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  • Cuttings season basics

    Cuttings season is rapidly approaching, and it is the best time of year to acquire new varieties of figs. This post is meant as a rough guide to help newbies and veterans make the best of this season.

    Where to get cuttings:
    Many forum members offer cuttings for sale, trade, or giveaway. Ebay and Figbid are also common marketplaces. Some growers have small online stores, such as figaholics or willsc.

    Ebay is known to have many scammers (see here), one must use caution. DO NOT purchase from overseas. It is illegal. The USDA will come seize the plant material sooner because foreign plant material can harbor new pests and diseases. If you see Black Madeira cuttings on ebay at a price that seems too good, it probably is.

    Also be aware that some people buy and sell cuttings for profit, so more handling and time out of refrigeration may occur. There is also increased chance of mistakes in labeling, intentionally or not.

    When to get cuttings:
    Typically late fall to early winter is prime cuttings season. Cuttings from dormant trees store best. Trees will go dormant at various times depending on the climate, generally after a light frost or stretch of cold weather. Be aware as winter gets colder that cuttings exposed to below freezing temperatures may be damaged.

    What makes a good cutting:
    An ideal cutting is at least pencils thickness with 3 nodes. Some people do fine rooting 2 or even 1 node cuttings, but more nodes makes for good material. Wood should be fully lignified (brown) and solid when squeezed to store the best. Green cuttings will root, too, but won't store well. Moldy cuttings might root if you can clean them up and remove rotten wood, but don't hold out too much hope. Anything that has been frozen is not a good cutting. Frost to remove the leaves is fine, but a freeze will likely have damaged the wood.

    How to store cuttings:
    Everyone has a method, but generally they need to be kept cold and kept from drying out. I personally wrap them in plastic wrap with a sticker label, then a ziploc bag and stick them in the back of the fridge. Good quality cuttings can be stored for 6 to 12 months, or longer. Some people like to disinfect cuttings before storage with bleach or peroxide solutions, up to you.

    When to root cuttings:
    Anytime, BUT unless you have the capability to baby plants that naturally grow in blisteringly sunlight in your house all winter one should wait until spring. Light and heat are limiting factors for most people. I personally wait until April and do it outdoors, otherwise it's a struggle all winter. Plus, fungus gnats can cause marital strife!

    How to root cuttings:
    There are hundreds, if not thousands posts on this topic. It ranges from stick them in dirt outside to using specific mixes of perlite or diatomaceous earth under heat lamps. Searching the forum will yield plenty of ideas. Personally, I try to keep it simple but you should try some methods to see what works best.

    Ensuring cuttings are true to type:
    Best practice is to only sell/trade cuttings from plants that have borne fruit and are proven to be true to type. Some people are dishonest and will intentionally mislabel for profit (ebay scammers). But more often it's just human error. Labels get mixed up, the wrong branch gets cut, mistakes happen. Sending mislabeled cuttings creates headaches for everyone down the line. Try to only get cuttings that have fruited, and please do not sell/trade cuttings that haven't fruited unless you can be certain it is true to type (you removed the air layer yourself, for example). More than few cuttings I have grown out were mislabeled due to people's eagerness to share a rare variety they hadn't fruited. If you get mislabeled plants, let the source know (politely), and move on.

    Mailing cuttings:
    I like to mail on Monday to ensure packages do not sit in the PO over the weekend. Everyone has a method, but generally send them dry or barely damp in a bag or wrapped in plastic. First Class mail is typically plenty fast (3 to 4 days) and cheaper than priority if under 13 ounces. It is legal to send cuttings to CA but not plants with soil (unless certified).
    SE PA
    Zone 6

  • #2
    Wealth of knowledge, Thank you Kelby for sharing. I for one, would like to address this one. (Ensuring cuttings are true to type While I do believe that is good practice, I for one would rather wait with you rather than wait for you to verify that cutting or plant. What I mean is if I am trading, and you tell me you have not verified that cutting/plant but you are willing to share your source, and I think it's a reliable source, I would rather go ahead and make that trade rather than wait for another season or two for you to verify it. But it does work both ways, as I have seen some sellers who have not verified there plants and sell for profit. They are just trying to make quick money without putting in any effort to grow there plants, then spreading them around. If any of those plants come out to not be true to type, there is no way to make everyone happy, after wasting a season or 2 growing the wrong variety. Thanks again for the sharing.
    Central Florida zone 9b
    Wish List Thermalito, Exquisito


    • #3
      The above is great advice for sure but does not address the threat fig mites riding inside buds on a cutting may pose to introduce mites and this FMV transfer possibly to your location.Thus here I treat ALL incoming fig cuttings to a soak in a water solution of at least 2 of these: AVID, FLORAMITE, FORBID mite insecticides. and spray all incoming plants likewise. any leftover solution and the plastic bag cuttings were treated in goes into my burn barrel and it gets destroyed by the heat so does not contaminate ground water. I wear gloves when using the chemicals that also get trashed. When the solution dries on the cuttings, I store or plant them A ll cuttings I got from suppliers in CA produce plants with at least some leaves showing FMV effects. Cuttings from most East Coast sources mostly do not.The fig I discovered here in NC ,likewise as well as it;s mother tree.And my 'clean"looking plants have thus far never started developing FMV like leaves despite having some clearly affected trees derived from CA sourced cuttings growing nearby.I also disinfect all cutting tools between cuttings or plants. some savvy members here convinced me to do all the above. I came here understanding zero about this stuff.



      • #4
        Thank you Kelby! This really answered a lot of my questions. If I'm trying to graft these branches onto a rootstock, would you also suggest waiting until the spring, or would it be better to graft immediately? We typically don't see freezing temperatures until ~December in the bay area.

        Also, thank you Yatama for suggesting pest treatment!


        • Kelby
          Kelby commented
          Editing a comment
          I am not an experienced fig grafted, but my understanding or grafting in general is to do it spring to early summer.

        • KMH
          KMH commented
          Editing a comment
          I would say graft in fall or early spring. If you are in the bay your tree will go dormant sometime in January, maybe earlier. You would want some time for the graft to take and for any new growth to harden before being exposed to dormancy-inducing temperatures. Yes the grafted scion itself may survive but as you approach dormancy the graft union seems to heal slower. I have grafted onto my trees in February when they still look dormant but sap is flowing and the grafts do just fine.

        • Noah Mercy
          Noah Mercy commented
          Editing a comment
          From what I've read - keep the scion dormant as long as possible, let the sap rise in the host so it will be able to feed the scion immediately - graft in the spring after the rootstock/host breaks bud and use a dormant scion (from the fridge). I've read graft junctions heal best at 75° F daytime temp so shoot for that if you can. Some very good videos on youtube.

      • #5
        I had no idea cuttings could be traded between US and CA. That's great news.


        • Evdurtschi
          Evdurtschi commented
          Editing a comment
          I believe he is referring to California.

        • nevepo
          nevepo commented
          Editing a comment
          Sorry for braking your optimism but, I think when he writes. ( It is legal to send cuttings to CA but not plants with soil (unless certified).He means California.

      • #6
        Yatama, burning plastic bag is harmful to environment and to the health of the soil when particles settle on soil.


        • YATAMA
          YATAMA commented
          Editing a comment
          sorry,terry I could care less! Burning is least 'harmful way to destroy an insecticide contaminated plastic bag. Guess some folks would believe eating it is the PC way? Sure glad here we can all wear our OWN kinda hat!

      • #7
        . Burning plastic and breathing burning plastic in is carcinogenic (causes cancer). Why not throw the plastic in recycle bin? You should care.