Propagating blueberries from cuttings

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Propagation of Blueberry

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Propagation of Blueberry by Cuttings

Propagation of Blueberry by Tissue Culture

Two thesis on Blueberry Propagation (download)

Improving Blueberry Propagation in the Tissue Culture Green House Stage (download)

Propagation of Blueberry by Cuttings

Compiled by Phytotronics, Inc.
Highbush Blueberries are not easy to propagate by cuttings, but, good results can be obtained.
There are many ways to do it. It will take trials to determine which methods and rate will work best for you.
Always use the best quality cuttings. Junk cuttings yield junk plants!
Treat the cuttings using Hortus IBA Water Soluble Salts by solution methods or Rhizopon AA #3 by the dry dip method.
How to root blueberry cuttings:
Blueberry cutting selection:

Cuttings taken in the Dormant season:
Take cuttings while plants are dormant; vigorous, firm, pencil-size, unbranched shoots of the last season’s growth.
Cuttings taken in the Growing season (preferred)- see Softwood Cuttings (below):
Take cuttings about 6-8 weeks after new growth starts: an indication may be when stems darken color from bright green.
Only use vegetative wood without fruit buds.

Blueberry softwood cuttings:
Blueberries root more easily by softwood cuttings.

Softwood cuttings
> require a mist system and well ventilated propagating structures.
> are susceptible to leaf diseases.
> because of control and disease, softwood cuttings require more control then hardwood cuttings.
> shoots of the first seasonal flush of growth make the best wood for cuttings.
> take cuttings before fruit buds start to form.

Taking blueberry cutting:
Cuttings should be 5 to 9 inches long, with 2 or 3 leaves.
Place cuttings 2 inches deep into rooting media made up of equal parts of perlite and peat moss.
Wound the cuttings before hormone treatment.

Blueberry rooting hormone treatment:
Use the higher rates for Dormant cuttings.
Use the lower rates for Softwood cuttings.

> Method 1 (Basal Long Soak):
Hortus IBA Water Soluble Salts @100-200 ppm IBA by the Basal Long Soak Method.
Soak 1″ of the basal end of the cuttings for 12-24 hours, then stick or put in cold storage.
> Method 2 (Spray Drip Down® Method):
Hortus IBA Water Soluble Salts @1000-1500 ppm IBA by the Spray Drip Down® Method.
Stick the cuttings, then, spray the leaves of the cutting with the solution until the liquid drips down.
> Method 3 (Dry Dip Method):
Rhizopon AA #3 dry powder rooting hormone by the Dry Dip Method.
Dip the basal end of the cutting 3/4-1″ into the powder then stick.

Sticking blueberries:
Space cutting 2” apart with the top bud just visible.

Media for blueberries:
Use a well draining soilless media such:

> half peat to half sand or
> half peat to half pearlite

Control:
Use a poly house or use a tunnel to cover the cuttings and control humidity.

Bottom heat for blueberries:
Use bottom heat at 68-73F

Media moisture for blueberries:
Keep media moist until leaves appear.

Humidity (Air moisture) for blueberries:
Use misters to keep humidity high.
When leaves appear the poly should be raised slightly for ventilation.

Possibility for blueberry root formation under ideal conditions (using juvenile cuttings):
Softwood cuttings: may root in 2-7 weeks with relatively high success rate.
Hardwood cuttings: root in up to about 8 weeks. Unpredictable success can range about half to almost full rooting percentage.
The Basal Long Soak Method may improve rooting success.

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Propagation of Blueberry by Tissue Culture

Blueberry Tissue Culture (TC) plantlets are often bushier than those propagated from conventional cuttings.
Propagated from these TC plantlet cuttings, the next stage plantlets pass on the same improved bush level, giving high fruit yields.
Tissue culture stages:

Stage I:
Under sterile conditions in the laboratory, the growing point of the plant, such as a shoot tip or bud, is excised from the stock plant and placed into a simple growth medium where it develops into a tiny plantlets.
Stage II:
The stage I plantlets is transferred into a different growth medium containing plant hormones that will encourage the plantlets to produce more plantlets.
In this stage, the number of plantlets is increased through a series of transfers to fresh medium.
This process continues until the desired number of plantlets is produced.
Stage III:
The stage II plantlets are transferred to another different medium that will prepare them for transfer to a greenhouse environment.
Stage IV:
The stage III plantlets are removed from stage III medium and planted in a greenhouse where they root and acclimate to the greenhouse environment.
Greenhouse Production: Stage IV plantlets are rooted, acclimated, and grown on to a field–ready plug plant.
This process takes 8 – 12 weeks.
These plug plants are the foundation stock for nurseries.

The greenhouse production area looks like a TC growth room (typical).
Domes are used because the cuttings are very soft and require good environmental control.
The cuttings used are usually from the top of the stock plants. Lower cuttings with no top, but three leaves are also used.

