Garden Care

How to take hardwood cuttings

A complete guide on taking hardwood cuttings from your favourite shrubs and trees. How to raise each cutting and get a better yield.

Hardwood cuttings

There’s nothing better than something good for free. Swapping seeds and cuttings is a good way of filling your garden with a rich diversity of plants, especially for those of us operating on a tight budget.

Autumn, through to Spring is an excellent time to establish plenty of hardwood cuttings of perennial plants and shrubs. At this time of year, plants are full of growth hormones, waiting for Spring, to put on plenty of new growth – a great start for your cuttings.

Cuttings: what to look for

The quality of your hardwood cuttings will have a direct impact on the chances of them surviving and producing strong plants.

  • In most instances, make sure that you select a woody and straight stem for your hardwood cutting. It is good to take a section from younger wood (1-year-old) that is still flexible.
  • Ensure that the cutting is free from damage and disease.
  • As a rule of thumb, look for stems that are as thick as a pencil.

Where to cut

  • Make sure that your secateurs are sharp and clean. A blunt secateurs might crush the top bud and prevent it from producing growth.
  • Ensuring that the stem is the correct way up, cut immediately above a bud at a slight angle.
  • Measure down the stem to between 6 and 8 inches and trim off below the last bud.

Planting your hardwood cutting

  • Push the stems into the ground or cuttings compost. Pushing will scratch the end of the hardwood cuttings, which may encourage the rooting process.
  • Leave about 2 to 3 inches above the soil level, or 1/4 of the cutting.
  • Firm down the soil or compost. If you have established them in the ground, then carefully apply a little pressure to the surrounding soil with the heel of you foot.
  • Water your cuttings well.

After 12 months, your hardwood cuttings should be strong enough to be transplanted to their final growing patch in the garden.

Gardener’s Tip

If you are pushing your hardwood cuttings straight into the ground: Create a slit using your spade, add a little sharp sand or fine grit to the bottom of it for drainage, followed by a few handfuls of good quality cuttings compost. Heel-in the cuttings.

By James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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