One of my favorite trees is the river birch (Betula nigra). You can say what you want about it ~ it's short lived ~ bug prone ~ disease prone ~ but it has a soft, nearly feathery quality to its canopy that when combined with it's beautiful bark make it well worth growing. We have three of these trees in our landscape with soon to be more thanks to plant propagation!
The river birch is definitely worth trying to propagate for your garden for many reasons.
- First of all it can be done! While I've tried propagating several kinds trees unsuccessfully (like maples ~ seeds: no problem ~ cuttings: not so good ) this is one that can be done fairly easily.
- Secondly they are fast growing trees and you will end up with a sizable tree in just a few short years.
- They also are worthy plants in the landscape for use as privacy screens, in rain gardens, and to create dappled shade.
- They are trees that offer 4 seasons of interest, 3 with nice foliage and 1 with awesome bark!
How to Propagate Birch Trees:
What should you looking for when taking a cutting? Two things: the nodes and the bark. I've read where you can take greenwood cuttings early in the springtime where the greenwood joins the old wood but I did my cutting a little differently. I took a 4 node cutting from semi-ripe wood in the late summer. The only problem I can see with this method is encouraging the root system to completely develop before cold temperatures set in for the winter. Fortunately I can nurture this cutting inside the house until its roots are sufficient to move into the garage and then maybe, if I'm daring, I can acclimate it to the great outdoors.
Originally I took about five cuttings from two of my birch trees. Each of the cuttings varied in size and thickness but only one developed a good root system. The one that survived was the largest of the group with a diameter about halfway between a toothpick and a pencil. How's that for a technical measurement? I took the various sized cuttings on purpose to find out what worked, if anything, and then to see what worked best.
Here's what I did:
- I took a 4 node semi-ripe cutting which I cut just below the bottom node.
- I left one leaf on the cutting and removed all others.
- I treated the cut end of the cutting with rooting hormone.
- I buried the cutting with two of the nodes in the sand inside of a thoroughly cleaned out yogurt cup. Recycled plastic containers are great for plant propagators!
- Then I waited while the cuttings rooted. I kept the rooting mix wet since birch trees like the moisture.
- I watched for new leaves to form which can be an indicator of good rooting.
Today I was pretty happy to pot up my new birch tree. Now I'm curious if hardwood cuttings will work over the winter. It's worth a shot!
What have you propagated this year that was really interesting?