January 24, 2015

1 - Growing fruit trees from cuttings taken from your home garden is unlikely to succeed, but you may be able to graft them successfully.

Yard and Garden January 24, 2015


What do I need to do in order to start new trees from the twigs I trim off my fruit trees. I have apple, peach, plum, pear, and cherry trees.


It is very unlikely that you will succeed in starting new trees from most commercially purchased fruit trees. These trees are grafted so that the trees can produced the desired varieties of fruit. They are often grafted onto special rootstocks to provide adaptability to soil and cause dwarfing in the case of dwarf fruit trees. However, the main reason they are grafted is that these the producing branches (from the grafts) are adult phase plant tissue. This means they have reached a stage in life when they can reproduce by forming flowers and fruit, but they have lost the ability to regenerate roots from their stems.

Newly developed seedling trees may form roots rather easily if you can provide the proper environment, but these "juvenile" phase branches that can form roots do not form flowers or fruit. Plants grown from seeds often do not produce fruit of the quality as the fruit from which the seeds were taken, so grafting is necessary.

If you really want to increase your fruit tree grafting will be the best way to do that. You can start seedlings to produce your rootstocks and when they are large enough you can graft the desired varieties from your home orchard onto the trees. Grafting can be difficult, but the only way to increase the fruit trees in your garden. This may take several years to accomplish, but many gardeners are attracted to the challenge.

If your trees are dwarf trees and you graft branches onto seedlings you have grown, the new trees will not be dwarf trees. To get additional dwarf trees you must purchase them.

A final warning, newer varieties of fruit trees are patented and it is illegal to propagate them vegetatively by grafting. If the tree is patented, that information will be found on the label when you purchase the tree.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook) page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!