How to take hardwood cuttings for free plants

Many trees and shrubs can be grown from hardwood cuttings, roses being one of the most common examples. Exactly as you’d expect, hard wood cuttings are lengths of woody stems covered in bark and usually planted in the dormant season when leaves have dropped between late-autumn through to late-winter. Every year I cut back my Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla ‘Black Lace’ and Buddleia davidii ‘Santana’ to the ground giving me plenty of material to take cuttings. Others plants to take cuttings from include Philadelphus, figs, gooseberries, Cornus and many more.

Hard wood cuttings cannot be easier. All you need is wood of at least a pencil thickness with leaf nodes at the top and bottom of each stick. Length depends on the plant but generally should be about 20cm long. Which means on some plants you will have lots of leaf nodes in the middle too, while on others (like Sambucus above) the spacing is wide enough to simply have nodes at each end.

Cut closely beneath the bottom nodes at a flat angle and just above the top nodes at a diagonal. The main reason for this is to make it easier to remember which way is up, it sounds obvious but sometimes it’s hard to tell when the cutting is no longer on the plant. It also helps rain run off the top wound preventing rotting.

Armed with your propagation twigs you then just stick them in the ground burying two thirds deep, leaving only the top third above ground. Next year you will see leaves start growing again and by the end of summer, they should all have developed roots along the stem beneath the ground ready to be grown on elsewhere. Leave about 15cm of space between them. I plant them in the ground in a row on my allotment but until I am back down there, I’ve plonked them in a temporary pot (above) with some sticking out a little too far because of their length.

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8 thoughts on “How to take hardwood cuttings for free plants

  1. Hiya, thanks for the article, a good read… I know that I could google this elsewhere but might be worth updating your post/article saying ‘when’ you can do this…?

  2. Would a Sambucus cutting work if I just stuck it in the ground where I wanted the bush to grow? Willow and dogwoods work this way so it would be handy

  3. Could you put the cutting straight into a plastic pot ready to pass on to another person. What size pot would you recommend, please?

    1. You could but there’s a chance a cutting won’t take and will die if you give it to someone before it’s rooted.

      Pot size depends on the cutting size and number per pot. Essentially the first pot is only used for roots to start before planting it into their own pots. A 2 litre pot should be fine for 1 – 3 hardwood cuttings.

  4. You seem to have put some in a plastic pot as a temporary measure, but could one cutting be put in one pot and left to root in there for a season or so?

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