How to take hardwood cuttings
If there are particular trees, shrubs, climbers, fruit bushes or roses that you love in your garden and you’re looking to grow more, the easiest way to do this is to take hardwood cuttings. Propagating is especially useful when you need a large number of the same plant – hedges are a perfect example of how hardwood cuttings are used. It’s best to take hardwood cuttings from autumn as the leaves start to fall from the mother plant (the plant you’ll be taking the cuttings from), that way the cuttings have chance to root through the winter, ready for planting out in late spring or early summer.
Which stems to choose
Give your new plants the best possible start by choosing strong, healthy and straight woody shoots. Avoid shoots growing sideways or trailing shoots as they may develop with bad growing habits. Cuttings should be the width of a pencil and be a little flexible (test by bending the cutting slightly, if it doesn’t snap then it’s good to use).
Taking the cuttings
Using a sharp pair of secateurs, cut just above a bud or pair of buds where this season’s growth meets last year’s growth. Remove the soft tip growth and any large leaves or side shoots. Cut your stem into sections approx. 20cm long, making an angled cut above the bud at the top (buds should be pointing upwards) and a straight cut on a node (leaf joint) at the bottom of your cutting. The sloping cut is to help you know which way up to plant your cuttings and to allow rain to run off easily.
Give your hardwood cuttings a head start – Professional gardeners often use rooting hormone powder to boost their chances of success with cuttings taking root. Simply dip the bare stem portion of the cutting into the powder and shake off the excess before planting.
How to plant your hardwood cuttings
In the ground
If you have space in your garden, dig a narrow trench in a sheltered part of the garden. The trench should have one vertical side for your cuttings to be placed against. Soil should be well-drained (add some sand if you have experienced problems with drainage before) and the depth of the trench should match the length of the cutting. Place cuttings in the trench with just the tips showing, backfill with soil and water well.
Prepare a long pot with compost and gently insert each cutting into the compost, leaving approx. 5cm above the surface. Firm the compost and water well.
Caring for your cuttings
Once your cuttings have started to produce leaves and grow away, they can be lifted and planted in their permanent positions or potted up.
If your cuttings were put into a pot, they are ready when you can see roots appearing through the bottom. Tip everything out and pot on individually or plant out.
Keep pruning your new plants regularly through the summer to create a great shape.
Growing shrubs from hardwood cuttings requires patience, it will take years for many shrubs to reach the size seen in pots in Garden Centres.