Propagation with Hardwood Cuttings

>> Monday, December 20, 2010

I thought I would take a moment to talk about hardwood cuttings. It is the beginning of winter and which is also a great time to go out and try to reproduce many of your favorite woody trees and shrubs in the garden. Many plants will easily propagate through hardwood cuttings and I've included a short list below that you might like to try. Hardwood cuttings root easier than softwood cuttings (at least in my experience!)

So what is a hardwood cutting? It's a cutting taken from a mature branch of a woody plant usually during the late fall, winter, or early spring while the plant is dormant.

How do you take a hardwood cuttings? With a sharp pair of clean pruners cut a mature section of your specimen with at least 3 nodes. That is a general guideline I use and it seems to work pretty well. The best way to root a specific plant may vary depending upon the variety of plant so you may want to try a few kinds of cuttings out and see what works best.  Hardwood cuttings should be rooted form first year growth that has hardened off.

Good Plants for Hardwood Cuttings:

  • Hydrangea - these shrubs are easy rooting plants in almost any state whether hardwood, softwood or anywhere in between!
  • Rose - my experience with roses has been limited but hardwood cuttings work as do semi-ripe. I have two in my house that need planted very soon!
  • Viburnum - 3-4 node viburnum hardwood cuttings root very well. Place two nodes underneath the potting medium and one above the medium.
  • Japanese Dappled Willows - OK any willow will root easily anytime (softwood, semi-ripe, hardwood) but I really like the dappled foliage on Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki' so I'll take an opportunity to talk about it.  In the spring the foliage emerges with tints of red that gradually change as they mature into its spring through fall dappled foliage. Propagating a dappled willow couldn't be easier, just stick the hardwood cutting in the ground where you want it to grow. You can wound the bark around the base if you want to help it along a little but usually you can just stick them in the ground and they will grow.
  • Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus) - I've had a lot of success with purple leaf plum hardwood cuttings. These are beautiful trees in the spring with their white flowers and have nice purple foliage throughout the year. In our yard these were the second to last of the trees to lose their leaves.  Other members of the prunus genus may also be worth trying some hardwood cuttings. I managed one Yoshino cherry from a hardwood cutting last year.
  • Red Twig Dogwood/Red Osier Dogwood - I love red twig dogwoods! I'll be taking some more cuttings from several of our red twig dogwoods very soon. They look fantastic planted enmass or with an evergreen backdrop. I have two varieties of redtwig dogwood that I'll treat the same way - stick them in dirt! (Cornus alba and Cornus sericea) A little rooting hormone won't hurt but isn't needed.
  • Forsythia - Perhaps the easiest plant to propagate! Or at least a close second to willows (see above). Just stick the hardwood cuttings in soil and let them root. Softwood and semi-ripe cuttings do well also.
  • Honeysuckle - I wouldn't recommend going into the woods to take cuttings of the honeysuckles growing in the wild. Most of these are invasive and really don't need out help to multiply but where I would recommend propagating honeysuckle is on the native Coral Honeysuckles or Lonicera sempervirens. Native honeysuckle is usually a red hue and isn't very fragrant but is still very popular among the hummingbirds. It's also not aggressive which is why it is being overtaken in the wild buy non-native varieties.
  • Russian Sage - While technically a perennial Russian sage will propagate easily from hardwood cuttings. A few weeks before spring weather (I did this in February of last year) prune off a few branches and either stick them in the soil where you want them or treat them with rooting hormone and put them in a pot in a sheltered location.
  • Spirea - This fun shrub is another easy one to propagate. Since the nodes are fairly close together I tend to take cuttings about 5-6 inches long rather than just 3 nodes. 
  • Butterfly Bush - Butterfly bushes root very easily from cuttings. Softwood will work too but hardwood cuttings require less maintenance!

There are all kinds of plants that will root easily through hardwood cuttings. If a plant you are interested in taking hardwood cuttings from does not appear on the list above just do what I do...experiment!


