Air-layering an indoor orange tree (from shoot)

tomforesterJanuary 31, 2012

Hello everyone! : D

I have an indoor orange tree - a small houseplant really (although it grows for about 18 years) - now, shortly, the problem is: even after two months the branch doesn't grow roots in the air-layered soil AT ALL. What must I do to really make it happen?


Now some details:

I was reading some more in-detail stuff about air-layering a few months ago because I decided to try to reproduce my orange tree by such method (I knew about that method before - but never really *seriously* tried it - I just tried it once before with a plastic cup with hole on the bottom and cut so that it could fit around one small branch (0.5 cm in diameter) - but I never put too much fate that it would work).

As I said - now I really firmly decided to reproduce my orange tree using the air-layering method, and read stuff to make sure I am doing it properly. Anyway - this is how I did it: I took some wet houseplant soil (the commercial one for flowers and such, with coconut husk fibers in it or something), I put that wet soil in a saran wrap and then wrapped it around one fresh shoot on my orange tree (the shoot is about 0.5 cm in diameter and about 40-50 cm tall) - it's green and new - it doesn't have any real bark on it - so I thought I don't need to make a cut on it, wound it, or anything (maybe this is a problem - ? ), and then I wrapped the whole thing with some black cardboard so it hold the shape (the soil covers 10 cm in length and it's 5-6 cm in diameter) and additionally I wrapped the whole lot with aluminum foil so it is dark inside. I waited for three weeks at first and then looked at the results - nothing; I tried it again - after a month - even used hot water from the tap - nothing again - the branch looked as if I did nothing - clean with no roots whatsoever! So that's all (I know nothing about plant growing... never really considered using rooting agents... help).

It's winter now so I use artificial lighting on my little-old orange tree - both fluorescent and incandescent - that's why it's growing new shoots.

I really want to reproduce my tree - what do I do to make it really happen??

Many thanks in advance! :)

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tomforester, I am not as up-to-date with this as I should be. Budding has been the usual propagation of citrus.
For air layering, try working on that area of the stem that is turning from green to brown. A handful of peat moss that has been thoroughly wet and firmly squeezed dry generally produces goods roots in about 4 weeks - provided the mother plant is actively growing. The peat moss is held in place by wrapping in black plastic and securing with twine. Check regularly that the peat moss does not dry out. If it does, use a syringe to inject water into the peat moss.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 5:03AM
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First I wish to know:
Are there any chances that what I'm trying now will work AS IS?
(that's: a 40cm fresh shoot, 0.5 cm stem diameter - green, no bark, no cuts or wounding the stem - air-layering with commercial flower soil and saran wrap and aluminum foil to prevent light from coming in - covering 6 cm of the stem length near the base of the shoot - 3 cm around the shoot, some 25 C temperature in the room, artificial lighting (both fluorescent and incandescent) - can this work? can it grow roots under these conditions?)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 9:26AM
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tomforester, if you wish to air-layer the plant merely to see if you can succeed, then time and patience, trial and error and determination will bring success.
But if the existing plant is a budded or grafted specimen, you will succeed in rooting the scion only. And when that is planted in a container, the clone will not have the protection of a resistant root-stock which the mother plant enjoyed. It can come down with root rot or nematode infestation.
Root-stocks are grown from seeds of the sour orange (usually) and the desired variety is budded on to them.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 12:57PM
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My intentions? - I wish to make more individual orange tree plants exactly from these I have.

OK - time and patience - but if you or someone else here knows some surer method to make it happen - then I wish to know it - I want them as soon as possible - planted and growing happily - spreading them around - growing in the sunlight instead of inside rooms as the original plants all these years.

(Actually those are two orange tree plants in one container - grown from two seeds (directly from the fruit). I don't know if it tells something about the sort of orange - but my oranges have long thorns. They are really houseplants - maybe meter and a half tall.)

I guess - the straight question here on my side is:
Can a small 40 cm fresh orange tree shoot grow roots via air-layering to be planed in soil as separate plant?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I have successfully air layered ficus trees but never tried it with a citrus tree. I used long fiber sphagnum moss, which has a root stimulating quality. I pierced the branch I wanted to use and scraped off some of the bark around the cut. I brushed Rootone rooting hormone on the cut before wrapping it in wet moss and then plastic wrap. I did this in early summer when the plant was growing vigorously. It took at least six weeks before I saw any roots. I waited until several roots had developed, which was about three months.
I don't think your method is going to work, primarily because you didn't cut into the branch. I also think you need to select an area of the branch that is more mature and use rooting hormones. If I were you, I would start over, and use moss instead of soil.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 10:23PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Ohiofem has given good advice. I understand what you are attempting does not have to be the best way to make new trees, but you are making it a lot more difficult. Any tree started from a layering/cutting/seed is going to be a standard size citrus, which will want to grow to 20 feet or more. It will require a lot of pruning to make a good container specimen. For a nominal cost you can buy a citrus on REAL dwarfing rootstock that will not want to grow more than 8 feet even if not pruned, will bear fruit in less than half the time. Al

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 9:23AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

With the understanding that after you layer off a branch, it won't likely have the same growth characteristics as the plant you have now, because of the different root stock; unless, that plant was grown from seed, in which case it will have exactly the same growth characteristics.

