I have an indoor potted citrus tree (grown from a seed) that has a great sentimental value for me but that I have cared for improperly and it has been in a very bad shape. It has recovered now but growing very tall and spindly, and now it has reached some 180cm in height and bumping in the ceiling of the windowsill.

I know that I should prune it and so have started with cutting of the tip. But I very much would like to root this cutting and grow it into another new citrus tree. As a backup tree, if you will, before I engage in more risky pruning of the main tree.

This is what I have done thus far:

  • Cut of the tip 20cm of the tree, I made the cut right below a leaf node in a 45 degree angle
  • Removed all but two upper leaves (some where very big, some misshapen from rolling up against the ceiling)
  • Lightly scored and scratched the bark of the first few centimetrs of the cutting at the bottom to hopefully promote root growth
  • Have kept it in water with some growth hormone and a root promoting fertilizer mixed in.

The tip of the cutting has a few tiny new leaves growing. Should I cut the tip off? My reasoning is that the buds are just taking away the energy from growing roots. And also that the two large leaves that I left are more than enough for the plant for now.

I now worry that adding fertilizer to the water might have been a bad idea. It has humic, fulvic, ulmic acids in it and supposedly if for stimulating roots and also soaking seeds etc. Have I made a mistake with adding it or maybe I should also use it when transferring the cutting to soil?

How much light and warmth is necessary for the cutting at this stage? I now keep it at the windowsill but the light is muted and weather cold. Would adding artificial lights help at this stage?

I would greatly appreciate any comments on my approach and advice!

Some images: After removing leafs Light and environment Possible cut

  • Well, the new leaves show that it isn't dead yet! You really need heat for this. The ideal temperature for rooting citrus cuttings is about 80F or 27C. Otherwise getting roots may take a long time (i.e. several months).
    – alephzero
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


A technique called "air layering" is likely to be more successful for you compared to regular cuttings. Citrus does not root readily in water. Most propagators find that air at the cutting end and perfect control of temperature and humidity as the roots are established are critical. In addition the ease with which roots form can vary quite a lot with the variety of citrus, so sometimes it is necessary to use a grafting technique - create a rootstock from a variety that roots well and then graft your special cutting onto the already established rootstock. All things considered, air layering will likely give the result with the fewest challenges as you gain experience. There are videos online which show how this can be accomplished.

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