Sunday, August 19, 2012

Propagating blueberries (again)

My experiment in propagating blueberry plants was a failure.

If you remember, in late June I tried my hand at rooting some blueberry cuttings. I mixed some nice soil, snipped some blueberry tips, dipped them in rooting hormone, and planted them.

For awhile, I thought it had worked. But no such luck. Yesterday I finally pulled one up and saw that no roots whatever had grown, and the stem was brown and dead.

I'm getting some nice sprouts from the older plants...

...but I still wanted to try propagating some new plants.

I decided the major reason for my failure was because I wasn't keeping the cuttings moist enough. I planted the cuttings directly into gallon pots. We've had some very hot weather over the last month, and although I water my garden diligently, I suspect the water in the gallon pots promptly sank downward, leaving the shallow cuttings high and dry in the pot.

So I'm trying a different tact. I picked up these little gizmos called Windowsill Greenhouse, which had 12 compressed peat pots in each one.

Just add water...

...and hey presto, they expand.

So this morning, armed with the peat pots, scissors, rooting hormone, and some water, it was back to the blueberry bushes once more.

I snipped an apex (tip).

Right at the base of each leaf is a tiny node. Apparently this is the critical part.

It's the roundish part tucked between the plant stem and the leaf stem.

The last time I tried this, I nipped off the leaves without considering the node. This time I used the scissors to carefully nip off the leaf while leaving the node intact.

I dipped each cutting in water...

...then dipped it in rooting hormone, making sure to cover the node.

I tapped off the excess...

...then tucked each cutting into a peat pot.

Twenty-four cuttings in all.

I also picked the few remaining ripe berries from the older bushes. Total this season for my first harvest: about a gallon of berries, maybe a bit less.

This time I brought the cuttings into the house and put them near a window, where I can keep an eye on them and make sure they stay moist.

Within a couple of hours, some were drooping. I don't think this is unexpected.

We'll see if this works. I'll keep you posted.


  1. I have five blueberry bushes ... it does take lots of bushes to get a bucketful of berries. I have a few with low growing branches that I've covered partly with soil ... I think these should take root and, if so, they can be transplanted. I'll check back to see how your cuttings progress :)

  2. Patrice, I cover everything I propagate with rooting hormone and I always place a glass jar over the top. I have about 50-50 at getting things to root. Not giving up though! Have a nice week!

  3. I tried with 4 cuttings saved from a blueberry bush killed by the voles this year and so far I have 1 very nice looking plant (a stick with nice green leaves), 2 still hopeful looking plants, and 1 no go. I have lots of runners on all the young bushes in the garden do I may try the tacking down method to get more.
    Good luck with your new trial.

  4. Oh, Good luck! I'll be moving my bushes in the next week and hope to try this come spring. I'll be watching to see what happens

  5. when i want new plants from the blueberry bushes i just bend a lower branch over into the soil and bury it and weight it down with a brick or rock-works almost every time. the following spring i just go back and cut the new plant from the old at the place where it was first bent to the ground. then it is my choice to leave new plant there or dig it up and move it. i have found that the simpler things are done the better. :)

  6. Okay I'm not a professional but I'd say you're leaving WAY too many leaves on there... There is no way the plant can soak up that much water to support all those leaves. I'd just leave the tiniest leaves at the tip.

    Also, you might have more success rooting second-year growth, where it is starting to get woody, or this year's after it has gone dormant.

    1. I agree about the tips of the leaves. Also, you may want to get out just enough rooting hormone to use for each project so that if disease is present, you don't contaminate the rest of the rooting hormone.

  7. The only time I've ever tried rooting any plant was with tomato plants and I just buried the whole plant, leaves and all. Only a tiny bit was still visible. They sprouted.

    I wonder if you could try some indirect, crazy methods. Take a branch still attached to the plant and bend it partly into the ground. Either that, cut a root shoot off and see if that will sprout. Not advice, just a crazy thought.

  8. I have to agree with John! Trim those remaining leaves so the plant has one or two remaining. Better still is the option of bending a branch into the soil.

  9. True about what John said about pinching off excess leaves. And I would also keep them out of the direct sun unti they have rooted in a few weeks. No matter how moist the soil is kept, the heat from the sun is hard on them.

  10. My mom propagates her blue berries by laying an attached stem on the ground in the fall (anchor it) and cover with compost and mulch. It's easy and no fuss :)

  11. I'm sure you'll figure it out, Patrice. What a gal! My oldest sis lives over near Cheney, WA, and she has quite a green thumb (all the rest of her digits, too!) She always has tons of blueberries each year. I'll ask her what she does and let you know. All my best!
    --Fred in AZ

  12. Is there a county extension office in your area? I have attended several extension office classes in the past and they were wonderful. I also took several horticulture classes at the local junior college and LOVED them. They were all about grafting, propagation, etc. It was worth my time for sure!

  13. Patrice, have you ever used a Forsythe Pot? I learned about it a couple of years ago and it's wonderful for getting those shrubs to root. There's a good pictoral at

    By the way, I LOVE your blog!