How to take Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood Cuttings of Deciduous Plants

Purple sandcherry

Purple sandcherry

Well, it’s December and my Christmas shopping is almost complete.  So what do I do now?  I take cuttings of deciduous shrubs  to make additional beautiful plants just like the parent plant.  Deciduous shrubs are those that lose their leaves during the winter.   Taking hardwood cutting is easy and fun. Before you do hardwood cuttings, the parent plant must be dormant. This occurs after a hard freeze where the temperature has dropped below 32 degrees for several hours.Cuttings taken late fall into the winter are called hardwood cuttings.  In the spring, new growth is soft and cutting taken at that time are called softwood cuttings.  Cuttings taken during the summer after new growth has hardened are called semi hardwood cuttings.  Cuttings taken during the winter after the current year’s wood has hardened are called hardwood cuttings.  Hardwood cuttings are treated differently than softwood cuttings and take longer to root.

Cut branches (canes) from the parent plant. For best results cut the currents year’s new growth.   Depending on the species, you may get several cutting from one branch.  Look for buds on the plant –little bumps along the cane are called nodes or bud unions. It is from these nodes that the new growth will grow. Clip the canes into about 6 inch lengths (you may get several cutting from every cane depending on the species.) Make sure you cut below a node (about ¼ inch) without harming the node. This cut should be straight across. The top cut should be around ¾ inch above a node and cut at an angle. The difference in the angles of the cut is so you can tell which is top and which is bottom. Remember, these canes look like plain old sticks of wood and it is easy to forget which end is planted up. (yeah, I’ve planted some upside down!)

Hardwood cutting with node

Hardwood cutting with node

Harwood cutting often do better at producing roots when they have been “wounded”. I like to use my clippers and scrape off a small section of bark (about ½ inch) on one side at the bottom, being careful not to injure the node. Once you have all your cuttings ready, dip the bottom end with the straight across cut in a rooting hormone. I like to use a liquid called Dip & Grow, but powder hormones are just fine. The hormone is just an enhancer and many plants do just fine without it. You can find rooting compounds at most garden centers.


Now, the cuttings can be stuck in a well draining container with regular potting soil. I sometimes use the dollar store plastic containers used for dishes or storage.  Make sure you drill holes in the bottom for drainage. If you don’t have those, you can use a regular plant container filled 3/4 full of potting mix. Cuttings can be stuck close together – about an inch apart. Do the roots get all tangled?  I have never had a problem with roots getting tangled.  As you pull them out and shake the soil away, the roots should easily separate.

Purple Sandcherry hardwood cuttings

Purple Sandcherry hardwood cuttings


Stick the cuttings around 2- 3 inches deep with 1-2 nodes in the potting mix and at least 2-3 nodes above the potting mix.   Then place the container of cuttings outside and keep watered as needed. As long as you receive rain, freeze or snow, they will be fine without watering. During the winter, they will develop callous and  some roots.

In the spring, you will need to start watering on a regular basis and I would probably move them to a place that gets some afternoon shade. Leave them alone until fall.   They can then be separated and planted out or potted up. Easy way to make a lot of baby plants from a parent plant. Now you have additional plants to grow or share with friends.

I find that I have to be doing something with plants all the time to be content, so I do hardwood cutting in the winter. An easy way to make a lot of baby plants .  Oh well, it’s an addiction!

Happy Planting.

Plant list for hardwood cuttings :

Burning Bush,   Flowering Almond,  Forsythia,   Grapes,  Hydrangea,  Purple Sandcherry     Potentilla,  Rose of Sharon,  Roses,  Spirea,  Weigelia,  Willows

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