The Stage IV plantlets are totally immersed in an aqueous solution containing
Hortus IBA Water Soluble Salts rooting solutionb at 50-150 ppm IBA.

A plastic small screen basket is used to dip the plantlets so as no to cause damage to the tender plant tissue.
The plantlets are dipped about five seconds.

The plantlets are stuck in a tray. 325 trays are suitable.
The trays are then covered with a transparent dome
Plantlets are kept under artificial light such are those used in TC lab lights.

After about 2-3 weeks the plantlets are moved to a greenhouse to harden off by controlled lowering of humidity.
The greenhouse allows the plantlets to utilize the broad spectrum of natural sunlight.

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Blueberries usually are propagated from softwood or hardwood cuttings by cutting selected twigs from healthy, disease-free mother plants. Cuttings are placed in propagation beds in a medium that holds moisture well but also allows adequate aeration.

Softwood Cuttings – Take softwood cuttings (4 inches to 5 inches long) in late spring from the tips of the current season’s growth. Collect these cuttings when stems have developed woody tissue but are still somewhat flexible and terminal leaves are half-grown to almost mature. Cuttings taken too early (terminal leaves very succulent, stems very flexible) may readily wilt. Cuttings taken too late (mature leaves, second flush of growth initiated), may poorly root. Rooting usually is more successful when cuttings are taken from the first flush of spring growth. However, cuttings can be collected from growth flushes occurring later in the growing season.

Take cuttings from the upper part of the mother plant. Use sharp, clean pruning shears or knives disinfected in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 5 parts water. Remove lower leaves leaving two or three terminal leaves. Don’t allow cuttings to dry; keep them moist and cool after collection. Place cuttings in the propagation bed, under mist, as soon as possible at a depth of one-half to two-thirds of their length.

Hardwood Cuttings – Hardwood cuttings are taken during the dormant season after sufficient chilling has occurred, usually late January through February. Collect strong, healthy shoots or “whips” (usually 12 inches to 36 inches long) that grew the previous summer. Divide these “whips” into sections 5 inches to 6 inches long with a sharp knife or a bench saw with a fine blade. If the terminal of the shoot contains flower buds, remove the flower buds or discard the tip.

Insert cuttings into the propagation medium from one-half to two-thirds of their length with one shoot bud exposed. Keep the propagation beds moist, but be careful not to use too much water. Water hardwood cuttings with a sprinkler until they start growing leaves, then mist-water the cuttings until they are rooted.

After cuttings are rooted, apply a dilute complete liquid fertilizer weekly. Plants can remain in the propagation bed until winter, when they should be transplanted into pots or nursery beds and held them for one year. The plants should be large enough for field planting the next winter.

Propagation beds need to be well-drained, under shade cloth (40 percent to 70 percent shade), and have adequate ventilation. Avoid excessive wind movement that may interfere with mist control.

Propagation Media – A medium that retains moisture well but allows aeration is necessary. Media containing various propagation mixtures of coarse sand, ground pine bark, perlite, sawdust, and peat moss have proven satisfactory. A good rooting medium recipe is a mixtures of coarse sand, ground pine bark, and peat moss (1:1:1) or perlite and peat moss (1:1).

Mist System – The mist system should keep the media uniformly moist but not soggy. If only a few drops of water can be squeezed from a handful of media, the amount of moisture is probably correct. An intermittent-mist system is needed to keep the humidity around the cutting near 100 percent, preventing wilting, and keep the medium moist. Starting with a porous medium that holds moisture well, adjust the mist intervals to maintain turgid (non-wilted) leaves and high humidity. Frequent (2 minutes to 10 minutes) short misting intervals (2 seconds to 10 seconds) are recommended.

Important Considerations One of the major problems with collecting propagation wood from other grower’s fields is contamination of cutting wood, either with off-type cultivars or with diseases. Many farms have a small percentage of off-type cultivars mixed with their primary cultivars. This can create serious problems at harvest time if the off-type ripens at a different time than the primary cultivar. The off-type cultivar may also be of lower quality than the primary cultivar, and thus lower the grade of the packed fruit. When available, always purchase virus-tested, true-to-type plants to serve as propagation sources.

Diseases such as viruses may be transmitted via cutting wood taken from infected bushes. Although distribution of blueberry viruses appears to be limited at this time in the Southeastern United States, avoid propagation from plants that have odd-looking or stunted foliage. They may be harboring a virus that could reduce yields. The Blueberry Stunt phytoplasma is common in North Carolina, and can be transmitted via propagation. Stem Canker is a fungal disease causing swollen cankers that eventually kill infected canes. Avoid collecting cutting wood from infected plants.

