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Long story short, I have obtained two branches from a small tree (might have been 8 feet tall, no thicker than that was stripped of its branches by the snow over the winter. I would like to regrow them to replace the tree (if it doesn't survive on its own), but do not know what to do.

One of the branches is about 4 feet long, the other 1 foot.

I stripped the bark from a few inches at the bottom of each and placed them in water. The larger one sits outside, and the smaller one inside, under a bright light (on a shelf for growing plants).

It's been a few weeks, and the buds on both branches turned to leaves, but they have begun to turn yellow and wilt, especially on the smaller branch. I think this would be because of a lack of nutrients. On the advice of a biology teacher at a local school, I put 3 drops of a liquid fertilizer in the water of the smaller branch, but it had no noticeable effect.

I've heard that there is powder that can be used to stimulate growth of roots. I think this might be what I need, but I have no if it's the best idea, what else I'll need to use it.

What should I do to save these branches?

  • What kind of tree is it? In my experience it is possible to grow plants from cuttings, but it entirely depends on the species and the condition. – Patrick B. May 28 '15 at 6:59
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Expect to fail - any success here is against the odds. Typical approach to "hardwood cuttings" is to get them into soil and let them overwinter, so they have an opportunity to get roots out before the leaves come out.

Soil or a mixture of perlite/vermiculite and sand (possibly also peat moss) is a more suitable rooting medium than water for most plants.

Rooting hormones may help. Reducing water loss will help, so long as it does not transition to encouraging mold.

So a short form of where to go from here, based on the above - get some rooting hormone powder, prepare soil or "non-soil mix" to plant them in, dip the ends of the branches in the rooting hormone just before planting them. Keep the soil damp but not saturated. You might want to place a clear plastic bag with a few holes in it over them to reduce water loss while providing a little air exchange.

  • Thanks! As a related question, what are the odds of the original tree surviving? It's started to grow fairly leafy branches from a point near the ground and from the area the old branches fell off, but it also likely has some sort of caterpillar infestation. The newly-grown branches have little, round black bumps on them, and a nearby tree of the same species has lost every one of its leaves to the bugs. – The Song of Silver May 28 '15 at 18:22
  • The original tree has roots and reserves, which give it a much better chance. If it has a caterpillar problem, your first line of defense (using gloves, or even tweezers, or bare hands depending on your squeamish level or lack therof) is to pick them off. There are other methods, but that one always works; then you can get into what sorts of pesticides you are comfortable with, and that's probably worth a new question, though you might also find it's already answered if you search a bit here. – Ecnerwal May 28 '15 at 19:32

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