This post shows the process of propagating autumn olive using softwood cuttings and a mist irrigation system. The process involves taking cuttings during the summer, dipping the cutting in rooting hormone, and putting the cutting into a soil that drains very well. Then you mist the leaves every five to ten minutes during daylight hours.
Autumn Olive Basics
Autumn olive is a nitrogen fixing plant that produces berries and is easy to propagate from softwood cuttings. The botanical name for autumn olive is elaegnus umbellate and is sometimes called autumn berry.
It is a deciduous shrub that can grow into a small multi-trunked tree reaching as high as 20 feet. The leaves are a grayish green and looks as though it has scales on the bottom of the leaves. The leaves are about three inches long and very narrow measuring only about one inch wide. It is often used in forest garden design to assist in repairing soil as the food forest garden matures.
Autumn olive is a drought tolerant plant that can grow in full sun or partial shade. It does prefer well drained soil and does well on the edges of forests, hillsides, and abandoned fields. Birds like the fruit and propagate the seeds. It is a very hardy plant and is usually not bothered by deer. Some view Autumn Olive as a noxious invasive weed.
First, Do This….
To start, pick the right time of year and the right wood. Autumn olive does good with softwood and semi-softwood cuttings. These are cuttings that are taken from this year’s new growth in mid to late summer where the wood snaps when bent.
Then you cut the branches down so they have two to four internodes. Internodes are any place a branch or leaf comes out. I usually go with three or four. Leave two leafs at the top and remove the bottom leafs.
And now the Special Sauce
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. You generally use more solution on harder wood and less on softer wood. Powder rooting hormone will work, but you may need to get several different products for different concentrations.
Cuttings in the Ground
Now it is time to place the cuttings into the ground. 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 Them Wet
These little cuttings will die if the 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.
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Check out the video on Propagating Autumn Olive below.
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