Avoiding off-type or diseased cuttings during propagation is best accomplished by scouting the source field during the growing season prior to taking cuttings. Specific rows or individual bushes of uniform, healthy source plants can be most easily found and mapped during bloom and harvest, excluding visibly diseased or off-type bushes. This pre-propagation scouting is especially necessary when growers are planning to take dormant, hardwood cuttings, since off-type or diseased bushes may not be easily identifiable in winter. Once your own field is established, you will be able to identify and remove offtype bushes over time and avoid contamination of your propagation material.

Return to Blueberry Production articles.

Northwest Berry & Grape Information Network
Oregon State University | University of Idaho | Washington State University | USDA-ARS

Before propagating blueberries, evaluate land use in relation to time, land investment, equipment, labor, and structures needed. Identifying a source true-to-name and disease-free is essential for successful propagation. Do not propagate from plants adjacent to bushes showing disease symptoms.

A vast majority of blueberry propagation is done by relatively few commercial growers because of investment and cost. Most new growers can get into production sooner if they buy rooted cuttings rather than producing their own plants.

Highbush blueberries can be propagated by both hardwood and softwood cuttings. Most propagation is done with hardwood cuttings, as they are easier to handle and are less perishable than softwood cuttings. However, softwood cuttings allow more rapid multiplication of plants.

Cuttings are whips or shoots that are cut into several pieces, each 4 to 6 inches long. There are 3 types of cuttings: leaf buds only, 1 to 2 fruit buds in addition to at least 2 good leaf buds, and a cutting taken from the middle of the previous year’s growth with one or more fruit buds removed. Research shows a higher percentage of rooting is obtained from leaf bud cuttings than from fruit bud cuttings with fruit buds removed.

Hardwood Cuttings

Selecting whip/cutting wood

Proper selection of shoots is important for rooting. Take dormant, well hardened, unbranched, one-year-old whips/shoots from “mother” plants. Whips should be one-fourth inch or less (pencil width) in diameter but not spindly. Do not use shoots formed late in the season, as they are poorly hardened; such shoots often have an off-white to brown pithy interior. Look for healthy leaf buds on the whip. Avoid wood that might be diseased with Botrytis twig blight, bacterial blight, or Godronia cane canker.

Cuttings made from wood greater than one-fourth inch in diameter don’t root as well, but may still produce desirable plants. Do not use thin wood unless cutting wood is scarce.

Prepare whips by removing the fruit buds and cutting the whips into lengths. Cuttings cut less than 4 inches long have a smaller stored food supply, so greater care is needed to get them to root.

Whips may be cut mechanically using a band or bench saw, or by hand using a sharp knife or pruning shears. Cutting by hand allows the basal cut to be nearer a vegetative bud; this is especially important for hard-to-root cultivars (table 1). The cuts must be clean, taking care not to damage or bruise the bark. To stimulate rooting, slice a one-half to one inch long layer of bark from both sides of the base of the cutting. Protect the cuttings from drying out.

Table 1. Rooting characteristics of hardwood cuttings of Pacific Northwest cultivars

Easy Moderate Hard
Bluetta Earliblue Spartan
Patriot Collins Bluejay
Northland Olympia Ivanhoe
Blueray Herbert Bluecrop
Berkeley Jersey Darrow
Coville Elliott
Jersey (1613-A)

Collect cuttings in early spring before bud break. Timing in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho is February/March for small-scale farms. For large-scale farms, start taking cuttings in late January. A minimum of 850 to 1,000 chilling hours is needed for shoot growth and flowering to occur (see Winter Acclimation and Cold Hardiness) . It is best to take cuttings in late March and place them immediately in propagation flats. However, often propagators must start early and store the cuttings.

Storage

Stored cuttings should be cleaned, placed in plastic bags with sphagnum moss, and stored at 34 to 40 F. Maintain a humidity of 80 to 90 percent. Temperatures below 30 F may damage the wood. Cuttings can be stored for 2 to 3 months. Ensure good ventilation when using boxes or trays. Fill boxes or trays with sphagnum moss to increase humidity and prevent cuttings from drying out. The shorter the length of storage, the better. Storage of cuttings can be difficult and should be done only if necessary.

Propagation structures

Propagation beds should be located in full sun with a suitable well-drained medium. Place beds either on the ground or raised above the ground. Construct propagation frames from good quality, new, treated wood. The frame bottom should have crosspieces for supporting heavy-gauged wire. Place hardware cloth over the wire. Beds are usually 4 feet wide, 8 inches deep, and of various lengths. A well constructed propagation bed will help reduce insect, disease, mouse, and gopher problems.

Rooting frames should contain a heating source. Place frames in glass or plastic greenhouses. Recommended bottom heat is between 68 to 73 F. Often heating coils are used to maintain a more constant media temperature. Heat sources include propagation heating mats, hot water tubing, and lead, rubber, or poly-covered cable.

