Growing a sycamore tree

Q. My friends have an heirloom sycamore tree that they want to propagate as they are moving and it is a rather large tree. How can they do this now?

Bob from Youngstown

A. There are many methods of plant propagation when it comes to woody plants. The most common methods are layering and hardwood cuttings.

This time of year, taking hardwood cuttings is the most common and best practice. Sycamore is relatively easy to propagate using hardwood cuttings this time of year. This does not mean that every cutting will root and live to be planted, though.

Before starting, make a plan and put together needed items before going to make any cuttings. This includes rooting medium, a container, plastic to create a moist chamber, sharp pruners and a rooting hormone.

Create a propagation container. Everything from a wooden box to a hanging basket will work. Personally, I like the idea of using a hanging basket. A piece of clear plastic can be tied at the hanger to retain humidity. Fill the container with a rooting medium. The most common mediums are sand, peat, and vermiculite. If these are not available, potting mix for seedlings or houseplants can be used.

Take cuttings now while the tree is still dormant. Use clean, sharp pruners. The stems to cut should be healthy, undamaged and between 0.25-.05 inches in diameter.

Make cuts that are 6 to 14 inches long, depending upon the number of nodes. Cut off the tip.

The resulting cutting should have at least two nodes. A node is the scar area on the branch where a leaf was attached or where a bud is present. Keep cuttings moist as soon as they are taken, placing them in a plastic bag.

Dip the base of the cuttings into rooting hormone, following label directions. Place cuttings 2 inches apart in the rooting medium. Tie the plastic at the top. Check on the cuttings every couple of days to ensure the rooting medium does not dry out while getting the cuttings to root.

Place the container in a warm area, but do not expose it to direct sunlight. The optimal temperature for the rooting media is 65 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Most homes will get the medium to this temperature. Use a thermometer to be sure the temperature is in range.

Rooting can take four to eight weeks. Cuttings are ready to transplant when roots are 1-inch long. Ensure these new transplants are kept moist. For details on propagating woody plants, go to:

Eric Barrett is the OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Winter hours for the plant and pest diagnostic clinic vary. Submit questions to the clinic at 330-533-5538 or drop samples off to the OSU Extension Office in Canfield.

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