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!

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