Good quality thermostats maintain a constant heat. See the manufacturer of these products for current recommendations and application methods. Avoid wide temperature fluctuations and drafts in the propagation bed and greenhouse structure to promote rapid and even rooting.

Rooting media

Rooting media include sphagnum moss, American, German, or Canadian peat, sawdust, sand, cinders, perlite, and vermiculite. Peat alone as a medium creates problems when trying to separate the roots before transplanting. Root media need to have a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. Fresh sawdust is not recommended.

Several medium mixes work well.

Mix these media thoroughly before placing on the screens in propagating beds. Bluecrop requires a higher proportion of sand. Water the rooting medium thoroughly. Add extra medium as the new medium settles. Maintain a depth of 8 inches.

Placing cuttings

Before inserting the cuttings into the medium, label them well as to cultivar and mother block. Place the cuttings vertically (right side up with vegetative buds pointing upward) into the medium, leaving 1 or 2 buds above the medium (60 percent covered). If bottom heat is used, insert one-third to one-half of the cutting into the medium. The butts of the cuttings should not touch the bottoms of the frames. Set the cuttings in a 2- by 2-inch, or 2- by 3-inch spacing. For larger root development, a 3- by 3-inch spacing is recommended. Press the medium around the base of the cuttings. Failure to do so will cause the cuttings to dry out.

In the Pacific Northwest, cuttings are usually stuck, or inserted, from January 15 to March 10.

Water/light

Water the cuttings thoroughly about once a week to keep the medium moist but not water-logged. Water more frequently when the leaves have developed. Full sun is best for growing quality plants.

Growth

During April and May, vegetative buds will produce leaves. By June, the roots begin to form. Fifty to 98 percent of the cuttings should root. The period of May 1 to June 15 is critical for root and foliage development.

After roots and foliage have developed, increase ventilation and apply fertilizer. Often fertilizer is applied weekly in a soluble form (i.e. 15-30-4, 13-36-13) or slow-release form. Nitrogen (N) is needed to maintain active growth. Nitrogen can be supplied as ammon-ium sulfate (1 oz/gallon water), am-monium phosphate, urea, or in other formulations.

When diseased cuttings or leaves are found, carefully remove and destroy them and increase ventilation, and/or apply appropriate fungicides (type depending on disease present).

Rooted cuttings remain in the medium to overwinter in the propagation frames. Remove rooted cuttings the following spring. Either line-out rooted cuttings in pots or place them in the ground, spaced 8 by 18 inches or 8 by 10 inches.

Softwood Cuttings

Softwood, or summer, cuttings are used to speed propagation of blueberry plants. Concord, Herbert, Ivanhoe, Stanley, and Bluecrop (which are difficult to propagate by hardwood cuttings) root more easily by softwood cuttings. However, softwood cuttings require a mist system and well ventilated propagating structures. Thus, blueberries are more difficult to propagate by softwood than hardwood cuttings.

Take softwood cuttings in June while the mother block plant is growing actively. Shoots of the first seasonal flush of growth make the best wood for cuttings. Take cuttings before fruit buds start to form.

Cuttings should be 5 to 9 inches long, with 2 or 3 leaves. Place cuttings 2 inches deep into rooting medium made up of equal parts of perlite and peat moss, or another acceptable mix.

Mist irrigation and shade are required to prevent foliage from drying out and dying. After roots and foliage appear, good air circulation will help prevent the spread of diseases. Periodic sprays of fungicides will serve as prophylactic measures to prevent Botrytis, root rot, bacterial canker, and other diseases. Check with your local county Extension agent to select and schedule use of proper fungicides to reduce likelihood of developing fungicide resistance.

Softwood cuttings should root in 4 to 7 weeks and can then be transplanted into peat or plastic pots. Plants can be forced in a greenhouse during the winter months for additional growth. A complete soluble fertilizer will help ensure good foliage and root growth. Do not allow evening temperatures to fall below 60 F.

Rooting hormones

Rooting hormones may increase the percentage of rooting of cuttings, but have not been proven effective.

Tissue Culture

A few laboratories have begun to propagate blueberries by tissue culture. This procedure allows for very rapid proliferation of certain cultivars, but also requires an expensive, specialized laboratory. The growing tips of plants are removed under sterile conditions and placed in a special growth medium in growth chambers. The resulting plantlets are carefully rooted under high humidity in a greenhouse and are generally sold in transplant trays.

Other Propagation Methods

The following methods of propagating are mainly used for research or propagation of only a few plants:

Mounding

In this system, severely prune the mother plant, cutting back canes and young whips to 6 to 12 inches above the ground. Fertilize and then build a wood or tar paper frame around the plant and fill this with a rooting medium. After 3 years, remove the frame. One-sided root systems are produced near the base of the stems. After cutting below the roots, the plants are ready for transplanting. This method is rarely used.

