How to Do Hardwood Cuttings

Late fall is the best time to start growing a new hardwood tree.

Forsythia Flowers

Forsythia Flowers

Late fall is the best time to start growing a new hardwood tree. All you need to do is take cuttings from trees that are dormant. Good candidates for this process are:

  • willow, USDA Zones 6-9
  • forsythia, USDA Zones 6-9
  • poplar, USDA Zones 3-9

In this project, master gardener Chris Dawson takes cuttings from a red-stemmed dogwood. With any hardwood tree, choose stems that are mature, firm and hard, but not too old and thick. After cutting the branch, cut it into 8- to 10-inch sections; three of those inches will be placed below the ground to root.

Prepare the soil in the transplant bed. Add a soil conditioner to hard clay soils by applying it over the entire surface and then working it into the soil. Cover the area with plastic and stake it down. Poke holes into the plastic with a garden fork. Some of those holes will be for the branch sections; the other holes will let air in to the soil.

Next, prepare the cuttings for planting:

  • A rooting hormone isn't essential, but it increases the rate of success. Moisten (with water) the ends of the cuttings that will be placed in the ground. Then dip them into the rooting powder.
  • Firmly pat the soil around the cuttings to eliminate air pockets that would cause them to dry out.
  • Water the cuttings and label them if they come from different trees.

Be sure to protect them from winter's wind and snow. In spring, remove the plastic lining and mulch the cuttings. Leave the cuttings in the protected space for one or two growing seasons before transplanting them to their permanent location. Once their roots are established and they are larger in size, they'll stand a better chance of survival. With proper care, these small cuttings will rival the size of the trees from which they were taken.

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