Clone Trees for Yourself
How to Clone Redwoods
If you have ever owned a common houseplant like a spider or pothos, you might already be familiar with taking cuttings to generate a new plant. But did you know that when you do that, you’re actually making clones of the original plant? The cuttings contain the same genetic information as the parent plant (barring any mutations). And if you had the biggest, strongest spider plant, your clone likely would be more robust than others.
We can do essentially the same thing with redwoods, using clones to create healthy forests filled with these carbon-eating giants—which in turn will help combat climate change. However, the process requires a few more steps than cloning a spider plant.
Want to be a “mad tree scientist” and clone these majestic giants yourself? Read on!
|Cutting||A section of plant that is cut off to be used in vegetative propagation.|
|Vegetative Propagation||The asexual reproduction of a new plant from a fragment, or cutting, of a parent plant.|
|Parent Plant||Also called the Mother Plant, this is the original plant from which cuttings are taken for propagation.|
|Clone||A genetic copy that contains the same DNA as the original.|
|Peat moss||Peat moss is the main ingredient in many potting soils because it helps so much with drainage.|
|Perlite||A volcanic glass used to aerate, improve drainage, and prevent soil compaction.|
|Apical Tip||Also known as apical buds or ends, this is the leading point of a tree or plant that distinguishes its shape from a bush.|
|Rooting Hormone||A chemical compound that stimulates root growth on cuttings.|
Step 1: Prepare Your Propagation Station
Collect the following supplies:
- Heated mats
- Grow lights
- Grow light timer (if you won’t be present to turn off and on)
- Perlite (a volcanic glass used to aerate, improve drainage, and prevent soil compaction)
- Peat moss (Peat moss is the main ingredient in many potting soils because it helps so much with drainage)
- Sharp scissors or shears
- Razor blade or sharp knife
- Flats or 4-inch pots
- Rooting hormone (a chemical compound that stimulates root growth on cuttings)
Make sure your equipment is sanitized to prevent disease in your plant.
Set your heating mats and thermostat to 68° F. Your cuttings will be placed on top of the heated mats.
Rig your grow lights to be hung above your plants.
Step 2: Choose Your Parent Plant
Cuttings (the section that is cut off to be used in propagation) should be taken in late fall to early winter from young trees that are not mature (meaning they are not yet producing seeds). You can obtain these trees from PropagationNation or a nursery, or take cuttings from new growth on established redwood trees.
Ideally, you should take cuttings from basal sprouts coming out of the root of the trees—the ones that are competing with the main trunk of the parent tree to become the leader of the tree. The apical tips of these sprouts (the leading point) will contain the hormones that seek to become a new tree.
Step 3: Prepare Your Potting Mixture
Prepare the soil where your redwood babies will take root. Mix 2 parts perlite to 1 part peat moss to create a well-draining mixture. Fill a flat or 4-inch pot with your mixed soil.
Step 4: Take Your Cuttings
Cut about 3 inches down from the tip of a branch. Do not remove the tip of your cutting—without it, you will grow a bush instead of a tree.
Remember, do not just take cuttings from just any tree! If you want to cut from a healthy tree in the wild, make sure you ask permission of the stewards or landowners to ensure you are doing so in a respectful, sustainable manner.
Step 5: Prepare Cutting for Rooting Hormone Application
Strip about 1 inch of needles from the bottom end of your cutting. This will be put into soil later.
Cut the bottom at a 45-degree angle to increase the surface area that will grow roots. Do not take the cutting from the parent tree at a 45-degree angle, as this will increase water loss from the parent.
Wound the bottom of the cutting with a clean, sharp blade to increase area for rooting.
Step 6: Add Rooting Hormone
Dip the end of the cutting into rooting hormone until it is coated.
Step 7: Plant in Potting Mixture
Stick the bottom inch of the cutting into the potting mixture. Place the flat/pot on the heating mat and beneath the grow lights. Roots will begin to visibly form around 7 weeks.
Here is a short video, courtesy of Johan Schorer, propagator at Seattle Parks nursery, to illustrate steps 5-7:
Misting the clones on heating pad at 65 degrees:
Step 8: Plant Outside!
In 6 months to a year, your cutting will be ready to plant in the ground (with protection from wildlife).
- How to choose a suitable planting site for coast redwoods
- How to choose a suitable planting site for giant sequoias
If all goes well, after about 2 years your young tree will be around 2 feet tall!