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Want to Grow a Tree or Bush Without Starting from Seed: Try Using a Cutting

Updated on May 31, 2014

Selecting a Cutting

Yellow Birch I am curious to see if I can get to Grow
Yellow Birch I am curious to see if I can get to Grow | Source
Make a slight angled clean cut just bellow the leaf
Make a slight angled clean cut just bellow the leaf | Source
A Selected Cutting for planting
A Selected Cutting for planting | Source

Getting a cutting

Do you have a particular tree or bush in mind you want to plant? Having trouble getting seeds for it or getting a seed started? Trees and Bushes can be hard to grow. I have tried many times and failed a good amount. I find that planting them from seed is a very delicate matter and the sapling once sprouted can easily wither with the weather or if it gets a little too much or too little water, or not enough light, you are back at the drawing table.

If you know the tree or bush you want to duplicate you can get a cutting from them in early spring, preferably before they flower if it's a flowering plant. Now to get a good cutting you want to go to the tree or bush and bend a new growth. If you can bend it in half without it breaking it is too soon. If you bend it and it tear breaks it is too woody and you need a fresher shoot. Also you will get a better chance of the Cutting rooting and growing if you get it after a rainstorm and as early as you can get it after sunrise. That way the Cutting has as much water stored internally as it needs.

Now the Cutting you want should have some leaves growing already. a few sets of leaves will help promote energy in growth. So with trees and bushes I don't like to get a cutting smaller than 6" and you can go up to 3' but I usually keep it at no more than a couple feet. I eventually plan on trying to make bonsai trees out of them once I get more Pro at this and a couple feet is the biggest you want a bonsai to start off at.

To cut the shoot or Cutting you should cut at a slight angle just a quarter of an inch below a leaf (you want it as clean of a cut as you can get it). I then with my 6" Cutting will pinch off the leaves 3" upward from the slice. You now have a Cutting and you are now ready to do one of a couple things ( or both if you want). You can put it in a potato, and or dip it in a Rooting hormone (bought at a store, or if you have a willow tree handy you can make your own). Then you plant as directed depending if your Potato-ing it or just soaking it in hormone.

Willow Rooting Hormone (Willow Water)

Cut the Willow branch into 1" pieces
Cut the Willow branch into 1" pieces | Source
Poor boiling water over the pieces
Poor boiling water over the pieces | Source
Let Steep in the window for at least 24 hours, to a few days. The water will change color as it steeps.
Let Steep in the window for at least 24 hours, to a few days. The water will change color as it steeps. | Source

Ingredients: Willow Rooting Hormone (Willow Water)

  • 1 Glass Jar, I use a Quart Mason Jar
  • (Will fill 1/3 glass jar being used) Newest Greenest Twigs, cut into 1" pieces
  • (Enough to fill 2/3 jar being used) Boiled Water, to make willow tea
  • (24hrs to 3 days) window, for steeping

Instructions: Willow Rooting Hormone (Willow Water)

  1. Once you go out and get some new willow twigs, as green as you can get them and have composted the leaves, cut the twigs into 1" pieces. They should be soft enough that you can use scissors. You should cut enough to fill 1/3 of whatever glass jar you plan to use. (I use a quart Mason jar and sometimes a pint)
  2. Boil water in a tea pot, or any pot you have handy, and poor over the willow pieces in the glass jar until the jar is filled. (like your making a tea)
  3. Cover the Jar and put in the windowsill for 24hr, or longer if you want the hormone really strong.
  4. Poor the Willow Water over a Strainer to get the twigs out and then put the jar of just the liquid into the fridge. (it will keep for 2 months if refrigerated).
  5. To use the rooting hormone. soak the cutting in the liquid for a few hours then plant into a pot, or right into desired spot in the yard.

