Propagating Buddha’s Hand Citron
The distinctive yellow fruit of the Buddha’s Hand citron (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) splits off from the stem into numerous pointed segments, giving it the appearance of a many-fingered hand. Native to southwestern China and northeastern India, this aromatic citrus plant thrives in U. S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, where it grows as a shrub or small tree, usually reaching heights of 6 to 12 feet. As Buddha’s Hand does not typically produce seeds, green thumbs propagate the plant from cuttings or buds.
Propagation from Cuttings
Like all citron trees, the Buddha’s Hand grows from cuttings. Cuttings, sized about 4 to 6 inches long, are taken from the branches of 2- to 4-year-old Buddha’s Hand trees and must be buried completely, with all or partial foliage intact. An optional IBA rooting treatment may benefit new cuttings, but is not required. You can take your own cuttings or purchase them at specialty garden centers or farmers markets, especially in California and Texas, where the Buddha’s Hand has attracted a small following.
Propagation by Budding
Buddha’s Hand may be grown via budding, a technique that takes a single bud from from the plant and grafts it onto a compatible host rootstock. Growers form Purdue University’s Department of Horticulture recommend budding Buddha’s Hand onto rough lemon, grapefruit, sour orange or sweet orange rootstock. However, Buddha’s Hand grown via budding do not typically reach the size attained by plants grown from cuttings. Some specialty garden centers also sell pre-grafted rootstock for propagating Buddha’s Hand, as well as young plants in pots.
Establishment and Environment
Growers typically establish Buddha’s Hand grafts or cuttings in containers indoors, planting them in general-use potting soil and keeping them in partial sun. New citron shrubs are planted in autumn and kept indoors until spring, when the soil is warm. New growth benefits from a weekly spraying of neem oil. Regardless of the propagation method, Buddha’s Hand citron requires a specific type of environment to flourish. Outdoors, this plant needs full sunlight exposure and well-drained soil. Although it is not picky about soil type, it needs well-aerated soil. An application of organic fertilizer during the plant’s first summer encourages growth, and organic mulch helps the plant retain moisture. Frost-sensitive Buddha’s Hand requires a frost-free growing environment.
Commercial and Historical Propagation
Although Chinese farmers have cultivated Buddha’s Hand for centuries and the plant reached Californian shores in the late 1800s, propagation in America remained a curiosity until the late 1980s, according to the University of California Riverside. In 2008, the same source reported about 5,000 acres of commercial cultivation in China compared to about 25 acres of commercial cultivation in California.
Propagating Buddha’s Hand Citron. The distinctive yellow fruit of the Buddha’s Hand citron (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) splits off from the stem into numerous pointed segments, giving it the appearance of a many-fingered hand. Native to southwestern China and northeastern India, this aromatic citrus …