Many broadleaf evergreen shrubs and conifers can be reproduced by the home gardener using cuttings of mature stems.
Some plants grow roots from a cutting more readily than others do, and there are different types of cuttings, depending on the type of plant you want to duplicate. In this article, we give instructions for using semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings.
- Semi-hardwood cuttings are those taken from partially mature wood of the current season’s growth, just after a flush of growth.
- Hardwood cuttings are those taken from dormant, mature stems in late fall, winter, or early spring.
All types of cuttings should be taken with a sharp knife or secateurs; make the cut just above a leaf or branch joint. Clean the knife or secateurs with a rag dampened with alcohol or chlorine before taking another cutting to avoid spreading disease.
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Semi-Hardwood versus Hardwood Cuttings
Broadleaf evergreen shrubs and some conifers use semi-hardwood cuttings taken in mid-July to early fall when the wood is reasonably firm and the leaves are mature.
Hardwood cuttings are often taken from deciduous shrubs, but many evergreens can be propagated from hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are fully mature stems; gather cuttings while the tree or shrub is dormant.
There should be no obvious signs of growth; the wood should be firm and not easily bent. Some of the plants you can propagate from hardwood cuttings are forsythia, privet, fig, grape, and spirea.
A straight cutting is commonly used for semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings, but plants that may be more difficult to root may benefit from a mallet or heel cutting.
- A heel cutting includes a small bit of older wood at the base of the cutting.
- A mallet cutting includes an entire section of older stem at the base of the cutting.
Rooting Semi-Hardwood and Hardwood Cuttings
- Cut a 5- to 8-inch piece from the parent plant.
- Remove leaves on the lower one-third to one-half of the stem, if present.
- Dip each cutting in rooting hormone, and then tap against something to knock off the excess powder.
- Plant in a container filled with soil-free rotting mediums; sand works well.
- Set in a cool, light location and keep the medium moist at all times.You can purchase a thick felt material to lay beneath the potted cuttings with one end lying in a container of water. The material wicks water up and the sand can then absorb the water from below.
- Cover the pot or tray with a clear cover, such as plastic, to help prevent evaporation or to maintain a slightly higher temperature than the air in the place where the cuttings are located.
Rooting Hardwood Cuttings Outdoors
Some semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings may take several months to root and show signs of new growth. To save indoor space, cuttings can be placed outdoors in nursery beds or directly in the soil.
Protect them from freezing and from foraging animals, such as chipmunks. Straw piled around the cuttings helps prevent the ground from freezing and heaving up the rooting cuttings.