Japanese maple from cuttings

Japanese Maple Grafting: Can You Graft Japanese Maples

Can you graft Japanese maples? Yes you can. Grafting is the primary method of reproducing these beautiful and much admired trees. Read on to learn about how to graft a Japanese maple rootstock.

Japanese Maple Grafting

Most Japanese maples sold commercially have been grafted. Grafting is a very old method of reproducing plants, especially those that are difficult to grow from seed and cuttings. Japanese maple falls into this category.

Growing Japanese maple cultivars from seed is difficult, since the tree’s flowers openly pollinate, this means that they accept pollen from most other maples in the area. Given this, you can never be certain that the resulting seedling will have the same looks and qualities as the desired cultivar.

Regarding growing Japanese maple from cuttings, many species simply cannot be grown this way. Other species are simply very difficult. For these reasons, the propagation method of choice for Japanese maples is grafting.

Grafting Japanese Maple Rootstock

The art of Japanese maple grafting involves melding – growing together – two closely related species. The roots and trunk

of one type of Japanese maple are placed together with the branches and foliage of another to form one tree.

Both the rootstock (the lower section) and the scion (upper part) are carefully chosen. For the rootstock, pick a vigorous species of Japanese maple that rapidly forms a strong root system. For the scion, use a cutting from the cultivar you wish to propagate. The two are carefully joined and allowed to grow together.

Once the two have grown together, they form one tree. After that, care of grafted Japanese maples is very similar to care of seedling Japanese maples.

How to Graft a Japanese Maple Tree

The procedure for joining the rootstock and the scion is not difficult, but many factors can influence the success of the venture. These include season, temperature and timing.

Experts recommend grafting a Japanese maple rootstock in winter, with January and February being the preferred months. The rootstock is usually a seedling that you have grown for a few years before the grafting. The trunk must have a diameter of at least 1/8 inch.

Move the dormant rootstock plant into the greenhouse a month before the grafting to bring it out of dormancy. The day of the grafting, take a cutting of about the same trunk diameter from the cultivar plant you wish to reproduce.

Many different types of cuts can be used for Japanese maple grafting. One simple one is termed the splice graft. To make the splice graft, cut off the top of the rootstock trunk in a long diagonal, about an inch long. Make the same cut at the base of the scion. Fit the two together and wrap the union with a rubber grafting strip. Secure the graft with grafting wax.

Care of Grafted Japanese Maples

Give the plant just a little water at infrequent intervals until the grafted sections grow together. Too much water or too frequent irrigation can drown the rootstock.

After the graft heals, remove the grafting strip. From that time on, care of grafted Japanese maples is very much like that care of plants grown from seeds. Prune off any branches that appear below the graft.

Japanese Maple Waterfall (fall color)

Lots of how to photos on this page.

Grafting is done during the winter months when the scion wood is completely dormant. In order to graft your own Japanese maple tree you’ll need a few supplies as well as a Japanese maple seedling that you can use as a root stock.

Growing Japanese maple from seed is actually quite easy to do. The ideal size seedling for grafting is usually a seedling that is 3/16″ in diameter. But a little smaller or bigger will also work. In the fall, after your seedlings have gone into dormancy, pot them up and store them outside in a protected area until you are ready to prep them for grafting.

Prepping your Japanese maple seedlings for grafting is easy. Just bring the potted seedlings inside where it’s nice and warm and keep them watered as needed until they start to break dormancy. Watch the buds on the seedlings. When you first bring them in they’ll be really small and tight. After being inside at about 70 degrees F. for 10 to 14 days the seedlings will start coming out of dormancy. The buds will start to swell, then open, and soon you’ll see signs of little tiny leaves.

The ideal time to graft them is right before they start to produce new leaves. That’s the only preparation that your seedlings need. Don’t fertilize them or anything like that, just bring them inside and let them warm up for 10 to 14 days.

The other supplies that you’ll need are a really sharp knife, some grafting wax and some rubber bands that are made for grafting. Grafting rubber bands are pretty much degradable so after being in the sun for several months they start to break down and fall of the plant. That’s important. You should remove the rubber bands manually about four months after you make the graft, but in case you forget it’s better to have grafting bands that are likely to fall off on their own.

