Time For Hardwood Cuttings


Many deciduous shrubs and  trees can be propagated from  hardwood cuttings – an easy and  fulfilling job to do.

Which plants can you use for hardwood cuttings?

Plants that can be propagated by hardwood cutting include ‘Iceberg’ roses, Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ (snowball bush or guelder rose), Nandina domestica (sacred bamboo), frangipani, wisteria, crepe myrtle, hydrangea and berberis, as well as fruit trees such as figs, pomegranates, quinces and mulberries.

When is the best time to propagate your hardwood cuttings?

  • Hardwood cuttings must be mature and woody, not soft and green, and should be at least as thick as a pencil, taken from the current season’s growth.
  • The best time to take such cuttings is in the dormant season after the first leaf drop but before frost – normally from late autumn to early winter.
  • Take your cuttings early in the morning and try to cut them off where the current season’s wood has developed from older wood. The base of the little stem at this junction has the best potential for root development as it contains a number of dormant buds that supply hormones required for developing roots.
  • Be sure to clean your secateurs properly with a disinfectant before you do any cutting.

Preparing your cuttings

  • Take long cuttings if you can (at least 20 – 25cm in length), as these will contain more food reserves.
  • Make a horizontal cut about 6mm below the lowest bud at the base.
  • Next, identify a bud about 15 – 20cm away from the base to make a sloping tip cut, about 6mm above the bud. There should be more than 3 or 4 buds between these two cuts.
  • If making quite a few cuttings, place the ones already prepared in a jar of clean water.

‘Wounding’ a cutting

Rooting hardwood cuttings successfully can be helped along by using a sharp blade to gently scrape off the outer layer of bark at the base of the cutting to expose the cambium, a light green layer of meristem tissue. If you have a lot of material available to use there is no harm in trying this method, which commercial growers often use.

Planting your cuttings

  • Fill up a deep pot, or other container with ample drainage holes, with soil. You can use ordinary potting soil or a home-made mix of 1 part river sand and 1 part palm peat, or 2 parts river sand and 1 part compost.
  • If the cuttings were waiting in water, dry them off lightly on a piece of kitchen paper towel and then dip the base into rooting hormone (available at garden centres), making sure to tap off the excess rooting hormone.
  • Use a dibber or pencil to make a hole in the soil medium and insert each cutting about 2/3 into the soil, about 5cm apart.
  • Press down the soil medium around them and water the cuttings well with a watering can.
  • Keep the cuttings in a protected place, and keep the soil medium slightly damp throughout winter and you should have rooted plants with the first signs of top growth next summer to plant out.

The Gardener