Hardwood cuttings

Hardwood cuttings provide an easy and reliable method of propagating a range of deciduous climbers, trees and shrubs; they are taken from mid-autumn until late winter, after leaf fall.

It is a really good way to increase your stock of fruit, e.g. currants, gooseberries, figs, mulberries.  Also a great way to get free hedge. Hardwood cuttings are often grown on outdoors in the ground in a prepared trench. However, if you are only taking a small number, you can grow them on in containers too.  Some, dogwoods for example, benefit from protection with cloches or cold frame.

How to do it

  • Select vigorous healthy shoots that have grown in the current year.
  • Remove the soft tip growth.
  • Cut into sections 15-30cm (6-12in) long, cutting cleanly above a bud at the top, with a sloping cut to shed water and as a reminder which end is the top.
  • Cut straight across at the base below a bud or pair of buds and dip the lower cut end in a hormone rooting powder (this promotes root formation, it also contains a fungicide, protects against rotting).
  • Prepare a trench outdoors in a sheltered site with well-drained soil. Dig in a bucketful of garden compost or other organic matter every square metre or yard.
  • Insert the cuttings into the ground or pot with two-thirds of the cutting below the surface, with a layer of sand in the base. The roots will form along the stem. A few buds remain above the ground to allow the plant to grow away in spring.
  • Allow 10-15cm (4-6in) between cuttings and 40cm (16in) between trenches.
  • Check the trench after frosts and firm back if required.

Cuttings should be left in place until the following autumn ensuring that they do not dry out in dry periods in summer. Or of course you can leave them and this will form your hedge.

The following autumn the cuttings should have rooted and can be planted out or potted on as required.

If you are only taking a few cuttings, there is no need to dig a trench as outlined above, simply insert cuttings into deep containers of gritty potting medium such as 50:50 coarse grit and multi-purpose compost. Keep the pots in a sheltered cold frame or unheated greenhouse until the following autumn, ensuring that they do not dry out.

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