If you do Google search for “grafting kit” you should be able to find a kit that comes with a grafting knife, a bar of grafting wax and a nice supply of grafting rubber bands.

The knife that you use for grafting needs to be really sharp because a dull knife will make cuts with ragged edges and those ragged edges will cause your graft to fail.

Scion. What’s a scion? Scion is the term used to describe the cutting that you remove from the parent plant. A scion should only be taken from the end or tip of the branch because the scion you use should be from the current seasons growth. You don’t want to use any wood that is older than one season when you are grafting.

Let’s get started!

Making a Grafting Cut

The goal when making a graft is to match up cambium layer to cambium layer. The cambium layer is the light green colored tissue right below the bark. The cambium layer is the life support system of the plant. It would do no good to make a graft into the wood of a plant. Your graft must be made in such a way that you are putting cambium tissue against cambium tissue. In the above photo you can see that I am exposing the cambium tissue.

You can also see that I have wrapped my thumb with several layers of heavy duty tape. Make sure you wrap your thumb and or any finger that could be in the way as you make your grafting cuts. Remember, the knife that you use is really, really sharp. Protect your thumb and or fingers by wrapping them with tape.

Trimming the Scion for grafting.

To prepare the scion for the graft you have to cut the end of the scion to a taper so it fits snugly into or against the rootstock.

Scion Wood Prepared for Grafting.

In this photo you can see how I have made the cut on the scion wood to prepare if for grafting. The very center is wood inside the center of the plant. If you look closely you can see the cambium tissue between the bark and the wood of the tree.

A scion ready to be inserted into the graft union.Making a veneer graft.

This is called a Veneer Graft because you are actually grafting the scion to the side of the plant and not inserting it into the center of the plant like you would with a saddle graft or a reverse saddle graft. I like doing veneer grafts because this process allows you to match up a lot more cambium tissue than you do with other types of grafts.

Notice how snug the scion fits into the graft union. Air space is your enemy when grafting. You want tissue against tissue with no air space.

Wrapping the Graft Union.

Once the scion is inserted into the graft union you have to hold it firmly in place, then start wrapping the graft with grafting rubber band. This wrap must be tight because you are trying to apply enough pressure to firmly press the two cambium layers together. Just wrap the band around and around, then terminate the wrap by making a little slip knot with the end of the rubber band.

A completed Japanese Maple Graft.

Almost done! The only thing left to do is apply the grafting wax. See my little slip knot? Isn’t that cute?

Applying grafting wax to a Japanese maple graft.

The finishing touch is to coat the entire graft union with melted grafting wax. When melting the wax you have to be careful to not get it too hot. You want it just hot enough so it melts so as you apply it, it sets up quickly and doesn’t run down the stem. If the wax is too hot it can do harm to the plant tissue. Be sure to cover the graft union completely so no air can get into the graft union. Air causes the tissue to get hard and brittle and the two pieces of tissue will not bond.

The little brush that I am using to apply the wax is called a flux brush. You can pick one up that the hardware store. A flux brush is normally used for apply flux to copper pipes before you solder them. I think I paid 29 cents for the one that I bought.

Melting grafting wax.

I found this little candle warmer and glass dish at Walmart. I think I paid about $8.00 for both of them. This set up worked great. I just cut off a chunk of the grafting wax, stood it up in the little dish, and turned on the heat. It probably took about two hours for the wax to melt all the way down so I could work with it, so make sure you get the wax melted before you start grafting.

Questions or comments? Post them below. -Mike McGroarty

Propagating Japanese Maples from Cuttings

Propagate Japanese Maples to add color to your yard.

There’s a fun and inexpensive way to get Japanese maples for your yard. If you have kids, it could also be a great educational experience. (See end of article for link to science content standards and suggestions. )

I’ll never forget the day my black lab Maxine came up the driveway with a neighbor’s soon to be planted large Japanese maple in her teeth. Thankfully it was not damaged as I probably could not have afforded to replace it. This is definitely not the way to acquire a Japanese maple!

Get a Free Japanese Maple

The Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is one of the most popular landscape trees. You can buy one for your yard from under $5 for a seedling to up to $200 or more for a good sized tree. You might consider growing one either from seed or from a cutting.

