Starting Deciduous Plants from Hardwood Cuttings
Now is a good time to make hardwood cuttings, especially of deciduous trees, shrubs, and other woody plants. The procedure is surprisingly easy and is an effective propagation method for many plants.
The first task is to take appropriate cuttings. Take them in late autumn to late winter just before buds break. Probably the best time is late winter, since plants are programmed to start growing as the weather warms. At any rate, autumn is long past, so our best opportunity is right around the corner.
Select cuttings that are about the diameter of a pencil from one year old wood that is mature and woody. Choose a place just above the juncture where one year old wood joins the two-year old wood, except for plants with pithy stems. Pithy-stemmed cuttings should include the “heel” where the shoot joins a branch. Many dormant buds complete with hormones to spur root development are plentiful at this juncture. Remove any soft, green, unripened growth tips. Make sure a leaf bud is at the top and bottom of the cutting, for this will be where new growth occurs. Stubs left on either end of a cutting will rot.
Preparing the Cutting
When taking hardwood cuttings, think “longer” when you cut. Since hardwood cuttings take quite some time to strike roots, they need enough food to keep them alive until the roots form. Nutrients stored within the stem will keep the cutting nourished. Your finished cutting should be 6 inches to a foot long, depending on the distance between nodes. Stems with nodes spread far apart need to be longer than stems with closely spaced nodes.
Always be sure to maintain the integrity of “up” and “down” on a cutting. Roots will not form if the cutting is placed upside down in the potting mix. Most people make this distinction by making a sloping cut at the top and a straight cut on bottom of the cutting. The angled cut at top allows for water to drain off quickly.
The bottom of the cutting should be just below a bud or pair of buds.
Hard-to-root cuttings should be “wounded” by cutting a slither of bark away from the bottom of the cutting. This exposes more growth cells and encourages rooting. Alternatively, scrape off the outer layer of surface tissue to expose the conducting tissue where the new roots form.
Placing the Cuttings
Now that the cuttings are ready, dip the lower end in a rooting hormone. Rooting hormones stimulate root development, and since it contains a fungicide, it will protect the cuttings from rot. Although some cuttings will root without this hormone, more will root with it.
Place the cuttings in a well drained growing medium. This can be in a container or in an outside trench. For a few cuttings, a container is quite suitable, but if many are to be placed, a trench dug outdoors in
a protected place might be the best bet. Dig in organic matter if the soil needs improving. A layer of sand on bottom will promote good drainage. Whether in a container or in a trench, about two-thirds of the cutting should be beneath the surface and about one-third above the surface. Leave the cuttings in place until next fall. Make sure they are not allowed to dry out, but don’t over water.
Obviously, the process is easy. While all of your cuttings may not root, some will. You’ll end up with more plants for your garden or plants to share with friends or to add to your group’s fund raisers. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Some plants to try:
Most deciduous shrubs, including abelia, deutzia, butterfly bush, dogwood, rose, viburnum, currant, forsythia, mock orange; vines including honeysuckle, jasmine; fruit trees