How to take cuttings: hardwood cuttings

by Rhiannon James

When you buy a plant, you’re also buying an option to grow many more, either by collecting and sowing the seed it produces or by taking cuttings – pieces of stem or root which will each grow into a new specimen.

There are three main types of stem cuttings: softwood, semi-ripe and hardwood – hardwood cuttings are taken at the end of the year’s growing cycle when plants are dormant. Although they are the slowest to form roots (this can take up to a year), hardwood cuttings can be grown on outdoors with minimal fuss.

This technique is most often used for deciduous shrubs, climbers and bush fruits although it also works for some evergreens such as cotoneaster, holly and privet.

When to do it

Hardwood cuttings can be taken at any point after leaf fall from mid-autumn to late winter. The best time to take cuttings though is when the plants have just lost their leaves and the soil still has some warmth to help to speed up the rooting process. Avoid periods of severe frost.

Things you’ll need

1. Sharp secateurs

2. A spade

3. Horticultural sand

4. High strength hormone rooting powder

5. Labels and permanent marker


1. Select a healthy ‘mother’ plant to take your cuttings from and avoid any weak or damaged shoots. You’re looking for the current season’s growth which has become woody – the stems should be roughly the thickness of a pencil and firm to the touch. Remove the soft growth at the tip.

2. Make a sloping cut just above the top bud of your proposed cutting – angle it so water flows away from the bud.

3. Make a straight cut 15-20cm below the top cut, just below a bud or node. Dip the base of the cutting in the hormone rooting compound. Repeat for each cutting.

4. To plant your cuttings, in a sheltered spot, dig the soil over and make a slit trench about 15-18cm deep, with one vertical side and one sloping side. Put sharp sand in the base to improve drainage and encourage rooting. Place the cuttings against the vertical edge 10-15cm apart.

5. Firm back the soil, making sure you leave 5-7cm of stem exposed above the surface. Label and date.

6. Leave the cuttings in place until the following autumn. Check them regularly, removing any dead or damaged material, firming them back in if they are lifted and watering when needed.

7. By the following autumn, the cuttings should have developed a root system and produced some stems. At this point you can lift and transplant them.


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