The Q&A Archives: Starting Trees & Shrubs From Cuttings

Question: I am interested in growing trees and shrubs from cuttings of other mature plants, what trees and shrubs can I do this with and what is the method ?

Answer: Actually, most plants can be started from cuttings. I'll provide some details below on methods. If you have specific plants that you are interested in starting, send another question to the Q&A site (not to my email address) and we can provide info on the best method for that plant.

Softwood cuttings are of new growth that is not yet firm. They should be about two inches long, with two-three pairs of leaves at the top of the stem. Insert the cuttings into the planting medium, just up to the lowest leaves. Rooting hormone may be used, but is not essential. It helps to pinch off the growing tip, which helps force more roots. If possible, place the cuttings in a covered environment (a mini greenhouse) and provide bottom heat.

Semi-ripe cuttings are taken in mid- to late-summer from the current season's growth that has begun to firm. The cutting's base should be quite hard, while the tip should be growing and still soft. Use 2 1/2 - 4 inches, and remove side shoots. Make a shallow wound on the stem by cutting away a thin piece of bark (1/2 inch long). This stimulates rooting. Dip in a rooting hormones and insert in a soilless potting mix. Provide a humid environment.

Hardwood cuttings are taken in when the plant is dormant in late autumn or late winter just before bud break. Cut about 12-24 inches of healthy growth. Cut the shoot at the union of the one- and two-year old wood. Bundle up to 10 cuttings with a piece of twine; dip the base into rooting hormone; insert the bundle into a box or bed of sand and put in a sheltered place or cold frame over winter. They should root by spring. Keep sand moist, but not wet.

Layering is done by gently bending a low-growing stem/branch over to the ground, digging a shallow trench for it and covering it with soil so it won't pop up. Water and keep moist. New roots will grow in 3-4 weeks and the old stem to the parent plant can be cut off, and the new plant dug and transplanted elsewhere, or left where it is.

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