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Thursday - February 05, 2009

From: Pittsburgh, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Propagating trees in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Jimmy Mills


I have been wanting to plant trees at our family camp for quite a few years now to help provide food for the wildlife during in preparation for the cold winters. As a college student, however, both free time and money are quite scarce. I think I might be able to squeeze it in this year, and had several questions. The trees I was thinking of planting were the White and Red Oak, Crabapple, and Walnut. However, I am open to suggestion. Because I am on a very tight budget, I was leaning towards using rooting hormone since I don't know other propagation techniques and don't have the resources to buy individual saplings. What kind of success rate do you think I would have with these types of trees (and any other suggestions you may have)? Also, do you recommend a specific brand or type of soil to plant them in? I was leaning towards the ClonexRed Rooting Gel. Thanks for any help!


You are undertaking a commendable, though long-term project. Mr. Smarty Plants likes tree planters, and the ones you mentioned are good for wildlife...

It sounds as though you intend to propagate the plants by cuttings. The experienced folks around the Wildflower Center would not necessarily recommend that. Large trees, like oaks and walnuts that are grown from cuttings often have root problems after a few years that make them prone to  lodging in storms.  A better solution would be to plants seeds. The best thing about this is that the seeds are free, which is within your budget. You, of course, would have to spend some time finding and collecting the seeds.  Most native tree seeds can be sown directly in the soil where you would like your trees to grow.  They might need a little care and protection from deer and other herbivores for the first few years of their lives, but there is nothing especially expensive or difficult about starting trees from seeds.  The important thing is to research the species you wish to grow and carefully site your plantings accordingly.

I am going to suggest several references that can help you with this project, and provide links in the NPIN Database to the plants you are interested in.

The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation by Michael Dirr.  Dr. Dirr is a noted horticulturist formerly at the University of Georgia. The book may be available in your library, or it can be purchased at Amazon and elsewhere.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Ohio State University Extension

University of Florida IFAS Extension


Chinkapin Oak Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak) 

White Oak Quercus alba (white oak)

Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)

Crabapple Malus angustifolia (southern crabapple)  and more

White Walnut Juglans cinerea (butternut)   and more

Black Walnut Juglans nigra (black walnut)  and more

A source of assistance that is closer to home is the Allegheny County Office of the Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension.

Quercus muehlenbergii




Quercus alba



Quercus macrocarpa


Juglans nigra











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