- Trim the cuttings to the desired length, and wrap the uppper 2-3 inches in parafilm;
- Rough up the bark with a file to expose the cambium, and dip the cuttings in rooting hormone;
- Stick the cuttings into hydrated potting media (I used coconut coir);
- Wait, and don’t over-water them!
I should note - These were all cuttings were all taken from dormant trees on January 25th. Right after cutting I brought them home and kept them in the refrigerator until I had time to get them started (January 30th). I decided to use clear plastic soda bottles for a couple of reasons - they’re tall, basically free, and the clear plastic would let me monitor the moisture of the coconut coir and watch for roots. After all the cuttings were prepared and stuck in their bottles, I placed them on a heat mat by a sunny bathroom window, and tried not to fuss over them too much. After all, most fig cuttings die a “sailor’s death”, i.e. they rot due to overwatering, which is why my previous attempts probably failed. The only thing I would do different now would be to cut off the growing tips of the cuttings - according to ThreeFold Farm and other sources, they can have trouble pushing through the parafilm, whereas the side buds do not.
After just a few weeks I noticed a couple cuttings starting to push buds, and after three weeks I could see little white roots emerging! As I write this five weeks after taking them, all six of the cuttings I started are showing signs of life. Not all have pushed leaves, nor can I see roots in every bottle, but I’m confident that if I continue to be patient they’ll all be ready to re-pot in another month. Getting them out of the bottles may be a bit tricky - I’ll probably just cut them out to avoid damaging the roots, and recycle the bottles.
My next round will require a slightly different approach. My friend Scott is kindly sharing some of his cuttings with me that he collected earlier this winter. Where I pretty much went directly from tree to pot, Scott has been ‘callusing’ these cuttings in mulch/soilless media. Callusing is the process of letting the cut part of the fig cutting harden and heal, and it is from these calluses that roots will form. The use of rooting hormone on un-callused cuttings serves to promote callusing and root formation, as does roughing up the bark. The potential problem with scoring, or damaging the bark is that it also provides a pathway for soil microbes and other organisms that will attack the tender cambium tissues and cause the cutting to rot.
Since Scott has already gone to the trouble of callusing these cuttings, I don’t think that using rooting hormone is necessary this time around. My plan is to just plant them directly into 1/2-gallon pots of hydrated coconut coir, and keep them in the bathroom by the window until they start to grow. If they start growing vigorously after a month or two, I‘ll move them outside with the others. I’m hopeful that if I can get all the figlets up to a decent size this year, I’ll be able to plant many of them in the ground late next winter.