How to Graft or Clone Blueberries
Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) are a popular home garden plant for the healthful berries they produce, as well as their ornamental characteristics. They can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 10, though not all varieties are suitable for all zones. However, the same propagation methods can be used on any type of blueberry. Unlike most fruit trees, which require the relatively complex procedure of grafting to reproduce them, blueberries are cloned by the simple process of taking softwood cuttings.
Locate a healthy, disease-free blueberry bush that is known to produce good quality fruit. Select a long straight stem and remove it using sterilized garden pruners. Remove the leaves and divide the stem into cuttings of 4 to 6 inches in length. Older wood that is over one-half inch in diameter should be discarded, as well as wood from the tip of the branch that is less than one-eighth inch in diameter. The best results will be from wood that is still green, known as “softwood.”
Mix equal parts peat moss and perlite for use as a rooting medium and fill the pots. These materials are usually available in garden centers. Wet the medium thoroughly and tamp gently to remove air pockets.
Place up to four cuttings in each pot, being sure that they are oriented in the same direction as they were on the plant they came from. Upside down cuttings will not root. It is important that at least one leaf “node” is below the rooting medium and one is above. The leaf nodes are the small protrusions along the stem that the leaves grow from. This is important because roots will form at any nodes in the rooting medium and new leaves will grow from the upper nodes.
Cut the top 4 inches off the plastic bottle and place the bottom section upside down over the cuttings inside each pot. Push the edge of the bottle down into the rooting medium to form an enclosure over the cuttings like a tiny greenhouse. This holds moisture in the air around the cuttings to prevent them from drying out while they are forming roots. Locate the pots in a warm sunny window, but away from extreme afternoon heat.
Mist the cuttings once a day and check for growth. They should start to push out new leaves within two to three weeks. If the top of the cutting turns brown and appears dead, it should be removed. This will likely occur with at least 20 to 30 percent of the cuttings, even under the best conditions.
Transplant cuttings to individual gallon size pots after 1 to 2 inches of new growth has occurred from the top of the stem. The new top growth indicates that sufficient roots have developed to sustain the plant; this usually occurs within one to three months. Allow the new plants to develop for a full growing season before planting in a permanent location in the garden.
How to Graft or Clone Blueberries. Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) are a popular home garden plant for the healthful berries they produce, as well as their ornamental characteristics. They can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 10, though not all varieties are suitable for all zones. …