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Issue: May 22, 2010

Osage orange can be propagated by stem cuttings, root cuttings, layering, and seeds

Q. Can you start Osage orange trees from cuttings or from new little branches on the tree? Or must they be started from seed?

Sandra B.

Roswell

A. It is possible to propagate Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) from either cuttings or seeds. Cuttings may be difficult unless you have a greenhouse or other method to maintain high humidity. It is also possible to propagate Osage orange using a "layering technique". Another reported option is propagation by root cuttings.

If you want to try stem cuttings to propagate Osage orange, collect the cuttings mid- to late summer. Treat these leafy cuttings with rooting hormones and place them in a greenhouse propagation bed (maintaining high humidity to prevent leaf loss). You can also collect dormant cuttings in late fall and winter. Treat these stem cuttings with rooting hormones as before, but bundle these cuttings in moist sphagnum moss, store them in a refrigerator (40 degrees). Prevent the cuttings from drying by wrapping them in plastic. After 2 months, place the cuttings in moist potting soil in a warm location until growth begins. Maintain humidity around the stems and keep the soil damp.

Root cuttings may be easier. Collect 2 to 3 inch long pieces of roots about one-half inch in diameter in late winter. Put these root cuttings horizontally into a pot of good potting soil. Cover to a depth of one-half inch and keep them warm and moist.

Layering may be accomplished by bending a young stem to the ground. Wound the stem several inches back from the tip, treat the wounded area with rooting hormones, and bury the treated portion of stem in compost or potting soil. Cover with a large stone to hold the stem in the soil and keep it moist. It should form roots by next spring when it can be severed from the parent plant and transplanted.

Finally, as you mentioned, Osage orange can be propagated by seeds. These seeds should be cleaned of pulp and then stratified. Stratification is the storage of the seeds in moist peatmoss in a refrigerator for 2 to 3 months before planting into pots of potting soil in a warm room or greenhouse.

Cooled coffee and coffee grounds may be good for houseplants

Q. The other day I noticed a friend pouring the last of her coffee into a pot in which I am growing a weeping fig. Will this harm my tree? This friend comes over frequently. I do not want to harm the friendship, but I also do not want my tree to die.

A. If the coffee is not scalding hot it will probably do more good than harm. However, if this is a frequent occurrence that keeps the soil soggy around the roots, it can be harmful. If it is frequent, a lot of coffee is poured into the potting soil, and if there is significant sugar in the coffee, it could encourage the growth of fungi around the roots. However, this would have to be done frequently to cause problems.

Based on the description that it was just the last of your friend's coffee, it was probably not too hot, would not keep the potting soil soggy, nor would it add too much sugar to the soil. This is probably beneficial. In fact, you can put your coffee grounds (after cooling) around the base of the weeping fig. This will counteract the calcium in most New Mexico tap water used for watering potted plants.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications World Wide Web site at http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h or http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Cooperative Extension Service
9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112
Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.