Propagation from cuttings exploits the remarkable ability of a piece of plant tissue, from the stem, leaf, root, or bud, to regenerate into a fully developed plant, with roots and shoots,  thus creating a clone of the parent plant.

There are several types of cuttings: softwood, semi-ripe, hardwood, leaf-bud, leaf, and root. In this guide we will focus on growing hardwood cuttings, the ones we take from dormant deciduous trees and plants.

Taking hardwood cuttings is one of the easiest and least costly ways of propagating many deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers as it requires no special skill other than knowing which plants are suitable, when to take the cuttings, and how to provide basic conditions for rooting and growth.

The simplest way to root hardwood cuttings is in open ground, but you might need some form of a controlled environment (a heated closed case, greenhouse, or cold frame…) to encourage the better rooting of the cutting.

The rooting of the cutting can take up to 5 months, and they can be ready to plant as early as the end of the following growing season.

Note: You should take hardwood cuttings when the parent plants are completely dormant, usually from mid- to late autumn to late winter, with the best times being immediately after leaf-fall or just before bud break.

What you’ll need?

Estimated cost: ~$50

1. Pruners
2. Rooting Hormone (gel, powder, liquid)
3. Labels
4. Rooting Medium

5. Plant Propagation Handbook (optional but recommended)


How to take hardwood cuttings

Estimated time: variable

STEP 1: Prepare your tools

  • Before you start using your cutting tools sterilize them to avoid introducing disease into cuttings through cuts or wounds.
  • Also, make them as sharp as possible to avoid crushing plant cells along the cut.


STEP 2: Find a healthy plant from which to take your cuttings

  • When searching for suitable cutting material always look for a healthy (ideally young) plant.
  • Diseases or pests can be transmitted by cutting if the parent plant is sick.
  • Cuttings taken from young plants, especially when in active growth, are usually more likely to root.


STEP 3: Take cuttings

  • Make hardwood cuttings from the current year’s growth, look for well-ripened, strong and straight stems with healthy buds or nodes.
  • Take cuttings that are close to pencil-thickness, cutting the stem at the union of the one- and two-year-old wood (the base of the stem at this junction has the greatest potential for root development).


 Image source: AHS Plant Propagation

STEP 4:  Prepare cuttings

  • You can usually prepare several cuttings from one length of ripened, current season’s growth, especially with the long stems of climbers.
  • First, remove any leaves and then discard the thin growth at the tip and the thick growth at the base, because these are more likely either to rot or take longer to root.
  • Now trim your cuttings to size, each about 8-12 in (20-30 cm) long. Look at the little bumps (next year’s leaf buds or nodes) along the plant’s stem and:
    1. Make a straight (horizontal) cut at the bottom just below a node,
    2. Make an angled cut at the top of the cutting about 3/4 in (2 cm) above a node.
  • This enables you to consistently insert the cuttings the right way up. Plus the top node has the 3/4″ (2 cm) section of stem that will provide protection from being damaged.
  • For some species that are difficult to root it’s beneficial to “wound” the cutting at the base of its stem. This involves removing a thin (1-2 cm) sliver of bark and exposing more of the cambium (the area where most cell division takes place) which increases the uptake of water and rooting hormone and promotes root development.


Image source: AHS Plant Propagation


STEP 5: Treat cuttings with rooting hormone (optional)

  • Almost all cuttings respond to artificial rooting hormones. Although most plants root well they’ll do it more slowly without the artificial root hormone.
  • Rooting hormones are available as powders, liquids, and gels. They all work well, just make sure you have the right strength rooting compound for hardwood cuttings.
  • Simply dip the base into the rooting hormone! If using root hormone powder, be sure to tap the cuttings to remove excess powder.


STEP 6: Place cuttings into a growing medium

Depending on the number of cuttings you’re dealing with, insert the cuttings in an appropriate rooting medium, in an outdoor nursery bed, or in pots.

Pots are better for a smaller number of cuttings, or the ones that do not root easily. They are flexible as you can move them around freely and by placing them in a controlled enclosed environment you will speed up rooting and have a better success rate.

Outdoor nursery beds are better for a larger number of cuttings or the ones that root more easily. Since they are outdoors they’ll be exposed to the elements.


  1. Fill a pot with a suitable rooting medium. You can use coarse sand, coconut coir or make a mixture of equal parts of peat (or coconut coir) and bark, or peat (or coconut coir) and perlite or peat (or coconut coir) and sand.
    2. Insert cuttings into the rooting medium, so that 1/3 is showing above the surface of the soil, space them 4 in (10 cm) apart.
    3. Firm the rooting medium around the cuttings and water the medium thoroughly.
    4. Label and place the pot in a sheltered place (cold frame or a greenhouse) out of direct sunlight.
    5. Keep the rooting medium slightly damp but do not overwater, make sure that it does not dry out at any time.
    6. To speed up the rooting process, put the container on a heated bench and provide bottom heat of 50-77 °F (15-25 °C)
    7. Transplant in spring — they should root by spring; pot them individually or in groups into larger containers.


Image source: AHS Plant Propagation

Outdoor Nursery Beds

  1. . Prepare the nursery bed — see instructions
    2. Make a narrow trench 6-10 in (12-25 cm) deep by pushing the spade into the soil and pressing it slightly forward.
    3. To improve drainage sprinkle some sharp sand into the trench bottom.
    4. Insert the cuttings so that only the top third is exposed, space the cuttings 4-6 in (10-15 cm) apart. Place additional rows 12 in (30 cm) apart.
    5. Firm in the cuttings after filling in the trench to make sure that there is good contact between each culling and the soil.
    6. Water in the soil around the cuttings and label.
    7. Check periodically — water them throughout the growing season and keep them free of weeds in order to maximize growth
    8. After several months, the cuttings should begin to root; by the end of the following growing season, they are ready to plant.


Image source: AHS Plant Propagation



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