Seeds

Seeds can be used for propagation but are mainly used in breeding programs as plants do not breed true to type. The seeds need to be exposed to light to germinate, which takes 3 to 8 weeks. Seeds are sown on the surface of sphagnum peat or a 1:1 mix of sphagnum and sand. The medium must be kept moist.

Grafting

Budding involves grafting a single bud onto another plant. Bud when the bark slips easily in the spring. Rubber grafting bands are good wrapping material to fasten the buds to the branch. Other types of grafts used are the cleft, whip, side, and T-bud.

Budding and grafting are not commonly used because blueberry plants are rejuvenated by suckers below the graft or bud unions. Within 4 to 6 years, these unions will be pruned out.

This fact sheet is adapted from Oregon State University Extension Publication PNW215, Highbush Blueberry Production. The authors of Highbush Blueberry Production are – Oregon State University: Bernadine Strik, Glenn Fisher, John Hart, Russ Ingham, Diane Kaufman, Ross Penhallegon, Jay Pscheidt and Ray William; Washington State University: Charles Brun, M. Ahmedullah, Art Antonelli, Leonard Askham, Peter Bristow, Dyvon Havens, Bill Scheer, and Carl Shanks; University of Idaho: Dan Barney. PNW215, Highbush Blueberry Production can be purchased from the Department of Extension & Experiment Station Communications, Oregon State University. How to Order

Tufts University researchers have found that blueberries are higher in antioxidants than any other food. They go on to say that blueberries have pectin that can help lower cholesterol and they are high in vitamin C.

Native to North America, highbush blueberries are easy to grow from cuttings, taken while the plant is dormant. The cutting will root within 8 weeks but the plant won’t yield any berries for at least two years.

What you will need to root blueberry cuttings

  • 1 gal. planting container
  • Coarse sand
  • Peat moss
  • Pruning shears
  • Scalpel or small, sharp knife
  • Rooting hormone powder
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Craft sticks, bamboo skewers or small plant stakes
  • Plastic bag large enough to hold the planting container
  • Heat mat

Full disclosure: I get commissions from purchases made through links in this post. I haven’t received any products for free — all of the ones I refer you to are those that I purchase and use in my own garden.

Prepare the container

The planting container can be a plastic tub, an old bucket or planting pot, as long as whatever it is has holes in the bottom for drainage.

Combine equal parts of coarse sand and peat moss. The peat moss may be a little dusty so if you’re sensitive to that sort of stuff, wear a dust mask. When it’s combined, run water over it. This is the probably the most frustrating part of the whole propagation process.

Peat moss is tough to combine so you may have to stir for quite some time to get it combined with the sand and moist. When it is, pour it into a gallon planting pot and set it aside to drain. Use your finger or a pencil or something similar to create a planting hole deep enough so that the bottom 2 inches of the cutting will be buried.

Tip cuttings

Take the blueberry cutting

Make sure your pruners are sharp and clean. Find a stem from last year’s growth that is the diameter of a pencil and take a 4- or 5- inch tip cutting. If you want to take more than one cutting, cut them from different branches so that they are all tip cuttings.

Use the scalpel or knife to lightly scrape the bark off the bottom inch of the cutting then dip it into the hormone powder. Avoid contaminating the entire jar of powder by pouring out a dime-sized portion into a small dish. If the powder doesn’t stick to the cutting, dip the cutting into water and then dip it into the powder.

Make sure at least the bottom 2 inches are covered with the hormone. Stick it immediately into the prepared hole in the sand/peat mixture in the pot, leaving the top one-fourth exposed. Spray the exposed portion of the cutting with water.

Insert the support sticks into the soil around the edge of the pot. Equally space them so that one is at the top, bottom and either side. The sticks should extend higher than the cutting. Now insert the cutting into the plastic bag. Adjust it so that the plastic is held away from the cutting by the craft sticks and seal the bag.

Put the heat mat somewhere that gets bright but indirect sun and turn the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the bagged cutting on top of it and check to ensure the planting mix remains moist as the cutting takes root. This may take up to two months.

When you see new foliage, open the bag halfway to allow air to circulate.

By the way, all blossoms during the first two years of growth should be removed. Otherwise they will stunt the blueberry plant’s growth.

If you want to root lowbush varieties it’s easy to do by digging up the rhizome, cut into 4-inch sections and root in perlite.

