How to propagate a lemon tree is discussed with great enthusiasm among hobby gardeners. When it comes to commercial nurseries, there is a lot to be said for propagating a lemon tree through grafting or cuttings. In this case, the first flowering can be expected after three to four years. After sowing, it takes much longer for the enchanting flowers and the magnificent lemons to thrive. At least for the cultivation of grafting stocks, sowing can be considered. The question arises as to how a hobby gardener should approach the topic and how exactly the process takes place. The following lines provide more information.

Propagating a lemon tree with cuttings

Propagating plants from cuttings is common among hobby gardeners. This method scores with an uncomplicated execution of the work and a rapid sense of achievement. This also applies to the lemon tree as one of the most popular potted plants in this country. Using a cutting as propagation material ensures that the young plant has the exact attributes of its mother plant. Another plus point is that hobby gardeners give their lemon tree a much higher amount of care than is possible in a tree nursery. The reward for the effort is an early first bloom, which, with a little luck, shines after just one year. This is how the individual work steps are designed in detail.

Selection of suitable cuttings

The quality of the propagation material undoubtedly determines the result. A first-class scion should have the following criteria to make it worth the effort you put into it:

  • A semi-lignified cutting with a length of 15 cm to 20 cm is ideal
  • There should be between 5 and 11 buds
  • The shoot axis withstands slight bending without injury
  • Shoots of the spring shoots are mature from autumn for use as cuttings
  • Shoots from the summer shoots can be used as offshoots from next spring
  • Older cuttings are suitable but will take longer to root

Always cut selected cuttings with freshly sharpened, meticulously disinfected tools. If there is a botanical garden in your area, there is plenty of cuttings material during the annual pruning. If you ask, you might be successful and snag some magnificent buds.

cut and stick

The more precisely a cutting is cut into shape, the faster the growth process will progress. Before you approach the actual insertion of the offshoot, focus on the cut.

  • Cut a cutting at an angle just below a bud
  • Briefly dip the cut site in a rooting hormone
  • It is not absolutely necessary to cut the shoot tip, but it is advantageous
  • Defoliate each cutting or at least cut the leaves in half

In the next step, fill the seed pots with a nutrient-poor substrate, such as a peat-sand mixture, perlite, expanded clay or commercial seed compost. Drill a hole in the ground with a plant stake and place a cutting in each. There should be two to five buds underground and three to six buds above ground. The substrate and cuttings are slightly moistened with a hand sprayer. Then place the offspring in a greenhouse or put a transparent bag over them. The aim of this measure is to create a warm, humid microclimate that has a beneficial effect on the desired rooting. If the cutting decides to shed all of its foliage, don’t worry. In this context, it should be borne in mind that rot could develop under the leaves. They will therefore be removed immediately.

Care after sprouting

If a cutting sprouts, this growth can be interpreted as a signal for successful rooting. The substrate is kept moist and the cover is now removed. As a rule, the growing pot is too narrow for the root ball within a short time. The young lemon tree is repotted at the latest when the roots look out of the ground opening. Commercial citrus plant soil can now be used as a substrate. If you like to mix it yourself, you can combine garden soil with humus and sand. Coconut flakes, perlite or clay granules ensure permeability. A drainage made of inorganic materials over the floor opening prevents harmful waterlogging. As a result, keep the potting soil well moist without completely soaking it.

Propagation by grafting

If a new lemon tree grows from a cutting, no matter how successful and careful the procedure may be; the citrus will be threatened for life by the dreaded foot rot and other plant diseases. For this reason, commercial lemon growers favor offspring through grafting. In concrete terms, this means that the tree crown and the rootstock are considered separately. The rootstock is commonly referred to as the rootstock and the propagation material for the crown as scion. The central premise for successful propagation through grafting is the complete compatibility of both components. At the same time, this method opens up plenty of room for maneuver for the combination. The rootstock is specifically selected with regard to its resistance to diseases, At the same time, their influence on fruit quality and yield is not neglected. The noble rice primarily defines the preferred variety.

Well-known grafting stocks for lemon trees

Bitter orange (Citrus × aurantium)
The world’s most widely used citrus rootstock, which was used before the birth of Christ to propagate lemon trees. Although its own fruits are of little importance, it has proven itself as a high-quality rootstock. It has remarkable resistance to plant diseases. It also thrives in all loamy, well-drained substrates with a pH of 5.5 to 8.0.