Ask neighbors or friends if you can take a couple of cuttings from their trees, or simply collect seeds from the ground in the Fall. Many plants can be cut and rooted. Some can simply be rooted in water. The Japanese maple should be rooted in soil. Here are instructions for growing Japanese maples for your yard from either cuttings or seeds.

Deciding Between Propagating Japanese Maples from Cuttings or Growing From Seed

If you root a cutting, it will look like the parent tree. However, if you grow from seed, the tree may be a little different. Some nurseries graft Japanese maples but this is a more complicated process than rooting. If you root a cutting, it will be important to either be very diligent in keeping the little tree misted throughout the day by hand, or use an automatic misting system.

Rooting the Japanese Maple Cutting

The process of rooting a cutting from a Japanese maple is very simple.

  • Prepare a pot or flat by filling it with moist potting soil.
  • Find new growth on the tree and cut that small branch.
  • Remove the lower leaves from the branch and leave two or three leaves toward the top of the cutting.
  • Place the branch into the soil being sure to bury at least one leaf node (be sure the leaf has been removed first). Before planting it, you can first dip the branch into water, then in rooting hormone as this may insure the branch will sprout roots. However, you might have good success without it.
  • Place the pot inside a plastic bag, but leave the bag open for air. The purpose of this step is to keep the plant moist at all times.
  • The pot should be in a warm place, but not direct light.
  • Using a hand sprayer, mist the cutting several times a day and keep the soil moist. If you’re fortunate enough to have an automatic misting system, you won’t need to hand mist.
  • When you begin to see vigorous new leaves growing, that means you have successfully grown roots!

Plant Your New Tree

Hopefully you plant the tree before it becomes root bound in the pot. A plant is root bound when the roots inside the pot begin to go around the pot. If this happens, take a pair of scissors and trim the roots before planting. If you are planting shortly after new leaves begin to grow, your plant will most likely not be root bound.

Dig a hole about the size of the pot your tree is in. Put a little pile of soil in the center of the hole. Gently remove the tree from the pot and shake some soil off of the roots. Spread the roots out over the pile of soil and gently add soil to fill in the hole. Tamp gently. Water. Small new trees need to be kept moist. Their root systems are still shallow and they can dry out and die quickly, so keep a good eye on your tree.

The Soil for Your Japanese Maple

Give your trees a head start by providing rich live soil. One way to do this is to add mychorrizal innoculant into the soil. Mychorrizae will continue to give for the life of the tree, and the cost is so minimal. Do this simple and inexpensive step and your tree will look fabulous in no time at all! Learn how and why it is such an effective soil amendment.

If you want to, you can check the pH of your soil and make adjustments for a Japanese maple.

Growing Japanese Maples From Seed

Check back for a post on this topic.

Science Content Standards

You can use science content standards at home to enrich your child’s science education in a fun way. Here are simple instructions.

What are your experiences with rooting Japanese maples or any other type of tree?

Grafting Japanese Maples

Before I explain grafting it is very important to understand other methods of propagation and why they cannot be used for Japanese Maples

Propagation from seed.

Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) includes many hundreds of unique varieties with different leaf shape, color, and growth habit. Japanese maples openly pollinate, meaning that seeds from a specific variety will sprout but they will not be an exact clone of the parent tree. In fact you will often see a lot of variance from one seedling to the next. On one occasion, I sprouted seed from ‘Inaba Shidare’ which is a weeping, red lace-leaf variety. I was genuinely surprised by how different the seedlings were from each other. Some were green. Some were red. Some displayed normal palmate leaves. Some had leaves that were “sort of” dissected like the parent. For the most part they were a mixed bag of leaf shape and color. It was really fun but it certainly did not yield me a clone of ‘Inaba Shidare’. It is frustrating that seedlings are not exact clones of the parent but at the same time it is really wonderful because that is how most new varieties are discovered. A chance seedling that looks so unique and different from any other variety that it must be given its own name.

Propagation from cuttings.