Your branch is quite thin. I would use one 2-2 times that thick if possible. You can use the ring method, whereby you longitudinally remove ALL the bark from the branch for 1-1/2X the branch diameter, then finish your layer using moist sphagnum moss (not peat) or a very porous soil in a pot. If you need help here, just ask.

Alternately, if you plan ahead & put yourself on tree time instead of people time, you can wrap a few (3?) zip ties around a branch very tightly so they are touching each other. Wait until a bulge starts to form distal to the zip ties. When that occurs, wrap the zip ties and the first inch of bark above the ties with black electrical tape for a month (called 'banding') before you begin your layer. The black electrical tape eliminates light and 'blanches' the underlying tissue, causing physiological changes (reduces production of lignin, which allows phenolic metabolites to be channeled toward root initiation) in such a way that it enhances root formation. If you wish, before you layer, you can slightly wound the bark several times where the diameter of the bulge distal to the zip ties is greatest, and apply a rooting aid to the wounds and bulge.

Layer being used to shorten a tree to be used as a bonsai in the future:


    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 2:09PM
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OK. Thanks - all.

My ~great~ idea (I hope for it not to be a pipe-dream) was to both:
- regulate the height of my original house plant by air-layering any new shoots that go *upwards* (i.e. not sideways) and then cutting them off when they're ready to grow independently thus shortening the plant - because I want to be able to carry the plant around the flat (to the balcony (with tin roof above...) for the summers and inside during winters) and
- make new orange trees exactly from the ones I have - so it's two benefits at once - it all nicely adds-up - because I want to place those new orange tree plants somewhere outside for the summer where (under the full blow of the Sun) they would explode into action - I hope.

...I guess my next step will be to try to find some rooting agent and then try to apply it to the wound on the branch/shoot.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 3:49PM
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I just had an idea - I have some special liquid fertilizer for citruses - can I use it somehow to turn cuttings into separate plants - e.g. dilute that liquid citrus fertilizer in some water in a container and then just chuck that orange tree shoot inside to grow roots? :D - Any experiences on that? Anyone??

Would this work (and if not - why?):
Let's say I cut that orange three shoot off the tree and then make a lot of longitudinal grooves with exacto-knife at the bottom of the shoot to maximize the contact surface area - so it really soaks in those minerals from the solution - would it work?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 4:12PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Sorry. I don't think it will work. Rooting hormones are not the same as fertilizer.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:44AM
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tomforester, how I wish it were so simple. When you take a cutting, a sequence reactions take place dependent upon how the cutting is treated.
Leave it lying around and the cut surface seals over to protect against loss of moisture. That is why we stick the cutting in the propagation medium asap; or if time passes, we make a fresh cut to (re)stimulate the rooting processes.
All regenerative activity arises from the cambium layer - the "green sap" which we see when we scratch the bark. At first, cell division occurs - one cell becomes many.
Next, cell differentiation takes place ("division of labor"). The "daughter cells" (I am not sexist; my text books may have been) begin to acquire different characteristics. In this case, the influences of temperature, lack of light and optimum moisture content produce root tissue and these differentiate into cortex and stele (the two I remember) and that's how Mother Nature makes our cuttings root.
There is a separate process called "osmosis". This determines if water will flow into or out of a cell. If the solution (water with stuff dissolved in it) outside of the cell is stronger than the solution inside the cell, then water only will run out of the cell and the cell solution will become toxic.
This happens when we over-apply fertilizer or we do not irrigate on time. In either case water only runs out of the cells and cell solution becomes toxic.
And you might induce this when you place the cutting in a liquid with " special liquid fertilizer for citruses" dissolved in it.
Do you see that "a lot of longitudinal grooves with exacto-knife at the bottom of the shoot to maximize the contact surface area" will aggravate the 'reverse osmosis' reaction?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 5:38AM
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Hmmm... So - is there some solution to that problem? (e.g. putting just the right amount of liquid fertilizer into water so the content of the solution and liquid content of cells is favorable for the plant? If tap water is already too reach as is - would it be a solution to put distilled water instead and just some small, adequate, amount of liquid fertilizer from time to time?)

...Or it's back to "...I guess my next step will be to try to find some rooting agent and then try to apply it to the wound on the branch/shoot."

PS: the strangest thing happened - yesterday (before I had that idea) while I was looking at a general direction of the plant out of nothing a word occurred to me for no reason: osmosis. Just a coincidence I guess. (back then I was just wondering how silly the word is :D (by the way now I see that it means 'ÃÂÃÂüÿÃÂ'='osmos' - 'to push', or 'implosion'))

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:09PM
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tomforester, there is an ongoing debate 'water roots vs soil roots'. I have never rooted anything in water with a view to planting out later in soil; so I cannot comment relevantly.
You may try HERE.
Where water rooting is concerned, I would use regular tap water.
"Rootone" (no endorsement intended) is a rooting powder which might work for you.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 6:16PM
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Gee - how it would be cool if there was 100% sure straight-forward way to propagate an orange tree from its shoot.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 4:08PM
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