Resources

Coarse Sand

Peat Moss

Pruning Shears

Scalpel

Rooting Hormone Powder

Plant Stakes

Seedling Heat Mat

Photo Courtesy: Buyblueberrybushes.com

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Cloning BlueBerry

Some varieties are easier to clone than others. There are Sativas that will sprout roots so easy, you can (almost) stick them in the ground and forget em. But then there are some early Indicas that you can baby and they will just sit there and starve to death. So there are a few things you have got to look at.
Help the roots grow. Figure out where the roots will grow on your cutting before you actually cut it. Keep this portion of the stem dark for a week or two by wrapping some tape around it. This is called “etiolation” and will encourage rooting. Make the cutting with a sharp anvil pruner or very sharp scissors, and sterilize them after each cut. A dull pruner will crush the stem and it will be harder for the roots to form. A razor blade will make an even cleaner cut, which will also help rooting, but don’t blame me if you cut yourself. Try to make the cut at angle to increase the surface area it has to absorb water.
The plant needs air to help the roots form, but don’t let any get in the stem. This will cut off the capillary action and make the poor cutting work harder. Immediately dunk the cut end in water or rooting solution to prevent this from happening. You could even take it over to the sink and make a second cut under running water if you’re really worried about it. Leave it in the rooting solution for a day or so. If you just leave it in the water, you might get lucky and sprout some roots, but they really need some oxygen. You can actively provide O2 by aeration or passively aerate by using an airy medium.
Another thing that makes the cutting work harder is breathing itself. Use a plastic dome or humidity tent to limit transpiration and keep the medium from drying out, and. Half of a 16 oz plastic drink bottle fits right on top of a 3 inch clay pot. Another way to limit transpiration is to cut about half off of each leaflet. You will still have the same number of leaves on the stem, but the surface area has decreased. This also helps control fungus by preventing the leaves from contacting the dome or the medium.
The proper lighting is also important. Direct sunlight will heat the air in the dome too much, but they’re not going to root in the dark either. Fluorescents are ideal for this. An HID is OK if it’s not too close, or you could even give them a bit of indirect sun from a window if you can keep them warm.
You’ve kept an eye on the pH and the nutes, and you see it’s starting to grow again, so its safe to assume that it has roots and you can remove the humidity dome. Occasionally a cutting may wilt a little at first, but give it a mist and it should perk up. If none of these tips help, either consider tissue culture or finding a different mother.

Propagating Blueberries – How To Propagate Blueberry Bushes

As long as you have acidic soil, blueberry bushes are a real asset to the garden. Even if you don’t, you can grow them in containers. And they’re worth having for their delicious, abundant fruit that’s always better fresh than in the store. You can buy blueberry bushes at most nurseries, but if you’re feeling brave, it’s always fun to try propagating things yourself. Keep reading to learn more about how to start a blueberry bush.

Methods for Propagating Blueberries

There are several ways to propagate blueberries. These include seed, sucker and cutting propagation.

Seed Propagating Blueberries

Growing blueberries from seeds is possible, but it tends to be restricted to lowbush blueberry plants. Blueberry seeds are tiny, so it’s easiest to separate them from the fruit in large batches.

First, freeze the blueberries for 90 days to stratify the seeds. Then pulse the berries in a blender with plenty of water and scoop off the pulp that rises to the top. Keep doing this until you have a good number of seeds left in the water.

Sprinkle the seeds evenly in moist sphagnum moss and cover lightly. Keep the medium moist but not soaked and in a somewhat dark location until germination, which should occur within one month. At this time the seedlings can be given more light.

Once they’ve reached about 2-3 inches (5-8 cm.) tall, you can carefully transplant to individual pots. Water well and keep in a sunny location. Set them out in the garden after the threat of frost has passed.

Growing Blueberry Suckers

Blueberry bushes will sometimes put up new shoots several inches from the base of the main plant. Carefully dig these up with roots attached. Prune back some of the stem before transplanting, or the small amount of roots won’t be able to support the plant.

Growing sucker plants from blueberries is easy. Simply pot them up in a 50/50 mix of potting soil and sphagnum peat moss, which should provide enough acidity as they form new growth. Give them plenty of water but don’t drench the plants.

Once the suckers have formed adequate new growth, they can be transplanted to the garden or you can continue growing the plants in containers.

Growing Blueberry Bushes from Cuttings

Another very popular method of propagation is growing blueberry bushes from cuttings. Blueberries can be grown from both hard and softwood cuttings.

Hardwood cuttings – Harvest hardwood cuttings in late winter, after the bush has gone dormant. Select a healthy looking stem that’s one year old (last year’s new growth) and cut it into 5 inch (13 cm.) lengths. Stick the cuttings in growing medium and keep them warm and moist. By spring they should have rooted and produced new growth and be ready to transplant outside.

Softwood cuttings – In early spring, select a healthy looking shoot and cut off the last 5 inches (13 cm.) of that season’s new growth. The cuttings should be starting to get woody but still flexible. Remove all but the top 2 or 3 leaves. Never let the cuttings dry out, and plant them immediately in moist growing medium.