Another possible method of propagation in the world of trees is by rooted cuttings. A small branch or “cutting” is taken from the desired parent plant and inserted in soil. Over the period of several months the cutting will root if given a perfect environment. Normally that environment includes a shade house with little to no air movement and an overhead misting system. Unfortunately most varieties of Japanese Maples simply will not root, even under perfect conditions. If they do root, percentages are normally very low and often produce a tree that is very weak and eventually dies because of a weak root system. Of course there are always exceptions to the rules. Varieties like ‘Bloodgood’, ‘Ara Kawa’, and ‘Kiyohime’ are less difficult to root and in fact seem to do very well on their own roots.

Propagation by Grafting

Grafting is the principal method of propagating Japanese maple cultivars, both in commercial production and for the hobbyist. A small branch called the “scion” is removed from the parent tree and grafted onto another tree called the “understock”. The understock is normally a seedling of a green leaf, upright growing Japanese maple. This type is chosen as understock because it generally is fast growing with a vigorous and hardy root system. The seedling is grown for 2-3 years before it is large enough to be used as understock. Typically the tree must have a trunk that is wider than 1/8 inch. In commercial production, 3/16 to 1/4 inch is used the most.

For winter grafting, the understock is brought into the warm greenhouse in January and forced out of dormancy. After 3-4 weeks, the understock is ready to be used for grafting. On the day of grafting, the scion wood is collected from the parent tree that you wish to clone. The parent tree will be either outside in the cold or in a cold house. So you will be grafting a dormant scion onto an actively growing understock. Normally a 1-2 inch vertical cut is made on the understock and then a similar cut on the scion wood. The scion wood is then grafted onto the understock. The newly grafted tree is placed on a heated bench in the greenhouse. High humidity levels must be maintained as well as very specific nighttime and daytime temperatures. Often shade is provided for the newly grafted trees to reduce daytime stress. Once the graft “takes” the scion will push out leaves and after a month, the new graft can be moved off the grafting bench.

Here at Maplestone, we take great pride in our grafting. We use a handful of different grafting techniques based on time of year and size of grafting wood. A strong and smooth graft union is always our goal.

Today’s post isn’t something that everyone is going to be able to use right away, but it’s handy information to know and file away in your brain, in case you need it in future.

A month or so ago I noticed a branch on my Japanese maple that looked different from all of the other branches in three ways.

First of all, it was heading up, while all of the other branches cascade down. Second, the leaves were solid green, while the rest of the leaves are reddish. And thirdly, the leaves on that branch weren’t the same shape as the leaves on the rest of the tree—they looked like a traditional maple leaf, instead of deeply lobed and serrated.

I knew that if I left this branch in place I’d have a problem. This video will tell you why and what I did about it:

It seems that the problem with my Japanese maple was that it was reverting to the rootstock that it had been grafted onto. Grafting is a very common practice with woody plants—especially roses and small trees. It’s a bit of Frankenstein magic where the top part of a plant is joined onto the roots of another plant. This is done for a few reasons, usually because the root stock is hardier (i.e. more able to handle our winters) than the part of the plant on top, or because the root stock has a desirable characteristic (faster or slower growing). I had no idea my maple was grafted when I bought it—it was only when the rogue shoot emerged that I noticed.

I had to get rid of the rogue shoot because if I didn’t it would have taken over the entire tree. In a season or two the downward arching branches would have still been there, but they would have been outnumbered by many more vigorous upright branches with green foliage. Likely a nice tree, but probably much larger and not the look I wanted in that location.

Now that I know this tree has a graft and it’s tried to sprout once I will need to keep an eye on it in case more emerge. I tried to trim the rogue shoot as close to the tree trunk as possible, but because of the angle it was growing it wasn’t as clean of a cut as I would have liked. In future posts I’ll talk in more detail about pruning unwanted branches, but for now know that if you have a rogue branch you want to cut it as close to the trunk as possible.

The situation described above doesn’t just happen with Japanese maples. If you have other plants that are grafted and notice a branch that isn’t like the others, you may have the same problem. Keep an eye out and your secateurs handy!

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Propagating Japanese Maple cuttings

Japanese maples are notoriously difficult to root from cuttings. It can be done but probably not the best choice for a newby to the process. If you want to try, here’s a good method to follow:

Fill a 1-gallon nursery container with a thoroughly moistened mixture of half peat and half perlite. Press the mixture firmly, then poke a 4-inch-deep hole in the center.

