tropical fish tank (very gentle bottom heat round the clock with a boost when the lights are on during the day…cunning, huh?!)
This was at the end of April, and within two weeks, to my delight, roots were starting to form. I didn’t celebrate just yet because nothing is guaranteed at such an early stage, but it was great to see! I waited until a shoot had emerged from the compost before taking the lid off and moving the jar to a windowsill with bright but diffuse light to grow it on. When it was an inch or so tall I removed it from the jar and potted it on into a normal 3″ plastic pot of multipurpose compost and put it back on the same windowsill, where it still resides happily, if slowly, growing away:
and here’s a clearer pic of it taken outside:
Oh, and the reason for using a glass jar with no drainage? With only one seed, I didn’t want to mess around forever wondering if it was germinating, so it was nice to have it in a clear container which would allow me to inspect it every day for signs of life. It’s also easy to control the moisture just for the short time the seedling is in there because obviously the glass allows you to see how much water is present. Pretty nifty!
At the same time I started the seed, I also took cuttings.
Now this was going to be the real challenge as far as I was concerned because I wasn’t intending to do anything fussy with them, just stick ’em in a pot and cover them, basically!
From my youtube viewing, it seemed that, more than anything else, the key to getting them to root is to wound the base of the cutting. Citrus stems have a hard, waxy outer coating which inhibits callusing and thereby root production, so the way to get around that is to take a sharp blade and pare away small slivers of the outer surface at the base of the cutting to expose the cambium layer beneath, which then starts to heal itself and in the act of healing produces the cells that make roots.
So that is exactly what I did. I chose cutting material from growth that was made in the last year, nicely bendy without being too hard or soft, trimmed each piece to about 3-4″ long, cutting below a leaf node and nipping off the tip and all but two or three leaves (I cut some of the larger leaves in half too) , wounded them for about a half inch at the base then stuck them in a couple of small pots of proprietary seed and cuttings compost mixed 50:50 with perlite.
I then decided to hedge my bets and try to root them in two slightly different locations with different means of covering them. One pot was placed in a clear plastic bag with 3 flower sticks inserted into the pot to keep the bag off the leaves, then sealed with a wire tie and placed on an east-facing windowsill:
The other I put under a “propagator” made of the bottom half of a cut-down clear plastic 5 litre bottle and placed it by a north-facing patio door (decent light, all indirect):
And that was it. No rooting hormone, no bottom heat, no mist, no nothin’.
I confess that I wasn’t very hopeful of success in the beginning, but as all 7 cuttings had remained resolutely green and perky-looking for the past 3 months, it seemed there was a chance, so I wasn’t completely shocked when, on opening the bag this morning and peering at the underside of the pot, I saw a root tip poking out! That was all the encouragement I needed to give each cutting a gentle, experimental tweak, and, lo and behold, not one of them moved, so dare I hope they’ve all taken??
Here they are pictured outside for a clearer view. First the cuttings from the bag:
then the cuttings from the plastic bottle:
I think the cuttings from the bag possibly look a little healthier when seen in real life, but there’s not a lot in it. Both methods appear to have done the trick!
And if they have, I’ll consider I’ve been rather lucky. The July heatwave has probably helped (the whole house feels like a propagator!): in a cold summer like last year’s, they may not have fared as well. I think I accidentally timed it well too – the cutting material was at just the right stage of ripeness, and spring/early summer is probably the best season to attempt this in the UK because of the warmer ambient temps and long daylight hours.
But the biggest piece of luck was finding that video which talked about wounding – gotta love the internet!