Asked September 12, 2017, 1:27 PM EDT

I have a cutting from a crabapple tree that I have kept green for about 3 months, but it is getting weaker. I have it in a clear acrylic container with potting soil. The cut end was dipped into rooting hormone before planting. The leaves have been curled lengthwise and some have dropped off. Have I given them too much water? I try to put it into indirect sunlight, not bright. Thank You; Carl Schroeder - Maplewood MN

Ramsey County Minnesota

1 Response

Leaves dropping on trees is a stress reaction. Or it can be a sign that the tree is going dormant. So here are some considerations. I am wondering when you took the cutting...soft or hardwood? Did you take a cutting from a tree that is grown on rootstock? You can check for a graft about 6 inches above the root flare. If so you cannot expect that the new tree will grow as well as the grafted one. Grafting is done to give the new tree a stronger root structure. You may have a variety that is genetically weak without root stock. Second, potting soil by itself is not a good medium for propagation. It doesn't hold water and can cake around the roots. Vermiculite, rockwool, peat, sand, and other soilless mixes or some combination give better results. These hold moisture better. Constant moisture is required for good rooting. Did you tent the original planting to increase moisture? Using hormones is okay but more important is to take a ripe softwood cutting with only two to three leaves below a node which has the natural growth hormones. Or for a hardwood cutting to have several nodes....8-9 inches. Large cuttings fail because the new root structure cannot support the top growth. Can you see the root structure? Is it actively growing? The nice thing about the propagation mediums above is that you can easily remove the plants and replant them to check on root development. See the link below for more specifics on propagation. Also you might want to check with your local library for the book: PLANT PROPAGATION any Alan Toogood.