Use hardwood cuttings to propagate woody plants

Posted December 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

by Marilyn Odneal, horticulture adviser

Collecting and rooting cuttings collected from woody, deciduous trees, shrubs, roses and grapes can be an excellent way to increase numbers of your favorite woody plants.

Dormant hardwood cuttings are sections of woody stems that can develop into brand new plants complete with stems, leaves and roots. Cuttings are different from plants grown from seed because the new plants that arise from cuttings are genetically identical to the parent plant – they are clones. Hardwood cuttings are collected after the stem firms and the plant has lost its leaves.

Plants that are readily propagated from dormant hardwood cuttings are privet, forsythia, wisteria, dogwood, elderberry, crape myrtle, rose, spirea, fig, mulberry, grape and gooseberry.

Hardwood cuttings can be taken after the leaves fall, any time during the dormant season. Hardwood cuttings should be stored in moist conditions at about 32 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit until they are rooted outdoors in a protected location or in a container.

Select only healthy plants from which to take cuttings. Cuttings are taken from mature wood that grew the previous season and are usually about 6 inches long, but this may vary depending on the species. A good cutting is about the diameter of a pencil with at least two nodes with healthy buds. A node is where the buds are located and there are usually one or two buds at a node. Cuttings should always be taken with a sharp pruning shears so the stem is not crushed and no ragged edges remain, inviting disease.

We make a straight cut under the bottom bud and a slanted cut above the top bud so it is easy to tell top from bottom. You don’t want to put your cutting in upside down.

Trim the stem off about one-quarter inch below the bottom bud. Stick the cutting in the media and make sure the bottom bud is covered with at least 1⁄2 inch of soil or potting media. Vigorous roots will develop from the buried bud. Leave the upper bud or buds out of the media to eventually grow the top of the plant after the bottom bud roots.

Cuttings can be also be rooted in a pot instead of in soil outdoors in a protected location. Plastic over the container will maintain high humidity, but be sure you do not place a pot covered with clear plastic in direct sun, otherwise it may get too hot.

It is extremely important to use new, sterile potting soil that is kept slightly moist. Insert the cuttings into sterile potting medium making sure the basal bud is covered. Use plastic wrap or a clear plastic bag to cover the container to hold in moisture.

If everything works out well, you will have more plants that are identical to the original mother. Remember that it is not legal to propagate patented plants – so make sure if you are propagating a named variety – like Concord grape – that it is legal to do so.

For suggestions, comments or questions on this column, contact Marilyn Odneal via email at; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500. Visit our website at

Next year's grape vine 2cc .tif

NEXT YEARS GRAPE VINE – Brody is collecting dormant hardwood cuttings of the grape variety Norton. The cuttings are at least 6 inches long and have an average of 3 nodes – the place where the bud is located. He makes a flat cut under the bottom bud and a slanted cut above the top bud so it is easy to tell top from bottom.