There are at least three ways to root the cuttings. There's the standard method of dipping the cuttings in commercial rooting hormone, the less conventional method of dipping the cuttings in a homemade rooting hormone, and finally, dipping the cuttings in honey, which isn't a hormone, but is antifungal, which can allow the cuttings to start making their own roots before infection takes over and kills the cutting. The internets seem to contain more tales of folks who have had success with the first two, so given that Jake's mom also had an old jar of rooting hormone and that we know where to find some willows, we're going to do a side-by-side comparison of those two. Some sources (also here and here) say to root the cuttings in peat, compost, and/or perlite, but others (admittedly not pear-specific) suggest that roots should start to form in water containing the rooting hormone. The best time of year to propagate pears by this method is evidently when they're dormant, with some sources recommending late fall, and others having success in early spring. Happily, that schedule works well for us.
|First we needed to collect some willow branches for the natural rooting hormone.|
|Then we lopped them up into small pieces and made some willow sun tea. We thought it would only take a couple days, but it was over a week before the water was dark-colored like in this video.|
|While we were waiting, we started to wonder, 'what sort of chemistry is going on here?' Apparently, the rooting hormone (1-naphthaleneacetamide in the case of RooTone and indole-3-butyric acid in the case of the willow extract) signals plant cells at the growth nodes in our cuttings to turn into roots instead of leaves. The RooTone also contains Thiram as an antifungal agent to prevent wood-eating fungi from killing our cuttings; the willow tea contains salicylic acid, which does the same thing.)|
Here are the cuttings after a few weeks, rooting hormone batch on the left, willow tea on the right. When we put them in the pots, we poured the rest of the hormone solutions in after as their first watering. A few are starting to leaf out. A few showed some semblance of root buds on the bottom. Only time will tell if the cuttings will be successful, but apparently d'Anjou pears specifically are quite difficult to propagate this way, even for experts (which we discovered after deciding not to spring for grafting rootstock). But even though the cuttings' chances of success are low, we'll be rooting for them!
UPDATE 11/8/2015: As it turned out, our cuttings put up an unblemished record of 0-for-15, and examining the cutting ends post mortem didn't reveal any roots starting. So, unfortunately, this experiment proved to be inconclusive. Hopefully next time we'll have better luck!
Have you propagated pear trees? How did it work out? Let us know in the comments section below!