Friday, 4 November 2016

Growing Manuka Trees from Cuttings

Spring growth manuka

It's spring. Our big manuka trees are shooting forth, creating new leaves on their tips. It must be time to take cuttings.

The first batch of cuttings we did are doing amazingly well. They are 18 months old, over a metre tall, and flowering. Already!

Flowering manuka

So I thought I would make some more. We've done a lot from seeds, but if cuttings grow faster, then that would be a good thing to do too.

Softwood v Semi-hardwood cuttings

At this time of year the manuka trees are just starting to grow and produce new growth tips. Cuttings taken from brand new tips are called softwood cuttings. Because the wood is 'soft' I guess.

The last lot of cuttings I took, in autumn, were from semi-hardwood cuttings - so the wood is firmer and the new shoots are tougher.

The other type of cuttings that you can take are hardwood cuttings, which are taken in late autumn and winter, and when the plants are dormant. This type is usually used for deciduous trees, so not appropriate here.

Both softwood and semi-hardwood are supposed to be good for manuka.

Taking manuka cuttings

How to take cuttings

1. Cut off a tip from a branch.
2. Strip off the bottom leaves.
3. Dip in root-forming hormone.
4. Put into a pot of potting mix and firm down.
5. Water lightly.

Newly potted manuka cuttings

And here they are. Looking good!

But a week later, this is what they look like:

Eek! Not so good huh?

So, what went wrong?

There are 3 things that might have gone wrong.

1. Cuttings need to be fresh off the tree

With these ones the trees were far away from my potting station. It took a couple of hours before I got to turning them into proper cuttings and planting them.

2. Cuttings in autumn are best

These were very soft wood cuttings. The manuka trees I took these from were only just beginning to grow for the season.

I think that spring is best for planting seeds, and autumn is best for making cuttings. The ones I did in autumn were just so much more robust, not all flimsy and floppy and soft.

3. Do not over-water

Its possible they have had too much water. 

It would be ideal to mist them until they strike. But the Department of Weather has not obliged, and it has been raining. Not intensively, but not a fine mist either.

The best way to do cuttings at home

So the best way to do cuttings in your backyard is to do them in autumn. Leave the tricky aspects of cuttings in spring to the commercials. Instead, spring is a great time to sow seeds.

Always something to do...

To get a free pictorial step-by-step guide to Growing Manuka from Seeds, sign up here. And check out Business of Bees for in-depth downloadable courses on establishing your manuka plantation with bees in mind.

Post script:

I tried again, after a bit or research and remembering, and it worked much better. Just needs a 'spring way'. Check out the post here

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