How I root cuttings (rose of Sharon / mulberry)

turtlesteve

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So I am going to be trying to propagate hibiscus (rose of Sharon) this year and decided to try a few mulberry as well. The methods I am showing have worked for satsuma citrus and camellias, but I’ve never tried hibiscus or mulberry yet. It might take a few tries to nail it but I’ll document here as it goes along.

This weekend is the first time this year I could get cuttings. Cuttings can either be softwood (green stem), hardwood (fully brown mature stem, or semi-hardwood (in-between). Different plants do better with one or the other. Generally you use stems from the most recent year of growth. So right now I can get softwood cuttings, so that’s what I am mainly trying first. If these don’t work, I’ll try again with more mature cuttings later in the year.

So the fist step is to prepare the growth medium. There is a lot of variation on what people use but it generally should have very little organic matter in it. I use dirt from my yard, from a spot that is very sandy. It does have a little bit of clay which seems to make a huge difference, as I have tried pure sand unsuccessfully. I then bake the dirt for an hour at 250F to sterilize it (this step matters).
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Next I get some cuttings. They should have at least 4-5 leaf nodes but the size is otherwise not that important. I go with stems that are maybe 1/8” thick.

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Strip all the leaves at the bottom and keep only 1-2 leaves at the top of the cutting. If the leaves are very big, cut them in half and keep only half the leaf. This is necessary so the cuttings do not lose too much moisture via transpiration. In this pic I have 3 hibiscus cuttings (two are last years hardwood, one softwood), two white mulberry in the middle, and three red mulberry.
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Next, trim the base of the cutting at a steep angle so that it has a lot of exposed surface area. Coat this entire surface in rooting hormone.
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The cuttings are planted so the cut stem is about 2” down in the medium. Water the cuttings and put them somewhere warm and humid. They basically need conditions like young tortoises, so I keep them in a closed chamber under LEDs. Keep the soil moist but not wet - I water once to twice a week. I never fertilize because it only stimulates leaf growth, what we need right now is roots.
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You will generally know they have successfully rooted when new buds (at the leaf nodes) start to swell and open. This usually is a couple months or more. Generally if they die quickly it is for one of two reasons. If they get too dry, the leaves die and the stem turns brown either uniformly or from the top down. This can be because the soil or air is too dry, or they had too much leaf area remaining. If they rot (because soil is too wet and has fungal spores in it) they turn black or brown, but from the bottom up. Sometimes they will neither rot nor dry out, but still fail to root.
 
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turtlesteve

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Quick update: One each of the red and white mulberry rotted within a week of planting them. The others are still alive. The remaining white mulberry and two of the rose of sharon have leafed out already, confirming they have already developed roots. Buds on the largest red mulberry also have started to swell which is a good sign.

Once they grow a few leaves (guessing a month from now) I will move them outside in a shady location that gets daily irrigation.

Given that this test run went well, I will probably start a few more. I am also on the hunt for a more robust (non-weeping) white mulberry from which to take cuttings. The cuttings that rotted could probably have been saved if I sterilized both the soil and cuttings (the cuttings can be soaked in a very dilute bleach solution) but it’s just not worth the extra effort since these aren’t rare plants.

Yesterday:
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Today:
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Steve
 

wellington

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I always took a cutting and soaked it in water until roots appeared. I would keep it in water until the roots were about an inch long then plant. Always worked for me with no fuss.
My biggest problem was remembering to water it after I planted.
 

Blackdog1714

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My hibiscus plant does it for me. I have at least 8 two foot tall starts from seeds dropping.
 
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