Types of Plant Propagation

>> Saturday, December 18, 2010

Plant propagation is to be my favorite subject as you can tell! Plant propagation is one of the most inexpensive ways to make more plants and expand your gardens. There are several methods of propagating plants and three of the most common ways are through through division, through layering, and through cuttings. Each of these methods has a few advantages that are worth looking at. Some of these methods will work for some plants but may not be effective for others. Here is a short summary of these methods.


Dividing plants is a very good method of propagation for many clump forming species of plants. Hostas, heucheras, daylilies, ornamental grasses, and many other perennials will not only tolerate but sometimes need to be divided. It is better to divide most plants in the spring when they are actively growing and the roots can take some abuse but some will successfully divide in the fall. You don't have to divide plants until they have developed a dead hole toward the center, but if you would like more plants faster, divide away!

Layering is a safe strategy for many plants. It involves burying a length of a low growing stem underneath the soil until it develops roots. Then the gardener can sever the new plant from the mother plant and plant somewhere else in the garden. To speed up the process the stem can be wounded and applied with rooting hormone but many plants naturally layer by themselves. Viburnums, forsythias, and azaleas are good candidates for layering along with many other shrubs. This is a safe method of propagation since the stem remains attached to the main plant until roots are formed. There is very little risk involved for the cuttings. The biggest disadvantage is that you can't make as many plants as you can with cuttings.

This is probably the area I have the most fun experimenting with in my garden. There are several different types of cuttings you can take from stem tips to basal root cuttings. Some plants take to cuttings readily while others can be a difficult challenge. Most perennials will easily work with stem tip cuttings or basal stem cuttings. Trees and shrubs can be more difficult, but if the plant creates suckers there may be good rooting material. My favorite shrub for propagating through cuttings is the red twig dogwood. I've found that they work best as hardwood cuttings done over winter (although greenwood cuttings root well too) because the amount of care necessary to get them to root is minimal. Salvias, verbena, Russian sage, catmint and many other perennials work well as stem tip cuttings.


'Shasta' Viburnum Propagation (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum)

>> Saturday, December 11, 2010

Viburnums are one of the best flowering shrubs for the garden. Not only do they flower beautifully in the spring but some varieties produce loads of berries for wildlife consumption. Below is how I like to propagate 'Shasta' viburnum.

How to Propagate:
Cuttings: hardwood, greenwood

How to make greenwood cuttings of the 'Shasta' Viburnum.

  • Take 3-4 node node cuttings about 6 inches long from greenwood wood.
  • Remove all the leaves except for one or two at the top of the cutting. 
  • Dip the end in rooting hormone and place it in a rooting medium (I use sand quite a bit).
  • Then put the cuttings in a makeshift propagation chamber. (It was made form two reused plastic containers - one to hold the sand and the other as a lid.) A propagation chamber may not be necessary as long as the medium is kept moist - not soggy. Putting the cutting in a normal pot with a plastic bag for a cover will work fine.
  • Monitor the cutting for adequate moisture and in about 4 weeks I had some nice rooting on the viburnum cuttings.


A Note About The Home Garden: How to Propagate Plants

>> Friday, December 3, 2010

Thank you for reading the posts here at The Home Garden: How to Propagate Plants. I began writing The Home Garden in 2007 to catalog and share my gardening experiences with other gardeners who have the same passion. Since then I've experimented with many kinds of gardening ideas but the one subject area that has always filled me with excitement was plant propagation. These pages are an offshoot of my original blog where I hope to share my plant propagation experiences with you. All of the posts here are written from my personal experiences and should work for you. I'm always looking for new plants to propagate and these postings will gradually expand as I find new material to talk about!

Please feel free to ask questions in the comment sections of any post at anytime (as a stay at home dad with 3 kids my time is limited but I will try to respond as quickly as possible- sometimes in a Q&A post.) Also don't hesitate to subscribe to the feed or follow along on Facebook or Twitter!


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