Willow Rooting Hormone (Willow Water)

5 stars from 1 rating of Willow Rooting Hormone (Willow Water)

Growing a Cutting in a Potato

Poke a hole in the potato with a screw or drill
Poke a hole in the potato with a screw or drill | Source
Place the Cutting in the hole made in the potato
Place the Cutting in the hole made in the potato | Source
place in moist, not wet, dirt
place in moist, not wet, dirt | Source
cover the potato  so that just the Cutting is sticking out.
cover the potato so that just the Cutting is sticking out. | Source

Growing Cuttings From a Potato

So this is a very odd notion but one I know works well, especially with Rose Cuttings. I have a few friends who like to experiment with gardening, along with myself, and we try lots of things. So when we found out you can put a cutting in a potato to help it root I was all over it. A couple others tried it too and some got it to work, while others did not. I am currently in the process of trying it with a few different types of trees and bushes and will update as I get my results.

Now this is a pretty simple procedure, The hard part is done after you have found and made your cutting. So here goes:

  • Go to the grocery store or farm stand and pick up some potatoes, some recommend the Irish potato or a good round potato, but I am trying a Russet which tends to lean towards the oblong.
  • If you don't have a spot to plant your cuttings you can plant them in a pot as I am doing, I had some plant pots left over from when I went to the greenhouse last spring.
  • At this point it does not really matter what soil or dirt you use, you can even use sand for this initial part. Until the Cutting takes root it gets what it needs from the moisture and potato. (Make sure the dirt used is moist, not wet. I sometimes will spritz the dirt with a spray bottle, not poor water into the dirt.
  • So once you have Cutting, your potato and a pot with dirt, you can then take your potato and poke a hole in it. (NOT with the Cutting, Cuttings are very finicky and you want a clean cut on the bottom of the shoot and it needs to stay that way to allow the roots to grow). I use a long screw to poke a hole, some use a drill depending on how wide your cutting is. So far my cuttings are not very thick because I keep them to the 6" to 2' length. Don't go completely through the potato, but drill in as close as you can get to 3" as you can get. ( I usually initially plant a Cutting 3"inches into the ground, though some go as deep as planting most of the shoot in the ground, but I am not sure how that works for them, as I have only heard about it and not witnessed it).
  • OPTIONAL: If you want to be a little extra cautious about getting the Cutting to grow you can dip the Cutting in the rooting hormone and then place it in the potato.
  • With your Cutting sticking in your potato, take your plant pot of dirt, or go to your desired planting location, and plant the potato so the just the cutting is sticking out of the dirt.
  • Now it normally takes a few weeks to get a good growth of roots. So if you want to know if it is ready, lightly pull on the Cutting and if it resists slightly it is developing roots. You can wait a few more days or you can transplant into your desired location, unless you started off there and you're all set. Just make sure once you get it in the Spot you want it that it has the recommended dirt the plant grows in. Some plants need good fertilizer, or a dirt that has a low PH balance.


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    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      3 years ago from Florida

      I recently downsized and had to give up my house. I had an old fashioned tea rose that was well over 10 years old. It was too large to move, so now I am in the process of trying to root the rose. I researched the web and only found out about using a potato, so it was nice to read you use that method, too. It is too soon to know if mine will be a success. I have 10 rootings. I did try four of them in water, only.

      Great informative Hub. Voted UP, etc.

    • BDhire profile image


      4 years ago

      wow really great idea :)

    • BrianPHussey profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Patrick Hussey 

      4 years ago from Durham, Maine

      I have a few cuttings going right now. I tried to do a cutting from the yellow birch but I think I did not cut a young enough cutting. I have a fire bush and a mystery purple flowered tree that I am getting to grow and it seems to be doing good so far. I did however start later in the season than I had planned due to a property being sold so I needed the cutting before the purchase was finalized.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      The potato idea is a bit weird , but good to know, nice article!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Love the potato rooting idea, Brian. I'm a retired farmer and have used many methods of rooting both ornamental and native trees, not to mention various vegetable and flowering plants. Can't wait to try the spud rooting method. Great hub! Voted up!

    • HussainShah profile image

      Hussain Shah 

      4 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan

      Very good and amazing hub. Your content is very interesting and your writing skills are one of the best I have found on Hubpages. Keep it up!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Congratulations for HOTD!

      This sounds interesting and I am going to try this. Thank you for providing the step by step instructions. I have grown plants by cutting method but the potato method is new for me.

      Thanks for sharing!


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