Three-leaved bitter orange (Poncirus trifoliata)
As a grafting base, the bitter orange scores with exemplary cold resistance, making it particularly popular with German hobby gardeners. In contrast to the bitter orange, this rootstock thrives in acidic, low-lime soil. Anyone who appreciates their tolerance to diseases has to be satisfied with a low stature height and small lemons at the same time.

Rough Lemon
As a natural variety of the lemon tree, Rough Lemon is unsuitable as a noble variety due to the quality of the fruit, as the name already suggests. However, it has made a name for itself as a rootstock because it promotes the growth of the scion and the size of the fruit. In addition, the tart lemon easily tolerates longer periods of drought. A disadvantage is its sensitivity to cold, so it is only suitable for lemon trees in pots behind glass.

Volkamer Lemon (Citrus volkameriana)
An interesting alternative to the bitter orange and three-leaf bitter orange is the Volkamer lemon. It advertises itself with an unbeatable vigor and rich harvest. Since a lemon tree in the latitudes here is only suitable for pot culture anyway, the low tolerance to low temperatures is of little consequence. Her roots should be in well-drained soil to avoid root rot.

Proper refinement

Hobby gardeners who already have a wealth of experience in propagating fruit trees should opt for this method. The two most commonly used finishing techniques are explained below.

Cutting scions
An exemplary scion is round and shows the beginning of lignification. This attribute can be recognized in citrus plants by the narrow, grey-brown stripes on the otherwise green bark. A length of about 15 cm is ideal. The scion is completely defoliated, taking care not to injure the eyes. If there is a shoot tip, it is cut off.

oculation

This no-fuss version of grafting doesn’t require the whole scion, but rather a strong, healthy eye connected to the rootstock.

material list

  • Pruning saw for the grafting base
  • Pruning shears or hippe for cutting
  • Grafting knife for the T-cut
  • Bast to connect
  • cold liquid tree wax

The grafting underlay is sawn off approx. 10 cm above the ground and the edges of the wound are smoothed with a knife. At the intended grafting point, choose an eyeless area, clean it and make a 3 cm long, vertical cut in the bark. At the end of this cut, use the knife again to make a horizontal cut 2 cm long. At this T-cut, untie the two bark wings to create a pocket. This completes the preparatory work on the base.

In the next phase, hold the scion with the tip pointing away from the body. Place the budding knife 1 cm above the selected eye. Using a very shallow cut, remove the eye from the branch. To do this, guide the knife under the bud up to 2 cm beyond the eye. It is important to note that the eye and interfaces must never be touched, as this will jeopardize the success of the entire action. Now push the eye between the bark flaps so that it is tight. Connect the grafting point with the raffia ribbon so that only the eye is free and carefully spread everything with tree wax. It takes 3 to 6 weeks for the eye to grow.

If the eye stays green during this time, the refinement has been successful. In the further course, the eye begins to sprout, in connection with an intensive formation of wound callus. Once the scion has reached the same thickness as the base, remove the remains so that the rapidly growing young lemon tree can overgrow it.

Note: If you are grafting a lemon tree for the first time, you should repeat the process with a second eye as a reserve.

Copulation

This propagation technique requires experience and a great deal of sensitivity. In contrast to the oculation, a copying knife is now required, which in particular has a longer blade. Copulation only has a chance of success if scion and rootstock have the same diameter. Both components are cut into a wedge shape with a 5 cm long cut. It is a mandatory requirement that the cut surfaces are exactly the same size. A minimal tolerance is possible. Place both wounds on top of each other so that the bark is congruent on at least one side. At this point, wrap the scion and base firmly with raffia while pressing the pieces together. Where wounds are still exposed, seal them with tree wax.

Tip: scion and rootstock grow together better if one eye is opposite the interface.

Watch the scion with eagle eyes in the following weeks. When the new shoots have reached a height of 5 cm, cut open the bast ribbon and carefully remove it. From this point on, you take care of the young lemon tree like an adult specimen. When performing copulation, remember that no master has yet fallen from the sky. Even breeding professionals first cut themselves ‘warm’ on the exercise material before they actually start copulating.

Conclusion Propagating
a lemon tree is an exciting task beyond the everyday routine work of a hobby gardener. Propagation with cuttings is extremely uncomplicated. If you take enough time to select the perfect offshoot, you have the best chance of flowering within one to three years. However, propagation by cuttings has the downside of susceptibility to disease. You can avoid this tolerance problem with a refinement. The simpler budding is suitable for less experienced hobby gardeners. If you like to face demanding challenges, you will choose copulation.

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