Plant Propagation from Cuttings
Part One - Hardwood Cuttings
Plant propagation is fun and easy. One of the easiest ways to propagate certain types of plants is by taking and rooting cuttings. Plant cuttings are parts of a parent plant that are severed and then placed in a rooting medium, such as peat moss, soil or water, until they root and can be replanted as a new plant. Growing from cuttings produces a very predictable product.
There are 3 types of wood cuttings for propagating your plant – softwood, hardwood and semi-hardwood. I think the terms are fairly self-explanatory. Softwood cuttings are taken in late spring and early summer, before the shoots become woody and hard. Semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings are best taken late in summer, fall or early winter, from mature or last season’s wood.
In this post, I’ll just talk about hardwood cuttings. Most of the information is also applicable to semi-hardwood cuttings. Since we’re coming into fall, this is a great season to get these started for next year’s plantings. Hardwood cuttings are much more durable than softwood cuttings which is why hardwoods are the best technique for the home gardener.
All your cuttings should be collected from vigorous, healthy plants that are free of insect pests, disease, or nutrient deficiencies. Take cuttings a quarter to three-eighths inch in diameter (about the diameter of a pencil or slightly larger), and generally four to eight inches long. Look for a stem that does not have a flower or a flower bud. Remove the lower leaves, and cut off the stem about half an inch below the leaf node.
Hardwood cuttings are more difficult to root than softwood cuttings, and it may take two to four months for roots to form. The use of a rooting hormone will often ensure a better chance of your cutting rooting. Before you insert the cutting in the rooting medium, scarify the lower part of the stem and then dip it into the rooting hormone.
Hardwood cuttings generally will root successfully when inserted in garden soil in the open. Select a protected area, then keep an eye on them over the winter. Since hardwood cuttings are harvested in the least desirable growing season, they are slower to root, and often the percentage that will root is lower. However, don’t give up on them too soon. I’ve had cuttings take up to 8 months to root! Come early spring, transplant them to pots or to their permanent home in your garden.
Another alternative that I use is to put each cutting into its own container of soil, and then bury the container to the rim in the garden. When the new rooted plant is ready to be moved to its permanent location, it will be less stressed, as the roots are contained.
Some of the landscape plants and herbs that I’ve found easy to propagate this way are escallonia, lavender, ivy, rosemary, sage, roses and figs. I’m enthused to try even more this fall. So this fall, propagate some of your leafy shrubs – both deciduous and evergreen – by taking cuttings.