Gather a 6- to 8-inch-long cutting from the tip of a healthy Japanese maple branch. Choose a stem with several mature leaves at the tip and a diameter of around 1/4 inch.

Sever the cutting using very sharp, clean bypass shears. Position the cut just beneath a set of leaves. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle to expose a larger area of the cambium, or inner bark.

Pour 0.5-percent IBA (indolebutyric acid) hormone into a shallow pan. Place the end of the Japanese maple cutting into the hormone. Soak it for 1 minute. Discard the used hormone.

Insert the end of the Japanese maple cutting into the prepared planting hole. Gently firm the peat mixture against the stem. Drizzle water around the base of the cutting to further settle the peat mixture.

Place the potted Japanese maple cutting outdoors under high, light shade. Choose a spot with direct morning sun but shelter at midday. Apply 75 to 80 Fahrenheit bottom heat to the container using a propagation mat if the weather is unseasonably cool.

Mist the cutting’s foliage and stem twice daily to prevent dehydration. Use a hose with a misting nozzle or an automated misting system.

Add water to the peat mixture only when it feels mostly dry in the top 2 inches. Drizzle the water directly onto the mixture rather than spraying from above to prevent excess moisture build-up on the leaves.

Check for roots in five to six weeks by very gently tugging on the base of the cutting. Feel for resistance to the pulling motion, which indicates that roots have begun to form.

Grow the Japanese maple in its rooting container for two months. Transfer it into a 1-gallon container filled with loamy soil. Grow it under sheltered conditions with regular watering until spring.

Acclimate the Japanese maple cutting to direct sunlight for one week before transplanting it. Plant it in a sunny or lightly shaded bed with moist, well-drained soil once nighttime temperatures stay reliably above freezing.

Introduction

The Acer palmatum or Japanese Maple is usually a deciduous shrub, but can also be found as a small tree. It’s height ranges from about twenty to thirty three feet and will usually be found growing in woodlands as a shaded understory shrub and grows best in zones five through eight. When mature, this shrub tends to take on a dome shape, can either have a weeping or upright stature, and usually possesses multiple trunks that join close to the ground. Its leaves are four to twelves centimeters in length and width and are palmately lobed with five, seven, or nine thinly pointed lobes on each leaf. Flowers of Acer palmatum are produced in cymes with the individual flowers possessing five red or purple sepals and five off white petals. The seeds of Acer palmatum must be stratified, a treatment that simulates the effects of winter, in order to successfully germinate. The seeds in the flower of Acer palmatum are exceptionally genetically diverse. Often times, a seed from a parent plant will produce a shrub or tree with leaves of different shape, size, and color.

There are three recognized subspecies of Acer palmatum. They are:

Acer palmatum palmatum- native to the lower elevations of central and southern Japan. Possesses smaller leaves (four to seven centimeters in width) with five to seven lobes and double-serrate margins.

“Leaves of Acer palmatum palmatum” http://www.hippopotteringmaples.co.uk/ekmps/shops/vertrees/images/acer-palmatum-nuresagi–37-p.jpg

Acer palmatum amoenum- native to the higher altitudes of Japan and South Korea. Sports larger leaves (six to twelve centimeters in width) with seven to nine lobes and single-serrate margins.

“Leaves of Acer palmatum amoenum” http://www.arboretum.sav.sk/files/image/FOTO_GENOFOND/ACER.01/Acer_palmatum_amoenum.jpg

Acer palmatum matsumurae- grows native to the higher altitudes of Japan. Has larger leaves (six to twelve centimeters wide) with almost always seven lobes and double-serrate margins.

“Leaves of Acer palmatum matsumurae” http://dbiodbs.univ.trieste.it/quint/carso/foto/TS124440.jpg

The Japanese Maple has been cultivated by the Japanese for many centuries now and in the temperate areas of the world since the 1800’s. Swedish botanist, Carl Peter Thunberg, is responsible for the adoption of the Japanese Maple by the rest of the world when he was traveling through Japan in the late 1700’s. He took notice of the tree and gave it the species name, palmatum, which means hand-like in Latin. He brought a specimen with him back to Britain and ever since then it has been a widely popular cultivar.

