Propagating Shrubs From Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings provide an easy and reliable method of plant propagation. We will be discussing its use with shrubs. Hardwood cuttings are taken in the dormant season from mid-autumn until late winter. With Deciduous trees, the ideal time is just after leaf fall or just before bud-burst in spring. Although this type of propagation may be slow to develop roots, it is usually successful. So let’s read on to learn more about hardwood cuttings.

Hardwood Versus Softwood Cuttings

We like making hardwood cuttings; it is a simple propagation technique to make more plants, mainly the shrubs in your landscape. Since these cuttings went dormant with no leaves, there is not a requirement to provide a high humidity environment as with softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings require correct lighting and humidity conditions. It is a technique that is more labor-intensive. It needs constant attention and must never dry out. However, with hardwood cuttings, you “stick it in and let it sit until Spring!”

tools for hardwood cuttings
The tools needed to prepare hardwood cuttings are simple. Sharp pruning shears to make a clean cut, a trowl to make a trench and rooting hormone.

Making Hardwood Cuttings

Select vigorous and healthy shoots that are free of any disease.  Shoots should be close to pencil-thickness in diameter and from the current season’s growth.  They will be mature, woody, and dormant. Cut straight across at the base below a bud. At the top make an angled cut to shed water and as a reminder to tell which end is the top.  By the time you are done, the cuttings should be about six inches long.

An additional step that often helps difficult to root plants is to make a “wound” at the cutting’s base. Use a sharp knife here and remove the bark. The additional cut exposes more of the light green cambium under the bark. The cambium has meristematic tissue that will differentiate into roots.

Wet the end of the cutting and dip the lower cut end in a hormone rooting powder. The addition of the hormone promotes root formation; it also contains a fungicide that protects against rot.

picture of hardwood cuttings
Cuttings should be about 6 inches in length when complete. Make the bottom cut just below a bud.

Hardwood Cuttings In Containers

Insert the cuttings into a container with two-thirds of the cutting below the surface. As a medium, we use mason sand. The roots will form along the buried portion of the stem. A few buds remain above the ground to allow the plant to grow and leaf out in the spring. Hardwood cuttings are often grown outdoors, but depending on your region, you may require a cold frame. Even though hardwood cuttings take more time to develop roots, there is enough food stored in the stem to keep the cutting alive through the winter.

growing hardwood cuttings in containers
A) Make a trench in sand using a tool. B) Insert cuttings with root hormone about two inches into the sand. C) Finish by closing up the trench. D) Complete by filling the container with cuttings.

 

 

 

 

 

Propagating Azaleas Using Softwood Cuttings

In our previous post, we discussed the care of azaleas.  In this post, The Plant King tells you how to propagate azaleas using softwood cuttings.  Why use cuttings?  In simple terms, we are making a duplicate or exact copy of a plant.  We may like the flower color, or plant height or another characteristic that intrigues us.  We make exact duplicates or clones of plants by using softwood cuttings.  If we were to plant from seed, then there is no telling what mother nature would give us, smaller flowers or other variations that are not interesting. It is, for this reason, that plant nurseries and home gardeners use cuttings instead of seeds.  They know exactly what plant they are producing for a particular and fickle market of buyers.

Azaleas are easy-care flowering shrubs that reward gardeners with massive blooms.  They’re a must-have in your garden. Azaleas are closely related to Rhododendron, in fact, they are in the same genus. There are literally thousands of azalea varieties and cultivated hybrids available. They come in many flower colors, including red, pink, yellow and white. Though most plants flower for about two weeks in April and May, there are also summer-blooming varieties that add color and grace to any garden later in the season.  Keep reading to find out more about propagating azaleas using softwood cuttings.  After all, who doesn’t want more azaleas?

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Let’s get Started: Azaleas and other ornamental shrubs in the home landscape can be propagated by softwood cuttings. In most cases, plant propagation is dictated by the calendar.  Softwood cuttings are taken in June and July and sometimes into early August from the current season’s growth. Cutting material should be flexible but mature enough to snap when sharply bent.

