This post is about How To Propagate Nanking Cherry Prunus tomentosa. We talk about how to take softwood cuttings and use them to propagate these plants. First, we will cover some basics about nanking cherry.
Nanking Bush Cherry Basics
The Nanking Bush Cherry, Prunus tomentosa, is another unique edible plant, in bush form, that is showy in the spring with flowers and in the summer with the bright red cherries clinging closely to the branches. It can be used as an ornamental, fruit producing shrub or as a wind break in a hedge row.
In mid-Spring the bush produces white or pink flowers that are fragrant and attract beneficial insects. They are partially self-pollinating, but do better with another variety around.
The red fruit is sweet and tart and taste like a cherry with a pit in the center. Since there are not a lot of named varieties in the US and most are propagated by seed, the flavors of the fruit seem to vary greatly. You can also find some plants online that have yellow or pink fruit, as I just did (and purchased.)
The fruit is very close to the stem on a very short stalk. The stalk usually stays on the branch leaving an opening on the fruit that will cause it to leak juice. This causes the fruit to not store well. The fruit can be used for fresh eating, dried fruit, fruit leather, preserves, jams, jellies pies, tarts, and fruit juice.
The Basics of Propagation
Propagation is done by seeds, layering, and cuttings. For seeds, clean the pulp off the pit and stratify for 2-3 months. Laying involves burying a portion of the tip or mid branch until it roots and then cutting it away from the main plant. Cuttings can be done with hardwood in the fall/winter or soft wood in the spring. This past summer I had a 75% success rate with softwood cuttings in a mist bed.
For this post we are going to take softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings are this year’s growth that started in the spring. This wood is usually just slightly a different color and last year’s wood just looks a little more worn and older.
Make the Cut
Cut the softwood branches off of the plant. Then cut the branches down so they have four internodes. Internodes are any place a branch or leaf comes out. I usually go with four for nanking cherry. Leave two leafs at the top and remove the bottom leafs.
Dip the bottoms of the cuttings in rooting hormone. I use dip and grow liquid hormone because I only need the one product and I can mix it as strong as I like. Softwood cuttings does not require very concentrated rooting hormone, whereas hardwood cuttings require more concentrated solution.
Cuttings in the Planting Medium
Now it is time to place the cuttings into the planting medium. Push them into your planting medium about two inches down. Your planting medium should be something that drains freely and easily. You do not want to saturate the soil where disease and pathogens will proliferate.
Keep the Leaves Wet
These little cuttings will die if the leaves dry out. You don’t want to soak the ground, but you do want to keep the leaves wet. The best way to do this is with a mist irrigation system that automatically comes on. I use the Galcon 8056 and have it programmed for 10 seconds on and 5 minutes off. This runs all day, but shuts totally off from 9 PM until 6 AM.
Leave Them Be
The cuttings need to stay in the rooting medium until they go dormant. This usually happens by December or January timeframe. Once they are dormant, they can be moved to pots or to their location in the yard.
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Check out the video below about Propagating Nanking Cherry.
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