How to take hardwood cuttings

Taking hardwood cuttings is an easy and reliable way of propagating deciduous shrubs and trees to increase plant stocks, as well as some evergreens, e.g. holly. They are slower to root and take longer to produce shoots than their softwood equivalents, but the success rate is higher. Hard wood cuttings are taken in the plant's dormant season after the leaves of deciduous varieties have fallen and before sap starts to rise and growth starts to develop again in the spring. December can be a good time to start taking them when there is usually more time available to the gardener.


Hardwood cuttings in pot


Equipment and Preparation
Hardwood cuttings require hardly any preparation.

All you'll need is a pair of secateurs, a mother plant to take them from and either:
1) A pot and potting compost (for growing cuttings in a pot) or
2) Spade and sharp sand (for growing cuttings in a trench in the open ground)


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Taking the Cutting

  • Use material from the current year's growth of your mother plant that has turned hard and woody
  • Look for a stem that's at least as thick as a pencil and cut it off to a length of 10-12 inches (25-30cm), cutting just below a leaf joint at the base
  • Remove the side shoots and make sure it's cut just above a bud/joint at the top



Growing Cuttings in a Container

  • You can use either a 9cm pot and grow 2 cuttings per pot or plant 5-7 cuttings in a larger 7.5 litre container
  • Use a pencil or dibber to make a hole and push your cutting in so around two-thirds of it is submerged


Growing Cuttings in the Open Ground

  • Hardwood cuttings can also be planted in the open ground in a long, prepared trench with some sharp sand in the bottom to improve the drainage.
  • Dig the trench to a depth of around 7-8 inches so two-thirds of your cuttings are covered in earth once set in the ground.


Aftercare and Development

  • Hardwood cuttings will not need much care and attention until next year. They will quite happily stand outside without any protection from the weather or wind.
  • Over the winter the base of the cuttings will be callusing - forming a layer of plant cells which will harden slowly and reproduce to form root cells.
  • All being well, your cuttings will start to grow away in spring and you'll have a new shrub. If you see new leaves starting to develop in the spring this is a good sign.
  • By the autumn, your cuttings should be ready to re-pot into a larger container or plant out into your garden.


Taking hardwood cuttings is a slow but reliable method. If you're looking for a quicker solution, you may prefer to shop for mature plants.


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