Blueberry Propagation : How To Grow Blueberries From Cuttings

Detailed step-by-step instructions on how to grow blueberries from cuttings and by layering method is given below. Blueberries are one of the top super foods as they contain more cancer-fighting antioxidants (antioxidant rich foods) than any other fruit or vegetable. The question is how to reproduce blueberry plants.
In Sydney, Australia blueberry plants are quite expensive, so I have propagated them from softwood and hardwood stem cuttings. The success rate is quite good, but needs patience.

Blueberries

Propagating Blueberries From Cuttings

I am sharing my experiences on how to reproduce blueberry bushes from softwood and hardwood cuttings so that you can get free blueberry plants from a blueberry bush. Blueberries can be propagated from seeds, cuttings and by layering method. I started my experiment of propagating blueberry bushes a few years ago. I am very thrilled and excited with the results. I describe below the tips and method of starting blueberries from softwood and hardwood cuttings which give a very high success rate.
Note that the other methods of blueberry propagation starting from air layering can also result in high success.
The hardwood cuttings are easier to handle but take longer time to root. The softwood cuttings allow more rapid multiplication. However, both procedures yield highly healthy plants.
I have not tried rooting a blueberry cutting by simply putting it in water.

What You Need For Propagating Blueberries?

  1. A blueberry bush.
  2. A clean sharp knife or pruning shears.
  3. Rooting medium in a small pot.
  4. Rooting hormone.
  5. A polythene bag with tie.

How To Take Blueberry Cuttings For Propagation

The most important step in starting a blueberry plant from cuttings is to take a cutting. Start early in the morning.

  1. You should not take cuttings from diseased and stressed blueberry plants.
  2. Cuttings should be planted as soon as possible.
  3. Avoid highly branched shoots and branches with flower buds.
  4. The optimum diameter for cuttings is 4 – 6 mm, and 4 to 6 inch long with about 4 buds.
  5. Cut stem directly above the highest bud and a slant cut just below the lowest bud. Remove the lower set of leaves leaving top 2 sets.
  6. Cut each of the upper leaves into half.

Rooting Harmone

Pruning Shears

When To Start Blueberry Propagation

Successful growing of blueberries from cuttings needs a temperature around 21°C (70 °F), so summer is the best time for propagation. The best time to propagate blueberries is when the temperature start to warm up.

Softwood Cutting

Take cuttings during the growing season about 6 weeks after new growth and before flower buds form.

Hardwood Cutting

Take cuttings when the plants are dormant. Cuttings should be taken from the previous season’s early growth (i.e. 1 year old stem) and be well matured and firm. Avoid bruising or crushing of the tissue while making cuttings.

Simple Propagation Steps

  1. Fill the pot with the rooting mix and water well before planting. The rooting medium can be a mixtures of peat or pertile and sand. I used equal amounts of potting mix and river sand. Insert a pencil size stick into the soil of the pot reaching up to 1 inch above the base. Take out the pencil.
  2. Put the lower part (basal end) of the cutting into the commercial rooting hormone powder and shake off the extra powder. You can use any of the homemade rooting hormones, I have used diluted honey as the best rooting hormone for blueberries.
  3. Insert the cutting vertically into the hole (step 1, don’t push) and firm it. Do not water it.
  4. Put the pot in a polythene bag and tie the top end and place it in shade. This way the cutting will be under high humid environment. After a few days, you will notice water condensing on the inside of the bag.
  5. Cutting for propagation

    Growth in
    Softwood Cutting

    Growth in
    Hardwood Cutting

  6. Each week, untie the pot and watch the progress. Add a little water if necessary. Ensure that water does not condense on the plant and the leaves not wilting, if this happens then open the bag for some time.
  7. First you will notice that one or two buds swell and shoot formation occurs. Don’t just remove the bag at this stage. The cuttings will not grow after this until they begin to root.
  8. When the color of the leaves begin to change to green, it means that the roots are forming. Keep the bag slightly opened for one week to allow exposure to the outside environment. After one week remove the bag completely. Let the new plant sit in shade for another 2 weeks. Water regularly.
  9. Then place the pot in a position to allow morning sun for 4-5 weeks, by that time a few set of leaves will be formed. The plant has now established young roots but you should not transfer it to a bigger pot at this stage as the roots are very thin and delicate.
  10. The plant is now ready to be placed in full sun. In about a month time it will develop a more fibrous root system. Take out the new plant and transfer it to a bigger pot. Add a 3 inch layer of mulch. Don’t give any fertilizer for the next 3-4 weeks.

Note

You may put more than one cutting in one pot. Put the plant in water and remove all the sand to carefully separate the rooted cuttings to transfer the young plants into bigger plants. Growing blueberries in pots.

