The Q&A Archives: Propagation of Boxwoods

Question: How do you propagate Boxwoods?

Answer: The easiest way is to make cuttings. Early summer is a good time to take greenwood cuttings (from new growth that is just beginning to firm up). Take 4-7" cuttings from twig tips that are growing vigorously and are sturdy and woody where they attach to the next branch. Rather than actually cutting the twigs, strip them crisply off the main branch so that a "heel" (a strip of bark/tissue) is formed. This makes a solid base from which roots will form. Cuttings should be taken early in the day while temperatures are relatively cool. Place them in a damp cloth in a cooler to help maintain the moisture in the cuttings until you take them inside. Be prepared to pot them up that same day.

These root best with bottom heat from a propagation mat, but the top of the refrigerator or other naturally warm spot works well too. Prepare some pots of sand/peat mixture that drains well but will keep a bit of moisture around the cuttings. Stick cuttings into the soil so the top third is exposed, and put the whole flat into a large, clear plastic bag with the end closed loosely. This creates high humidity around the cuttings and also allows some air circulation. Keep the rooting medium slightly moist, but don't let water stand in the drip tray under the pots, or the cuttings will drown and rot. Light should be bright but indirect. Roots should start forming within a month. You can check for this by inverting the pot gently in one hand and removing the pot with the other hand - you'll be able to see roots in the soil around the cuttings. Then move them to individual pots of potting soil, move them to slightly brighter light, and feed them at regular intervals (every couple of weeks) with half-strength plant food. Once they start leafing out and looking strong, you can place the pots outside for a while, and gradually move the pots into full sun. By the end of the summer, you can place them in a prepared nursery bed, where you can let them grow for another year before moving them to their permanent location. Have fun!

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