There are hundreds of cultivars of the Japanese Maple so the preferred growing conditions of the plant vary. Some of them can withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight, while others must be shaded. As a rule, however, most cultivars are fairly adaptable. All cultivars prefer well drained soil and limited application of fertilizer.

Propagation

There are quite a few methods used to propagate the Japanese Maple. Seeding is one of the most popular methods and includes taking the tried seeds of the shrub and germinating them by soaking them in about 110 degree fahrenheit water for two days and then putting them through stratification for sixty to one hundred and twenty days. Another popular method of propagation is grafting. For instance, in Oklahoma the seedling of rootstock of the Japanese Maple is selected from shrubs bearing more vibrant green foliage as opposed to those with red foliage. The most pervasive method of propagation is the use of cuttings.

Cutting Propagation

The cuttings of the Japanese Maple will successfully root if they are made from the tips of healthy pencil sized shoots towards the end of spring and placed under a mist system and heating pads. The best results have been documented when the cuttings are treated with IBA at concentrations of 8,000 to 20,000 ppm talc or quick-dip hormone. As a rule, it is best to select a cutting that has already formed a terminal bud, but before the last of the foliage has expanded.

Directions for Cutting Propagation of Acer palmatum

  1. Locate a new growth stem on the Maple that is approximately five to eight inches in length and cut it cleanly with a sharp knife. The best kinds of stem to use for this type of cutting which are soft and semi-hardwood stems. Softwood cuttings are the new branches that snap easily when bent and semi-hardwood cuttings are the branches are just beginning to mature and harden.
  2. Prepare a medium for the cutting. The medium should consist of equal parts of peat moss, coarser sand, and perlite. These three mediums in combination will create a well draining soil, which is necessary for the Japanese Maple to thrive. Add water to the medium so that the mixture is moist, but not oversaturated, and then prepare a rooting tray with the prepped medium.
  3. Remove all foliage from the lower half of the cutting and then dip this half into powdered hormone or a quick dip of 8,000 to 20,000 ppm IBA. Place the cutting into the medium at a depth of about three inches and then firm the soil around to keep the cutting stably in place.
  4. Mist the cutting until moist and then place a plastic bag over it to simulate the humid environment of a greenhouse if one is not available to you. Place the cutting a warm location with filtered sunlight. Make sure to not place the cutting in direct sunlight!
  5. Open up the covering once per day to provide the plant with new, fresh air and so that you may mist the cutting again in order to maintain the proper humidity levels. Make sure the soil stays moist, but not too moist. Keep the tray covered until the roots of the cutting become about one inch long.
  6. If you are propagating multiple cuttings, transplant each individual into its own growing container filled with a moist potting soil medium that is well drained. Grow the cuttings in a protected environment with no coverings for a minimum of one year and then transplant to an outdoor environment is permissible.

Works Cited

How to Propagate Japanese Maple Tree Cuttings

Japanese maple image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com

Red Japanese maple trees are classified as a deciduous broadleaf and planted in home landscapes as an ornamental feature. The tree reaches a height of 20 feet and is hardy to plant in USDA growing zones 5 to 8, where it produces an attractive fall foliage color that turns from green to yellow and purple. Propagate red Japanese maple trees by taking softwood stem cuttings in late spring or semi-hardwood stem cuttings in midsummer.

Cut a 6- to 8-inch new growth stem section from the Japanese maple tree with a sharp knife. Softwood and semi-hardwood stems propagate best for this tree variety. Softwood cuttings are immature branch growth that snaps when bent in half. Semi-hardwood cuttings are branch growth beginning to mature and harden.

Prepare a rooting soil for the Red Japanese maple by mixing equal quantities of peat moss, coarse sand and perlite to make a well-draining medium. Add enough water to the medium to moisten it without oversaturating. Fill a rooting tray with the moist soil mixture.

Remove all leaves from the bottom half of the red Japanese maple cutting and dip the lower cut end of the stem in powdered rooting hormone to stimulate root growth. Stick the cutting into the rooting tray soil to a depth of 3 inches. Firm the soil around the cutting to hold it in place. Space the maple stems in the tray so the leaves do not touch.