How much time is required for root formation?

Depends on with what kind of cutting you want to propagate. I have tried both the hardwood and the softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings taken in spring will root faster then hard wood or semi hardwood cuttings taken in late summer to early fall. The following times for first shoot are expected:
Hardwood cuttings take up to about 10 weeks to root. Success rate 50-70%.
Softwood cuttings take up to 2-6 weeks to root. High success rate, almost 100%.

Fertilization For Blueberry Bushes

The plant can die if any kind of fertilizer is mixed into the rooting medium. Be careful even if you have transferred the plant into the bigger pot. Always add fertilizer at the rim of the pot, i.e. away from the plant.

Watch video on how to grow blueberries from cuttings

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Video on how to grow blueberries
List of Plants that grow from softwood cuttings
Simple method to propagate plants from cuttings
Blueberry propagation by cuttings, see roots

Blueberry Propagation by Layering

  1. Cut a branch right back to three or four buds from the ground.
  2. Cover the whole branch with compost making a mound.
  3. New shoots will emerge from the soil after a few months. Add more compost to the mound.
  4. Wait for about 10-12 months when new roots are formed, cut the branch and plant them in the ground or new pot.

15 Comments

Jack August 17, 2015 8:18 AM I tried to grow new blueberry plants from cuttings as suggested by you. A few leaves grew, but when i removed the cover, the plant died. What happened? Please guide me. P. Mehta August 18, 2015 7:31 AM You should not remove the cover as soon as you see the new growth. Opened the bag slightly for a few days to allow exposure to the outside environment. After one week remove the bag completely. Let the new plant sit in shade for some more days. Rabelad November 03, 2015 7:33 PM Very interesting article, but I notice that there was no information as to what time of the year one should attempt to propagate blueberries. Or better, which SEASON of the year – should one attempt propagation of blueberries? You mentioned that there in Sydney blueberry plants are quite expensive, which implies that you live in Australia. So the reason I asked about which season is that I will have to adjust timing of propagation as we live in a much more temperate area of the northern hemisphere – the Judean Mountains of Israel. Here we live on the central mountain ridge with a mild temperate zone where the rest of Israel in lower elevations is sub-tropical to tropical. Here our deciduous fruit trees and vines drop their leaves around the beginning of January and winter commences in earnest at that time, with occasional snow and sub freezing temps until about late February. By March our deciduous trees and grape vines start to wake up. So if you would kindly advise when to carry out both soft and hard wood propagation for blueberries I’d really appreciate it. Thank you! P. Mehta November 05, 2015 9:48 AM Blueberries will not start from cutting in cold winters. Start when it becomes warm, around 20 deg C (68 deg F), possibly beginning of summer. Kristin Bennett February 14, 2016 5:54 AM Thanks for this detailed post, I have about four potted blueberry plants and I’m looking for ways to propagate them so that I can put a few in the ground..this looks great! P. Mehta February 14, 2016 7:58 AM Thanks Kristin. Good luck!. I have propagated many blueberry cuttings. You start propagation when it warms up and follow the steps given above. Kerry April 25, 2016 7:28 AM Can I propagate blueberries from cuttings in winter time. Kerry April 25, 2016 7:47 AM After reading the above article, now i know that the blueberry cuttings will not propagate at low temperatures. They need temperature more than 20 deg C to root. Anonymous May 20, 2016 9:05 AM Did you try winter cuttings brought indoors to root? I haven’t tried blueberries yet, but have had moderate success with other plant/tree cuttings in the winter. I keep my indoor greenhouse between 75-81. I have about a dozen bay laurel cuttings currently rooting that i cut back in february in the pacific northwest. Anonymous June 08, 2016 9:36 AM Hell of an article – best I found – re blueberry propation! Thank you very much. Gemma May 05, 2017 4:53 PM Any tips for a blueberry plant that has snapped off at the base? My Toddler crashed into it on his bike. We are coming into winter. P. Mehta May 05, 2017 5:34 PM 1. If the plant has some roots at the bottom, replant it in a pot. If the roots are very small, or ever you see a thin small root, re-pot it and trim most of the leaves. Feed some seaweed solution.
2. If the roots are still inside the soil, then new branches will emerge after winter. keep the pot damp Grant Myers May 24, 2017 11:10 PM Also on step 5 are these cuts you make to the cutting or instructions on how to take the cutting? P. Mehta May 25, 2017 12:08 AM Step 5 for how to take cuttings os for yhe cuttings you have already taken. Anonymous November 20, 2017 9:24 PM Congratulations on the excellent article!
I also have some experience in the propagation of blueberries. My experience tells me if you use a greenhouse you can propagate throughout the year. Just buy a small greenhouse with electric heater, does the work easier. Using root riot is simpler and cleaner.Hope it helps.

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