On one of the many websites that I peruse on any given day, I was asked a Citrus Propagation question. I figured today would be as good as any to post about that. I will tell you up front, the BEST way to propagate citrus is actually by grafting. There are all kinds of grafting techniques and websites. My grafting skills have a LOT to be desired. Okay fine, they suck! I have had two successful grafts out of approximately 30 tries. I just tried a new technique about 3 weeks ago on some Camellias. Citrus and Camellias can all be grafted pretty much the same way. Cleft Grafting, Inverted T and others are out there. If you can do one, you should be able to do the other. I will keep you posted on my attempt.
No, this post will be about the other two ways to propagate Citrus, Seeds and Rooting Cuttings.
Seeds are by far the easiest and cheapest method. If you can plant a Tomato and get fruit, you can plant a Citrus seed and get fruit. There are some major differences however.
Depending on the type of Citrus you are growing from seed, it can take anywhere from 2-10 years to actually get fruit. Key Limes and Calamondins are the quickest, 2-3 years..... Grapefruit is usually the longest, 8-10 years. Everything else falls in between. These time frames are relative! They depend on how well you take care of them, bottom heat, moisture level, light level, etc.
As for being cheap, go to your grocery store. The Citrus fruit that is sold there will produce fruit from seed. There is some controversy over whether it will come true to type. The chances are YES! Even if not, you may get something as good, not quite as good or something better! You will however get fruit.
Rooting Cuttings is a little more difficult, but still not as bad as grafting. All you need is a friend or neighbor with a Citrus tree that you like the fruit from. Ask them for a cutting anywhere from Early Summer to Late Autumn. The middle of this time frame is actually the best. You want to get cuttings from the current years growth that has partially hardened or ripened. Remove all but two of the leaves and cut the remaining leaves on the cutting in half to reduce moisture loss. You may also want to strip the bark about one half inch up each side from the cut end, this will help induce rooting.
Use a soilless mixture such as Peat or Bark with a little Perlite thrown in. Dip the root end in a rooting hormone. There are many available out there, use the one you are most familiar with.
Using a pencil make a hole in the medium approximately 3-4 inches deep. Insert cutting deep enough for it to be able to stand upright. Firm the soil around the stem and water gently to settle the cutting. Make Sure You Label It!! I promise, you WILL forget what the cutting is.
Keep the cutting humid. Give it some bottom heat of 64-70 degrees if you can, this will speed up the rooting process. Mist occasionally. Keep the medium moist, not wet, like a damp sponge.
Another good tip that I picked up some time ago, use clear plastic cups or Soda bottles (see "messin with mother nature" on older posts here). You will be able to see the roots instead of pulling on the cutting occasionally to see if they have taken. You can run the risk of ripping the roots out before they even have a chance to get a good hold.
It will probably take a few months up to a year before the cuttings are able to go outside. Make sure you harden them off gradually before exposing them to the harsh realities of outdoors.
If you follow these directions carefully, you will have an inexpensive bouncing baby Citrus tree before you know it!