Mist the cuttings with water and cover the tray with a clear plastic bag to create a humid greenhouse environment. Place the cutting tray in a warm location with filtered sunlight. Do no set the tray in direct, bright sunlight.

Open the covering each day to refresh the air. Mist the cuttings to keep the humidity level high. Monitor the soil moisture to make sure it does not become too dry or wet. Grow the cuttings in the covered tray until the roots reach 1 inch in length.

Transplant the Red Japanese maple cuttings to individual growing containers filled with a well-draining potting soil. Grow the container uncovered in a protected environment for a minimum of one year before transplanting outdoors.

japanese.maple.crimson.queen.JPG

This is a weeping, red-leaf Japanese maple called ‘Crimson Queen’ growing on the Harrisburg Area Community College campus.

(George Weigel)

Q: I have one of those weeping, red-leaf Japanese maple trees, and I’d like to start a new one from it, if that’s possible. Is there a good way to do this?

A: It’s doable, and the best way is from what’s called a softwood cutting.

A softwood cutting is a young branch tip that’s snipped off in spring and stuck in potting mix to encourage it to produce roots.

That’s the way to go with a dwarf weeper like that because you’re more likely to get a true copy of the shape and habit by cutting than by seed. Many weeping or dwarf plants were originally propagated by cuttings from a mutated branch, so a seed from this “mutated child” may give you something more akin to the “normal mother.”

Regular upright red-leafed Japanese maples produce very easy from seed. In fact, many gardeners find volunteer seedlings of them popping up around the yard. These can be transplanted to give nearly identical copies of the mother.

Some woody plants produce roots from cuttings better from young spring growth, while others produce better from “hardwood” or mature cuttings taken in fall.

Japanese maples fall into the former or softwood category.

May is an ideal month to snip a few 3- to 4-inch tips off of the ends of your existing maple.

Look for tips that have the side shoots or “nodes” fairly close together. Pinch the leaves off of at least the two lower sets of nodes, dip these cut ends in a rooting hormone (available in powder form at most garden centers) and stick the shoots with pinched-off nodes in pots filled with a well drained, gritty/sandy potting mix.

At least one set of leaves should be above the mix. In other words, let the tips stick up.

Keep the mix consistently damp, ideally in a somewhat bright spot but out of direct sun. Some people set up a misting sprinkler so the tips and mix get dampened several times a day.

Don’t let the mix dry out or get baked in hot sun. Those are the two most likely care steps that go wrong.

It’ll take weeks or maybe even a couple of months for roots to appear, but once they do, you’ve got new baby plants.

I should point out that you should stick only with non-patented plant varieties when you do your own cuttings. It’s illegal to propagate patented plant varieties, even if you don’t intend to sell your babies.

Also don’t give up if you fail on the first try. Figure out what might’ve gone wrong, or better yet, take new cuttings at a different time. Sometimes a few weeks can make all the difference in whether a cutting roots or not.

Fall is just a few days away, but gardening season isn’t over yet. We’re still getting plenty of questions to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?

The best time to take tree cuttings is in the spring.LC-

How to propagate Japanese maple from a cutting?

Q: I have a Japanese maple tree that we planted in memory of our grandson we lost. We are selling our home and aren’t going to be able to take the tree but I want to see how I can make a start off of it so I can plant it at our new home and also send one to my son and daughter-in-law for their new house. Is this something that I can do?

– Marion County

A: I certainly understand that you would like to take a cutting with you as a memorial! This is something you can try, but you should be prepared that it might not be successful. Of the many different cultivars, some root easily from cuttings, and some are almost impossible to root. The best time to take cuttings is in the spring – these are called softwood cuttings, and are easier to root. If you must take cuttings at this time of year, they are hardwood cuttings, and in this species may be less likely to root.

Here is a link to an OSU Extension publication, Propagating Shrubs, Vines, and Trees from Stem Cuttings, that will give you details on how to take and treat cuttings for the best chances of success.

— Signe Danler, OSU Extension Master Gardener

Weigela ‘fine wine’LC-

How to recover weigela flowers?

