Lychees are attractive trees that may grow 40 feet (12 meters) tall and have glossy leaves and a nicely arched canopy. Added to these attributes are the delicious fruits. Starting new lychee trees can be done any number of ways, but some have better success than others and take less time. There are a few rules to follow for best chance of success, however. Read on for information on how to propagate lychee trees.
Methods of Lychee Propagation
Lychees are common fruits in Asian cuisine. They are grown in subtropical to tropical regions of the world and thrive in Mediterranean climates. Methods of lychee propagation are grafting, air layering or by cuttings. You could also grow them from seed, but trees can take more than 10 years to bear and fruit may not be true to the parent.
The quickest and most popular method used by commercial and home growers is air layering, with an 80 percent chance of success. We’ll go over the highlights of these methods of lychee plant propagation so you can see which one works best for you.
Starting New Lychee Trees from Seed
Harvest seeds from fresh, ripe fruits immediately. Seed will only be viable for 4 days or less, so it is best to plant as soon as seed has been separated from pulp.
High humidity is necessary for germination. Soak seed in de-mineralized water for one day prior to planting for best chance of success. Select the largest seeds, which have a higher percentage of germination.
Start in 2-inch pots with well-rotted compost that has been thoroughly moistened. Keep medium damp and place containers where temperatures are at least 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 C.). Container grow seedlings for one year before planting out.
The fruiting time is variable dependent upon cultivar. This method of propagating lychee can take 10 years while some species take up to 25 years and quality will be unknown.
How to Propagate Lychee Trees from Cuttings
Starting lychee trees from cuttings requires careful attention to humidity, temperature control and the type of wood selected. Spring cuttings of semi-softwood are best for propagating lychee. There has been an 80 percent chance of rooting when given precise care.
Take cuttings with several growth nodes attached and remove the basal leaves. Dip cuttings into rooting hormone and insert carefully into a premade hole in moistened sand. Gently push sand around cutting and use a stake if necessary to keep the cutting upright.
Place containers in partial shade and keep moist. Cuttings often root within 4 months.
Air Layering Lychee Plants
The most successful of the methods of lychee propagation is through air layering. Select a healthy branch and girdle it where it attaches to the parent all the way into the cambium. This forces rooting. Optimal branches are no more than 5/8 inch (15 mm.) in diameter.
Pack the girdled area with moistened peat moss and wrap with plastic wrap. In approximately 6 weeks, this method of lychee plant propagation should result in roots. Then the layer can be detached from the parent and potted up separately to fully form a root mass.
New trees should be kept in shade for 6 weeks before planting outdoors. Air layering results in quicker fruiting and has less maintenance during the process than the other methods of lychee propagation.