Here’s what you’ll need for propagating azaleas using softwood cuttings:

  1. With pruning shears remove 3″ to 5″ of new growth.  I usually add the cuttings to a plastic bag with a wet paper towel inside to prevent excess water loss from newly cut stems. Choose only healthy plants with no insect damage, no leaf discoloration, or disease.
  2. Bring the cuttings back to your garden bench and cut them again at the base with a sharp knife just below the point where one or two leaves are attached to the stem (node).  This clean cut will have much less tissue damage and will increase success rates so it is worth the extra time.
  3. Remove the leaves from the lower half of each cutting and scrape the bark from one side of the stem. This wound will help to induce root production.  Wet the lower portion of the cutting with water then roll the end of the cutting in rooting hormone. Tap off any surplus material. Softwood cuttings root more successfully when a rooting hormone is used.
  4. Stick the lower end of the cutting where the leaves were removed about 2″ into the rooting medium. Firm the medium around the stem to make the cutting stay in place.
  5. Mist with water regularly and cover with a clear or white plastic bag. The bag prevents excess water loss and will again increase success rates.  Place in a location with bright but indirect light. Rooting should take approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

Things to keep in mind when choosing plant material:

  • plants must be healthy pest and disease-free
  • younger plants work better than older plants
  • lateral shoots work better than terminal shoots
  • take cuttings in the early morning when plants are well hydrated
  • if not planting immediately refrigerate cuttings

azalea-softwood-cuttings

Rooting Medium: There are many options for rooting medium. It must not only retain moisture but also drain well and provide physical support.  For our example of propagating azaleas from softwood cuttings, we find it best to work with masonry sand or potting mix.

  • peat – partially decayed vegetation or organic matter
  • vermiculite – a mineral used in soilless growing systems
  • perlite – a form of amorphous volcanic glass that looks like styrofoam
  • masonry sand – all-purpose sand used for masonry work
  • potting mix – most potting soils are made of peat, vermiculite, and bark

It will take several years for a rooted cutting to become a nice size plant. That is definitely delayed satisfaction.  Still, many gardeners find rooting cuttings and growing the young plants to be fun and rewarding.

Growing Boxwood From Cuttings

The Common English Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, is perhaps the oldest known ornamental plant in western gardens. Boxwood parterres and hedges can be seen in many of the great gardens of Europe and America. In your yard, boxwoods can be used as hedges, as screening plants along borders and accents to your gardenscape. This shrub will grow in USDA hardiness zones from 5 to 8.

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This species has a narrow leaf with a slightly blue-green cast and it is actually a small understory tree in its wild form.  Boxwoods have been cloned by cuttings for centuries so several distinct growth forms are commonly seen.  The “American” boxwood is a tall growing variety that grows up to 15-feet tall and is offered in the nursery trade as “Arborescens.” The earliest mention of imported boxwoods in the colonies was in 1652.

Let’s Get Started

It’s easy to get plenty of new shrubs for free by starting boxwood cuttings. Successfully rooting boxwoods depends on choosing the tips from healthy, vigorously growing plants. Taking greenwood cuttings in early to midsummer catches the stems at just the right stage to give you the best chance of success. Here’s what you’ll need for propagating your boxwoods:

  1. With pruning shears remove 4″ of new growth.  I usually add the cuttings to a plastic bag with a wet paper towel inside to prevent excess water loss from newly cut stems. Choose only healthy plants with no insect damage, no leaf discoloration, or disease.
  2. Bring the cuttings back to your garden bench and cut them again at the base with a sharp knife. This clean cut will have much less tissue damage and will increase success rates so it is worth the extra time.
  3. Remove the leaves from the lower 2″ of each cutting and scrape the bark from one side of the stem. Roll the lower end of the cutting in rooting hormone.
  4. Stick the lower end of the cutting where the leaves were removed about 2″ into the rooting medium. Firm the medium around the stem to make the cutting stay straight.
  5. Water and cover with a clear or white plastic bag. The bag prevents excess water loss and will again increase success rates.  Place in a location with indirect sun. Rooting should take approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

 

Take a nodal stem-tip cutting from greenwood as you see below. Clone the best most vigorous plants.

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Make final cuts at the base using a sharp knife.  Strip the leaves from the lower 2″ of the stem.  The final step in processing our cuttings is to apply root hormone to the base of each stem.

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Transfer to commercial rooting medium since it will be more cost-effective.  However, if you want to make your own rooting medium add equal parts of mason sand, vermiculite, and peat moss.

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Boxwood cuttings require a more little time and patience and some cuttings may refuse to root altogether, so take more than you think you’ll need. If you are successful, you can always give your extra plants to your neighbors.

 

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