Q: I have ‘Wine & Roses’ weigela planted along the front of my house in full sun. They have been a marvelous plant, providing copious pink flowers every year – until this year. They just grew new foliage to about 3 feet but no flowers or any buds. We’ve pruned them back every year (for 11 years) and never had any problems until now. What can I do to recover the flowers?

– Washington County

A: The key to getting great flowers in weigela is pruning just after flowering, as you have been doing for 11 years. At this point it may help the plant to do some renovation pruning. This should be done in the winter when the plant is dormant. Fall pruning leads to the growth of tender new leaves which cannot survive winter’s cold.

In late winter take out a third of the oldest branches at the base. This will cause the plant to put out vigorous new growth. You can repeat this in subsequent years, always taking out the oldest branches, if you get a good response. You may also lose flowers in the short run, but the plant will be much stronger and flower better in the long run. Always prune out the flowering branches after they have finished blooming.

– Anne Schmidt, OSU Extension Master Gardener

Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium): Produces a small to moderate harvest of sweet/tart berries. Photo by Vern NelsonLC- Vern Nelson

How to rejuvenate red huckleberry?

Q: I live in the woods in Tillamook. Red huckleberry is up to 10 feet. Can it be rejuvenated by drastic cutting back? I really hope there’s a seasonal time to do that that will encourage maximum recovery from cutback. When do we have best chance of success? Any other expert advice on this plant? I’m seriously nervous about messing with nature here and find very little specific cultural help with local native plants. I’m especially concerned about major pruning, maintaining an existing woodsy native landscape.

– Tillamook County

A: Red huckleberries are usually pruned just after the berries are picked, to encourage next year’s crop. If the plant has gotten too thin, too tall, or even lop-sided, go ahead and shape it up, at that time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a fact sheet on this plant. They note that, in the past, burning was used to encourage new growth in plants. Though this is not a current practice, it does suggest that the plant can recover from even severe pruning.

– Claudia Groth, OSU Extension Master Gardener

The dwarf willow requires vigilance with pruning.

How to care for dwarf willows?

Q: I have two dwarf willows that have been in the largest pots I could find for two to three years. This summer they’re both dropping leaves and dying back. I’m guessing they’re rootbound? One I can plant in the ground if you tell me that it won’t intrude on the footings supporting my yurt, which are 4 feet away. What can I do for the one that has to stay on my deck in a pot? It helps smaller birds feel safe enough to feed right outside my windows.

– Josephine County

A: The dwarf willow requires vigilance with pruning to keep the stem clear of suckers and low limbs. It tends to grow as a multi-stemmed plant if not trained, and the standard graft often produces lateral growth that must be rubbed off when young. The tree requires at least an inch of water per week in the dry season and may be fertilized in early spring with a balanced all-purpose plant food. Kilmarnock is a very adaptable tree with a 5- to 6-foot height that is practical in the lawn, potted or any other ornamental use.

To maintain vigorous dwarf willow bushes, prune one-third of the oldest branches down to the ground annually. Old branches lack the vivid coloration of young rods and have a grayish color. At any time of the year, remove all dead branches, diseased or insect-infested branches. Remove the tops of all branches bearing catkins. Pruning may help increase the size of catkins next year. Heavily pruned willow bushes may need extra water during the growing season.

Willow trees are suitable for moist sites in full sun. They perform well in almost any climate, but the limbs and stems are not strong and may bend and break in storms. There are many types of willow trees for the home landscape. Learn how to grow a willow tree for a fast-growing, easy-to-care-for screen or specimen tree.

Consider carefully where you plant your tree or shrub. Not all types of willow tree are invasive, but many are and you do not want their root system all over your yard or encroaching on septic systems, sidewalks or foundations.

In containers you will need to water your plants almost daily during our droughty summers. By your photos, you may consider planting into a larger container. You can find these at most garden centers and farmers co-ops.

– Chris Rusch, OSU Extension Master Gardener

MORE ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS

  • When to trim blueberries
  • Follow these tips to keep rats out of homes and gardens
  • Get hydrangea to sprout roots for successful transplant
  • How to prune back a rhododendron

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