Air-Layering Citrus.....

rifig401July 6, 2009

Hello all, newbie to this forum.

I have a very large (miniature orange) unknown species. Its been growing for years (5-6). Originally I got it from this local little family run nursery here in RI. Anyway, the nursery has closed down for reasons unknown. I suspect corporate issues, however, onto the air-layering. I'm so proud of myself. This orange is currently in a terra cotta pot that measures 24" across and 20" tall. The plant is approx. 4 to 5 feet in diameter and approx. 3 - 4 feet tall. Just above the graft - the stem measures 4.5". I'm well aware that air-layering should be preformed on a vertical stem close to the base, however, I missed a large horizontal branch while pruning last season. So, I selected this branch close to the base and try my hand at this procedure for the very first time. I actually did it...I'll keep you all posted to my results. The tree currently has two small fruits and is going into blossom mood in full force very soon. Hundreds of flowers, more than I've ever seen on this plant. Plan on root trimming and enhancing the soil and drainage - my question comes down to this. Am I too late, can this be done in the fall or should I wait until next spring. Plant is obviously very healthy and growing with extreme vigor right now, otherwise I'd never attempt to air-layer it. I use miracle grow soil(60%)/perlite(40%)/and mulch approx. 2-3" w/ cedar mulch. I also use Superthrive 2X a month during the growing season, miracle grow 24-8-16 2X a month, and when needed Ferti-Lome Liquid Iron. Leaf growth is wonderful.

Any help or suggestions would be so greatly appreciated, sorry for the long lengthy post. I promise to condense in the future. -Thank you, Scott

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Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 11:51PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm confused. In the pic, I saw a plant part-way through a layering. Is the layer now complete, the new tree growing in it's new home, and exhibiting sufficient vitality & root growth you think it's necessary to cut back the roots; or, are you considering a full repot on the parent tree while the layering is still under way? (bad idea)

I think a drop or two of Superthrive in the water used to moisten the layering medium would have been helpful, but I don't think that ongoing treatments using it as a 'tonic' are yielding any results (probably not hurting anything either, so I'm not suggesting that you stop using it if you feel it's helping). Also, if you're using MG 24-8-16, you probably don't need the Fe supplement. If your tree is experiencing an actual Fe deficiency, it's a pH issue (too high). There is ample Fe in the MG to satisfy your plant. A little vinegar in the irrigation water will make what is already there available to the plant w/o risking a problem with the Fe you're adding interfering with Mn uptake.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 9:07AM
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I want to do a full repot on the parent plant, not now. After the air-layer has taken and cut off the parent plant. The parent plant has been in the same soil and pot for approx. 2+ years now with nothing been done to it. I know its overdue, however, I'm not exactly sure as to when it should be done. Thanx for the vinegar tip, I've never heard of that one - will definitely give it a try. -Scott

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 10:00AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Citrus seems to grow in several growth spurts per year. When you're not seeing top growth, the plant is putting on lots of root growth - sort of in a leap-frog fashion. It's best to repot in the spring, but second best would be to repot as top growth is waning & the plant is going into a period of robust root growth.

Many (most?) Fe deficiencies are pH related (especially if you're using a soluble fertilizer like MG) because high pH makes many of the micro-nutrients unavailable to the plant. Lowering pH (vinegar) is remedial w/o having to add singular elements that often cause more harm than good.

Stop back & show us your successful finish to the layer when you've got the new tree separated & in it's own pot. I'm sure it will inspire others to propagate by way of air-layering. ;o)


    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 11:12AM
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yellowthumb(5a Ontario)

Hi Al,

Adding vinegar into the water is interesting but can be misleading. It actually makes very little difference in the container pH after a minute or two. Let say by adding vinegar into the water to drop the pH to 5 and you have a container mix with pH 7, after watering with this solution, after a couple of minutes, you add 50ml distilled water into the container to catch 50ml leach, if you measure the leach pH, it is probably still around 7. This may be because of the huge buffering effect of the container mix. Adding vinegar would be beneficial, but how beneficial, I don't know.

Somewhere I remember that you had a post talking about container pH is not as important as in the ground as long as using the right mix from the very beginning and follow certain culture practices. I can't find it anymore. I found it extremely hard to follow the container pH once the mix has been made, I simply gave my pH a rest and didn't see any problems related to pH.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 12:00PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes, but it neutralizes alkalinity in the irrigation water & prevents the upward creep of pH associated with most Fe deficiencies in container media.

From experience with my own plants, I can share that it is a very effective remedy for pH-induced Fe deficiencies.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 12:30PM
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Is there maybe a more permanent solution to container soil pH? If my memory serves me correctly - I remember reading somewhere, someone talking about using garden sulfur as a top dressing in large containers to adjust pH into the lower range? Maybe adding peat, I would have to add more perlite but thats not an issue when I root trim the plant. I've actually heard of people container growing blueberries using battery acid???? I would never add this to my plants, however, I guess it works....Thank you Al, for your input. I greatly appreciate any additional information regarding this thread. I will definitely post regarding results to my attempt at this air-layer!!!!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 12:48PM
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yellowthumb(5a Ontario)

I know there is pH down, which is food grade phosphorus acid. It won't break down quickly like vinegar. It would be safer to use it in your container, but it does add the P.

Yes, I think the vinegar would decrease the alkalinity of the irrigation water. I didn't see a difference at all in my case, maybe because I am using collected rainwater most of the time. The alkalinity in this case is almost zero.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 1:09PM
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